#12 1951 British Grand Prix

2021-04-09 00:00

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#1951, Fulvio Conti, Ludovico Nicoletti, Translated by Monica Bessi, Translated by Laura Mangiaracina,

#12 1951 British Grand Prix

Giannino Marzotto, the young and intrepid billionaire driver and winner of the 1950 Mille Miglia, Sunday, July 8, 1951 reaches in Rouen, France, a mea


Giannino Marzotto, the young and intrepid billionaire driver and winner of the 1950 Mille Miglia, Sunday, July 8, 1951 reaches in Rouen, France, a meaningful success in the automotive Grand Prix of Normandy, proving to be an excellent racer also in closed circuit races as well as on the road. The race lasts 60 laps in a 5,100 km track, throughout 360 km. Formula 2 cars are allowed in the race with an engine of 2000 cc without the compressor. Fifteen racers take off at the start. The British Stirling Moss, on H.W.M, immediately assumes the leading of the race, then Whitehead crowns his tenacious pursuit surpassing Stirling Moss at the 11th lap. Moss, forced two times to stop because of mechanical failures, ends up retiring. From the 41st lap the race is a strenuous fight between Whitehead, Manzon, Giannino Marzotto and Trintignant. The four drivers stay really close to each other, as long as Marzotto achieves a slight advantage, managing to retain it until the end of the race. The following week, Saturday, July 14, 1951, the British Grand Prix is run at Silverstone. The race will be valid as the fifth round of the World Championship. The first takes place in Berna, and Fangio wins ahead of Tarulli and the unlucky Farina betrayed by the instability of the car, centralised by the mistaken application of additional tanks. Skipping the Indy 500, in the second race of the championship, in Spa, the World Champion takes a resounding revenge, with a masterful race, the most beautiful one of his career, as he himself has stated. He finishes first, while Fangio retires due to a mechanical problem. The third race takes place in Reims, in the European Grand Prix and Fangio wins again in a race that is exhausting for the tyres. In Reims, the major victim is Farina, forced in sixth place by some troubles on the front tyre, when he had excellent probabilities of winning the race. After the ups and downs of the first three races, the ranking of the world championship has Fangio in first place with 16 points and Farina in second with 14 points. Then there are Ascari and Villoresi, the two Ferrari drivers, with 9 and 8 points. In Silverstone the race will be 430 km long and the tremendous tyre matter will come back into play, especially since the British circuit is made from the concrete runway of an old airport that is being demolished as a racing environment. Silverstone is a favourable track to Farina since the Turin ace captured two dazzling victories there. 


But one must not forget the sublime class of Fangio and the chances of Gonzalez and Ascari in Ferrari. The British Grand Prix is once again hosted at the Silverstone circuit, an old Second World War airbase. It hosted the first World Championship race in 1950 but was wanted as the fifth grand prix of the season for 1951. The circuit is another long fast sweeping circuit that puts demand on the engines, however it may not be as troublesome for the engines as the previous rounds at Spa-Francorchamps and Reims. Alongside the usual entrants of Giuseppe Farina, Juan Manuel Fangio and Consalvo Sanesi, Alfa Romeo has planned to enter a fourth car for Luigi Fagioli. Fagioli, however, being forced to hand his car over to Fangio at Reims, decided to leave the team. Felice Bonetto is then invited to run a race for the Alfa Romeo squad. Bonetto, the former man to head the Milano project, will take over Fagioli's contract to run the remaining races of the season for Alfa Romeo as a fourth car. The team is now consistently running four cars as opposed to three, the increased threat from the Ferraris has forced Alfa Romeo to increase their drivers’ number. Scuderia Ferrari is looking closer than ever to Alfa Romeo, only poor reliability on the 375 chassis has kept Ascari from winning their first Grand Prix at Reims. Taruffi is still unfit to race due to illness, so José Froilán González is taking his place now, and being a full-time member of the team. Regular drivers Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi remain in action alongside Peter Whitehead now driving the private Tony Vandervell Ferrari 375. The dark blue Ferrari was driven by Reg Parnell in France, however Whitehead joins Vanwall for his home race. The old Ferrari 125 that Whitehead owns is quickly becoming outdated and he needs some new machinery to compete at the front. Under immense pressure, the B.R.M. team has finally decided to launch their P15 car for the first time at a Grand Prix event. The car has competed in non-championship races, however the car has proven unreliable and has not yet rivalled Alfa Romeo and Ferrari as it claimed it would. Nonetheless, the British public demands B.R.M. to present the car at Silverstone to defend the home colours. Raymond Mays, team founder and Peter Berthon, the designer reluctantly comply although their previous testing have shown that the BRM is not ready to compete yet. 


