#6 1950 French Grand Prix

2021-03-30 01:00

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#1950, Fulvio Conti, Ludovico Nicoletti, Translated by Sara Miconi, Translated by Monica Bessi,

#6 1950 French Grand Prix

After his impressive performance in Belgium, Raymond Sommer joins the Talbot-Lago works team replacing the 50 year old Philippe Étancelin who returns


After his impressive performance in Belgium, Raymond Sommer joins the Talbot-Lago team replacing the 50-year-old Philippe Étancelin who returns to his private Talbot. Franco Rol is back in action after his Monaco injuries, he is back in Maserati alongside Louis Chiron. Reg Parnell, the former Alfa driver, returns this time at Scuderia Ambrosiana, filling in for David Murray, who is unavailable for the race. He is alongside David Hampshire. Gordini is back in action, but with only one driver which is Robert Manzon. José Froilán González is back after his injuries in Monaco, remaining at Scuderia Achille Varzi alongside new teammate Gianfranco Comotti. Peter Whitehead is back racing his privately owned Ferrari, being the only Ferrari to start the race since the cars were pulled out by Enzo Ferrari because he believes they were too uncompetitive. A couple of weeks after the Belgian Grand Prix, the field gathers once again through the Reims-Gueux streets for the French Grand Prix. Following his win in Belgium, Juan Manuel Fangio is five points behind championship leader Giuseppe Farina. However Luigi Fagioli still holds second place in the championship, the third Alfa Romeo driver is not as quick as his younger teammates, however the old veteran maintains better consistency than his two faster teammates and remains second in the standings, despite not taking any wins. The Ferrari 275 has not the impression on closing the gap to Alfa Romeo that Ferrari would have liked. Villoresi in the old 125 begins to feel the age of the car when he finishes two laps down of the Alfa's in Belgium.


Ascari, who drives the new 275, struggles to find balance in the new car, his disappointing fifth place has all but ruined his chances for the championship. However Ferrari is convinced that once the 275 outgrows its teething troubles it would be a challenge to the Alfa Romeo superiority. Ascari and Villoresi would both be competing in the new cars with their old 125s on hand as reserves. However there is doubt their new Ferrari V12 engine can compete with the powerful supercharged Alfa Romeo on the long straights that make up the Reims street circuit. Peter Whitehead would once again be back in his private Ferrari 125, the British privateer fails to start a race this season due to serious engine troubles plaguing him in Monaco and Switzerland. The French Grand Prix is the home territory of the Talbot-Lago team. The French manufacturer struggles to compete with the leading Alfa Romeos and Ferraris, nonetheless throughout the season its drivers provides some spirited performances, often being there to pick up a lost podium place when a front runner drops out of the race. Representing the works squad on home territory are France's best drivers, Yves Giraud-Cabantous, Louis Rosier and Pierre Levegh. The manufacturer also has a set of privateer racers also representing them such as Eugène Chaboud, Charles Pozzi, Johnny Claes and the old veteran, Philippe Etancelin. Perhaps France's best driver, Raymond Sommer would compete once again in minor machinery for his home grand prix after his sudden departure from Ferrari. However his showing with the Talbot-Lago in Belgium, demonstrates Sommer is still capable of fighting among the best. Aside from Talbot-Lago, the little Simca-Gordini team is back to compete in Formula 1.


Their little cars are underpowered and despite being highly successful in Formula Two, their lone entrant of Robert Manzon is not expected to be competitive on the engine reliant Reims-Gueux circuit. The Maserati team chose not to compete in the Belgian Grand Prix. The team is having a dismal year, their drivers Louis Chiron and Franco Rol have no chance in taking the world championship. With this reality, the team chooses not to take part in Belgium, however the team returns for the prestigious French Grand Prix. Non-works Maserati teams, Enrico Platé and Scuderia Ambrosiana choose not to compete in Belgium to race in the British Empire Trophy. Enrico Platé is still absent from the grid, however Ambrosiana returns with their drivers, Reg Parnell and David Hampshire. The third Maserati team, Scuderia Achille Varzi also misses Belgium, however they too return for Reims. José Froilán González is back after missing the last two races following his injuries at the Monaco Grand Prix. For the second seat, the team chooses Franco Comotti, an Italian pre-war racer who is now in semi-retirement. Felice Bonetto has further modified his Maserati, his Scuderia Milano team has developed an engine known as Milano to fit into the chassis of Bonetto's Maserati. Bonetto therefore enters a Maserati-Milano hybrid for the first time. For many of the minor teams and privateers, the French Grand Prix would be regarded as quite a relaxed casual event. Nearly half the grid does not arrive for practice, these drivers being happy to participate in the race under random grid assignment for the lower half of the field. Louis Chiron and Raymond Sommer are the big names to not arrive for practice, being assigned grid positions 14 and 17.


