Wolfgang Von Trips spent most of his F1 career with Ferrari and could have been Germany’s first world champion. His grand prix career had got off to a rocky start, failing to make the grid on his debut at Monza in 1956 after crashing in practice, then breaking his leg at the same venue two years later.
However he showed an impressive touch on quick tracks, taking podium finishes at Monza in 1957 and Reims in 1958. The question was whether he could temper that speed with discipline.
For 1959 he joined Porsche and caused chaos in the Formula Two field at Monaco when he spun and eliminated his rivals in the same class. It was a dangerous time for a driver who made mistakes – a fact emphasised when Von Trips’ was withdrawn from the 1959 German Grand Prix after team mate Jean Behra was killed in a support race.
Von trips return to Ferrari’s world championship team the following year but continued to race in F2 for Porsche as well. Ferrari were out-classed by their rear-engined rivals on the world stage but Von Trips was regularly around at the chequered flag to pick up the lower points places.
For 1961 Ferrari aced the new 1.5-litre engine rules and Von Trips was thrust into a world championship showdown with team mate Phil Hill. Two wins and two second places strengthened his cause and he arrived at the penultimate round at Monza in strong shape.
He took pole position for the race but slipped back into the pack at the start. Jostling for position with Jim Clark on lap two the pair clashed wheels, firing Von Trips’ car up a bank into the crowd. He perished along with 14 spectators on a black day for the sport.