Reg Parnell, often regarded as the best British Grand Prix driver at the time, will represent the team alongside Peter Walker, a renowned British sports car racer. Simca-Gordini is the third major works manufacturer to represent the grid. The young team is quickly acclimatising itself to the midfield of Formula 1. Its three main drivers Robert Manzon, Maurice Trintignant and André Simon will all represent the team's colours in Britain. There is a significantly reduced Talbot-Lago presence on the field, only the Ecurie Rosier team of Louis Rosier and Louis Chiron, plus the regular privateers of Philippe Étancelin and Johnny Claes would represent them on track. The rest of the field is represented by the local British contingent. David Murray represents the Scuderia Ambrosiana team in a Maserati. Whilst also competing in the Maserati's privately is Philip Fotheringham-Parker and John James who will be starting his first race. Bob Gerard and Brian Shawe-Taylor bring their old ERA chassis to compete in the race. Duncan Hamilton is the lone British driver to enter a French Talbot-Lago whilst Joe Kelly returns for the British Grand Prix the nimble little Alfa chassis. None of the Simca-Gordini drivers arrive for practice, their entries being withdrawn from the race. Likewise to not arrive at the circuit is Philippe Étancelin in his private Talbot-Lago. The British crowd are also dismayed to see that B.R.M. has not decided yet to attend practice. Raymond Mays and Peter Berthon are late to decide whether to commit to the Grand Prix. The Ferraris have improved, for the first time in the World Championship's history, the Alfa Romeos will not start on pole position. Instead it is González, the stand-in man at Ferrari for Taruffi, who goes on to take pole position. González is proud to be a full second faster than his mentor, compatriot and friend, Juan Manuel Fangio in the Alfa Romeo. Farina takes the third place for Alfa Romeo whilst Ascari and Villoresi are left bewildered by González pace, sitting two seconds behind his time. Sanesi struggles in his Alfa Romeo, managing only sixth on the grid ahead of Bonetto starting his first race for the Alfa squad. Whitehead, in his first race in a 375, can only manage a best of eighth, yet still remains the fastest British driver during qualifying. 


Rosier is then ninth fastest in the Talbot-Lago whilst Gerard does an excellent job to put his old ERA into tenth position. Hamilton, the Britain in the Talbot-Lago, sits in eleventh ahead of the second ERA of Shawe-Taylor. Chiron and Claes are still off the pace in their Talbot-Lagos to line up in thirteenth and fourteenth. The three Maseratis of Murray, Fotheringham-Parker and James are the next cars to line-up on the grid, whilst Kelly’s  car is last in the standings. The race at Silverstone only attracts a meagre 50.000 crowd, this has been only a third of the attendance to the previous years races. The lack of significance and the lack of British competitiveness have turned the British away from the sport in the past year. The B.R.M. project - which looks to have failed - is funded by British people related to the world of motorsport who really believed in it. The cars are not looking like they are going to compete in the most important British race of the season. However at the last minute, the B.R.M.s of Parnell and Walker arrive at the circuit on Sunday morning. The team has desperately been trying to prepare the cars to the best so they can be competitive at their home Grand Prix, even if this means sacrificing the practice times. Naturally, the British organisers allow the B.R.M.s to take the race start, even if they are forced to start from the very back of the grid. Following the shared victory between Fangio and Fagioli in Reims, the Royal Automobile Club (RAC), the organisers of the British Grand Prix, shared that the cars will be banned for the race in Silverstone. The race organisers and this “French result” confuses fans too much. The lead drivers will be forced to get only a single chance in the race ahead, they will not be able to depend on their teammates' cars if their own fails. The start of the race brings a surprise when Bonetto, who starts from seventh on the grid, gets a tremendous start in his first race for Alfa Romeo to take the lead of the race heading into the first corner. González, the pole-sitting Ferrari, follows in second ahead of Farina, Ascari, Fangio and Villoresi. The B.R.M.s have started their race well, the two cars of Parnell and Walker are quickly disposing of the cars at the back and moving their way up the midfield. In the early laps, Walker has a major spin at Becketts, however the B.R.M. driver rejoins the track and continues his offensive.