The Ambrosiana Maserati of Parnell and Hampshire are assigned grid positions 12 and 18 respectively. Chaboud is awarded the highest of the randomised grid spots in eleventh whilst Manzon in the Simca-Gordini is assigned grid thirteen. Claes and Pozzi are fifteenth and sixteenth. Whitehead in the private Ferrari would be awarded last on the grid. Whilst half the grid may have been late to the race, Franco Comotti due to be racing for Scuderia Achille Varzi fails to turn up at all. As was predicted, Alfa Romeo's is dominant in qualifying. The long straights means that the Alfetta 158's powerful supercharged engines are unrivalled. At Ferrari, Ascari and Villoresi are having serious mechanical troubles with the new 275 car. Throughout the practices, the two Ferrari drivers are barely on track. When it becomes clear that the 275 would not be able to be fixed, the dismayed Enzo Ferrari orders the withdrawal of his two cars. The Maestro knows the old 125 would be no match for Alfa Romeo’s and prefers withdrawing his cars rather than suffer another humiliating defeat to Alfa Romeo. The only Ferrari presence would be the old private entry of the 125 of Peter Whitehead, starting from the back of the grid. The three Alfas are therefore left in a world of their own. Fangio dominates qualifying, his best time is two seconds faster than Farina's best in second. Fagioli meanwhile is a further four seconds off Fangio's time. Étancelin is once again topping the Talbot-Lagos in his private car, behind him the works Talbot-Lago entries of Cabantous and Rosier line up behind him. With the withdrawal of the Ferraris, the Talbot-Lago cars have a good chance to make an impression on home turf. Franco Rol takes eighth place in his Maserati whilst the Achille Varzi entry of González is eighth. Last of the drivers to participate in practice is the Talbot-Lago of Pierre Levegh.


Prior to the beginning of the race, the field loses the Talbot-Lago of Eugène Chaboud. The private Talbot-Lago driver encounters serious mechanical problems on the grid and is forced to withdraw from his home race prior to the start of the event. The conditions are extremely hot at the French Grand Prix, the attrition rate is expected to be high, the long straights at Reims expecting to be a serious drain on the engines. As predicted, the Alfa Romeos shoots off into the distance, Farina getting the jump on pole sitter Fangio to take the lead of the race. Fangio and Fagioli remain hot on his tails, treating the crowd to what is shaping up to be an epic three way battle for the lead between Farina, Fangio and Fagioli. Almost immediately after the beginning of the race, the car engines begin to fail. Sommer is denied an opportunity to shine at home when he pulls his Talbot-Lago out of the race. However failing most terribly on this power circuit are the Maserati cars, their engines rapidly failing. Between lap three and lap ten, all their cars of González, Hampshire, Chiron, Rol and Parnell have retired with engine problems. Only Felice Bonetto in his separately powered Milano engine would still continue the Maserati runners. However his engine would also blow on lap 15, failing to make it even a quarter distance. The Talbot-Lagos are also struggling, Sommer already retires whilst Rosier and Claes have retired on laps eleven and twelve. Rosier returns to the pits and calls in the car of Charles Pozzi where he subsequently takes control of his friend's own Talbot-Lago. The surviving Talbot-Lagos of Levegh, Giraud-Cabantous and Étancelin all have to come into the pits to solve overheating problems.