Bonetto holds onto the lead for the first lap, however González quickly reclaims the lead on the second. Fangio then goes on to overtake both Ascari and Farina on the same lap to move into third on lap four. After his magnificent start, Bonetto has begun to fall back down the field. He is first overtaken by Fangio and then Ascari and Farina follow their way past him. Bonetto falls to fifth and is now on the defensive to Villoresi's Ferrari. Fangio is putting in another of his storming runs and has quickly taken the lead from his friend González on lap 10. Nonetheless, he fails to pull away as the younger Argentine is in Fangio's slipstream with his Ferrari. The battle for fifth meanwhile between Bonetto and Villoresi is beginning to intensify. On lap 15, Villoresi fails a manoeuvre on Bonetto at Copse and spins. By the time Villoresi rejoins, the final Alfa Romeo of Sanesi has taken sixth place. Fangio is desperately pushing hard to maintain his lead, the Alfa Romeo clipping straw bales and marker drums as he fights to get the tightest line through every corner. González is nearly thrown off the chase when he goes very deep into Stowe and runs off the circuit. However soon enough the Ferrari has caught Fangio and on lap 38 moves past and González takes the lead of the race. Fifty seconds behind this pair, Farina and Ascari are having an equally intense battle for third place. The Alfa Romeo is being outpaced by the Ferrari for the first time in 1951.


Ascari manages to set the fastest lap of the race in his pursuit of Farina, however the Italian champion is proving resolute in his defence. Bonetto is beginning to slow down and both Sanesi and Villoresi have managed to overtake him. Now in eighth place, Parnell is sitting the best of the rest in his B.R.M., the local crowd enjoying the fact that he has managed to bring the new B.R.M. into the top ten after starting at the back. Walker is looking to get a top ten finish too, now recovering from his early race spin. The early retirements of the race have seen the debutant Maserati of James retire on lap twenty-three with radiator problems, Chiron then goes out with brake problems and the Maseratis of Murray and Fotheringham-Parker retire on lap 45 and 46. Halfway through the race, the Alfa Romeos are forced into the pits for fuel. Meanwhile the more fuel conservative Ferraris can continue without delay. Following Fangio's pit-stop, González is left with a lead a full minute clear of Fangio. Ascari has also taken Farina's third spot when he has pitted. Sanesi's stop is more chaotic, a wheel is stuck to his car which has meant Bonetto and the B.R.M. of Parnell are able to move ahead of him. Parnell is now remarkably only one position off the points placings, although he still sits several laps behind the leaders. The Ferraris are due to make their pit-stops approximately ten laps after the Alfa Romeos. Ascari is the first Ferrari to stop at the pits, however during his pit-stop he breaks his gearbox in the process.


González during his own stop offers to hand his car to Ascari, however the latter refuses allowing his younger teammate the opportunity to take Ferrari's first win. González exits the pits, having lost only 23 seconds to Fangio who remains in second. In the final stages, Farina breaks down with clutch failure allowing Villoresi to move into fourth position. Now up to fifth and looking to score points in its first race is the B.R.M. of Parnell. However it is González, the man who has been on top all weekend who goes on to take a dominant first race win for both himself and the Ferrari team. Enzo Ferrari has finally seen his team take the rostrum as a race winner in the Grand Prix World Championship. Fangio takes second, the older Argentine proud of his young compatriot's success. Fangio has managed to increase his championship lead to six points following Farina's DNF. Farina still holds second place in the championship however Villoresi, who finishes third in the race, is only two points behind. The race winner González has risen to fourth in the standings following his British success. Ascari has fallen in the standings, his sportsmanship in failing to take González's car has meant he has fallen out of championship play. After his blistering start, Bonetto leads a quiet race to take fourth position ahead of an ecstatic Reg Parnell of B.R.M.. At the team's home Grand Prix and debut race, the B.R.M. has finished in the points. The team proved that even an underdeveloped model can still be competitive. The result is a success of what has been so far a troubling racing project.


The Argentinian Gonzalez, at the wheel of a Ferrari 4500, wins the British Grand Prix. In second place there is Fangio with his Alfa Romeo. Farina’s car had a fire start at the 76th lap, but the driver could stop his car and walked to the box. Farina gets the fastest lap at an average speed of 160.880 km/h. The pace of the race was very strong and the reason has to be searched in the fact that he wanted to guard against the contingencies presented by B.R.M which, however, was disappointing. The new English car couldn’t compete with the Italian vehicles. Ferrari places Villoresi in third place, completing the podium. Bonetto with the fourth Alfa and Reg Parnell’s B.R.M are ahead. It is to point out that both British cars, despite being at their Formula 1 debut, were able to cross the finish line despite significant problems of heat due to overheating of the engines and of the annoying vibrations that the cars’ steering wheel made, which affected the drivers’ driving. A few minutes later, the sports director of Ferrari, Federico Gilberti, rushes to the phone to call Maranello, and when Enzo Ferrari hears the news of the first victory, bursts into tears of joy. On the return to Maranello, Gonzalez will get a watch that Ferrari had raffled off on his drivers, to pay homage to the first one who had beaten Alfa Romeo in a Formula 1 race.


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