The reliability problems of Talbot-Lagos and Maseratis means Peter Whitehead, who started the race from last on the grid, is able to put his private Ferrari into fourth place by quarter distance. Behind him in fifth doing equally well is the lone Formula 2 specification Simca-Gordini of Robert Manzon who has yet to encounter mechanical troubles. The Alfa Romeos are seemingly running untroubled until on lap 18 Farina slows down, dropping back behind Fangio and Fagioli before heading into the pits. The Alfa is suffering from fuel starvation, it takes Farina's mechanics seven minutes before he can be sent back on track. The mechanical troubles encountered amongst the Talbot-Lagos means Farina is still able to get on track in fifth place. Only Whitehead and Manzon, the field's minor runners, have made it past. With his main rival eliminated, Fangio begins to open up a big lead whilst second placed Fagioli is unable to maintain his teammate's pace. Farina is thereafter driving aggressively to catch Manzon and Whitehead ahead of him. The Alfa driver is putting in some impressive laps and is able to pass Manzon in no time. In catching Whitehead, Farina sets the fastest lap of the race and on lap 35, Farina is back in a podium position when he takes third place from the Ferrari. However his fuel feeding problem returns and he is forced to return to the pits again, Whitehead reclaiming third place. Farina charges back through the field and on lap 50 returns back to third, only to retire from the race five laps later. This means Fangio takes a clear victory ahead of teammate Fagioli 25 seconds down. In third came a jubilant Peter Whitehead, Ferrari still having presence on the podium with their non-works car.


Manzon does an excellent job to get fourth, scoring his first world championship points. Following Chaboud's startline failures, Étancelin stops halfway through the race to hand his car over to his friend. The duel car of Étancelin and Chaboud takes fifth place, the final points placing. For the second race in succession, Fangio is given an easy run to victory due to mechanical troubles of his rival Farina. With this win and Farina's non-finish, Fangio takes the lead of the world championship with 26 points. Farina remains on 22 points, dropping behind the ever consistent Fagioli in the standings who is now second, two points down of Fangio. Heading into the final round of the championship at Monza, any of the Alfa Romeo drivers has a chance at winning the World Championship. The Grand Prix of the Automobile Club of France has always been the rendezvous of the most regarded European drivers, who have been recently joined by South American representatives. Juan Manuel Fangio was their most famous exponent. Once again, that year, the French GP lives up to its expectations. In the preliminary race - competition including cars up to 2000 ccs with no compressor - many Italians, who had come to the magnificent Gueux Circuit, had found reasons for enthusiasm thanks to Alberto Ascari’s magnificent run. He proceeded at a suchlike speed of 158 km/h, winning the round and honouring the memory of Jean Pierre Wimille. During the French Grand Prix, the Italian spectators have had the opportunity to celebrate once more, as they admired the magnificent performance flawlessly carried out by all the Alfa Romeo drivers, namely Farina, Fangio and Fagioli. Giuseppe Farina leads the race from the very beginning, followed by teammates Fangio and Fagioli. The Italian cars manage to impose an unbelievable pace throughout the competition. By lap three Gonzalez has to retire and by lap five Sommer backs out too, due to mechanical problems.


Later on Pozzi, Claes, both aboard Talbots, Bonetto and Chiron also withdraw. By lap twenty-six, only a six-seconds-gap separates Fagioli from Fangio, whereas Farina, forced to conduct a pit stop, loses precious time and the chance of taking ultimate victory. The French Grand Prix thus comes down to a duel between Fagioli and Fangio, who from lap thirty onwards continue to fight among themselves, achieving a significant lead over Etancelin (Talbot). At the end of lap thirty-five, only eight out of the eighteen competitors, who had lined up at the starting line, manage to remain in the race. Such a high percentage of retirements clearly contributes to depict how tough the race had been and how virtuous the drivers who eventually took the chequered flag were. Giuseppe Farina, in the meantime, precisely on lap twenty-five, had completed a full tour of the circuit at the very high average speed of 178.811 km/h, displaying his virtuosity and courage and making up ground he had unfortunately lost previously in the race. Regretfully enough, the generous efforts of the talented driver from Turin are once again thrown away and squandered due to pitstops for mechanical problems. He is, this way, prevented from earning himself at least a so-called position of honour in the final classification. Farina's performance hugely impresses the French spectators. It was marked by the class of a true champion. It can be firmly stated that, under normal conditions of mechanical means, the French Grand Prix would have resulted in a close and undecided fight between Farina, Fangio and Fagioli. Eventually the race comes to an end with Fangio taking victory, who at the end outdistanced Fagioli by 25 seconds and scored, on his fifty-second lap, an average speed of 180.852 km/h per lap of the circuit. Fagioli was also immensely unlucky. He was forced to stop in the pits to change a wheel. The remarkable Italian driver, due to lost time, found himself battling with Fangio while being involved in a position of inferiority.


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