Venerdì 18 Gennaio 1952 la decisione presa dall'Alfa Romeo di astenersi dalle manifestazioni argentine ed uruguaiane, può avere come ripercussione - secondo quanto pubblicano alcuni giornali - un rinvio o addirittura una sospensione di tutto il programma di gare sud-americane. La stessa Ferrari, infatti, dopo l'annunciata astensione della Casa milanese, ha sospeso per ora la partenza per Buenos Aires di macchine e meccanici. Nel frattempo, il tanto discusso passaggio di Farina alla Ferrari non è un colpo di testa, un capriccio o un segno di volubilità. È invece un atto lungamente meditato, una svolta necessaria ed inevitabile nella carriera dell'asso torinese. La firma vergata lunedì 28 Gennaio 1952 a Modena in calce al nuovo contratto esprime una situazione che poggia su motivi umani, tecnici e sportivi.
L'Invito di Ferrari a Farina non era cosa nuova e l'asso torinese l'aveva fatto presente al dirigenti dell’Alfa Romeo, circa un mese fa; lo pregarono di rimanere fedele alla sua vecchia marca, in attesa dei programmi sportivi per il 1952. Sopraggiunsero, invece del programmi, notizia di grossi cambiamenti nella direzione. Venne poi la rinuncia alla tournée argentina. Si diffuse inoltre la convinzione che la marca Campione del Mondo non avrebbe difeso il proprio titolo nelle corse di Gran Premio. Ancora oggi l'opinione generale è che l'Alfa Romeo nel 1952 si presenti soltanto nelle competizioni per macchine tipo sport. Ma ciò non può bastare a Farina e a Fangio, rari assi per i bolidi più difficili; tramite Ascari, la Ferrari rinnova la proposta a Farina.
L'incertezza dell'Alfa Romeo non poteva continuare ad essere l'incertezza dell’ex Campione del Mondo, che si è deciso ed ha accettato. Non vi è stata dunque rottura con la Casa milanese, non è avvenuto uno strappo nei rapporti tra il corridore e la sua vecchia marca. Farina ha preso l'unica strada impostagli dalla propria condizione di campione del volante: la certezza di poter gareggiare, e con una macchina che sostituisce degnamente quella che ha lanciata. È la fine anche di una attuazione che innervosì alquanto l'ambiente automobilistico. Farina e Fangio non fanno più parte della stessa squadra. Addio reciproci sospetti, timori di ingiustizie, punto e basta con le polemiche nazionali etiche.
La Ferrari ha oggi una squadra italiana, quattro corridori italiani - Ascari, Farina, Taruffi, Villoresi - su macchine italiane. Il programma sembra tanto vasto che non mancheranno imprese e allori per tutti: Gran Premi, Mille Miglia, 24 Ore di Le Mans, Indianapolis, Carrera Messicana. Il trasferimento alla marca delle quattro litri e mezzo sembra dettato altresì da un imperativo d'ordine tecnico, da una legge di aggiornamento al progresso, estranea forse alla volontà di Farina, ma egualmente fatale nella sua scolta: il titolo di Campione del Mondo è ancora delle vecchie e gloriose Alfa Romeo, ma l'avvenire - anche nel metallico mondo dei motori - appartiene ai più giovani e quelli che cercano continuamente di rinnovarsi.
E Fangio? E Gonzales? Già si parla di una alleanza anglo-argentina, con macchine B.R.M. e con gli straordinari piloti cari a Peron. Sarebbe un accoppiamento formidabile. Oppure assisteremo al colpo di scena di Fangio e Gonzalez, entrambi al volante delle Alfa ancora da battere? Tanto di guadagnato, in ciascuno dei due casi, per l'interesse dei Gran Premi. Il blocco italiano di Ferrari appare comunque bene equiparato.
Alfa Romeo had been the dominant team in grand prix racing following the conclusion of the Second World War. Their 158/159 model had been in existence since 1939, however it was not until 1950 with the introduction of the Ferrari 375 that the Alfa Romeo had a true rival in competition. Following the formation of the Ferrari manufacturer in 1947, the team had swiftly climbed the motorsport ranks and by 1951 had become a true threat to the Alfa Romeo dominance. It had become clear the Alfa Romeo 159 was finally beginning to run its time in grand prix racing. Alfa Romeo's designer Gioacchino Colombo had been designing the Tipo 160, the car's successor, however development was blocked due to a lack of finances within the Alfa Romeo organisation.
Despite the motoring success in recent years, they had largely been benefiting of the lack of competition and had to develop very little on their car. Now that Ferrari were catching up, Alfa Romeo suddenly realised they no longer had the financial capacity to compete. Despite their drivers, Giuseppe Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio winning the opening two years of the world championship, the team decided to withdraw from racing on top, rather than see themselves toppled by Ferrari which was sure to happen ahead of the new season.
The news that Alfa Romeo were withdrawing was some serious concern for the grand prix world and provided a threat to the existence of the world championship, only two years following its inception. Anthony Lago had likewise announced that Talbot-Lago would not produce a new supercharged challenger for 1952 and would totally end its Formula One program after its works programme had shut down in 1950. BRM were expected to make a full-season championship attempt in 1952, however their car was consistently plagued by mechanical troubles at the end of 1951, leaving doubts for their hopeful championship challenge.
Juan Manuel Fangio, the reigning champion was taken by surprise at Alfa Romeo's withdrawal, having expected to continue with the team for 1952. Before the season began, he had been left without a drive, however he was offered solace by the BRM team who had offered him a contract for the season alongside Britain's exceptional young talent, Stirling Moss. The BRM's however were still not confident that their car was sufficiently reliable and would not consistently compete in the world championship. This meant it would be incredibly difficult for Fangio to retain his world championship in 1952. He would miss the opening race in Bern, Switzerland due to BRM's non-entry.
With Alfa Romeo and Talbot-Lago withdrawing their cars from the world championship and BRM expected to have sporadic appearances, 1952 was expected to be a walk-over by Ferrari. Now that there were so little manufacturers left to operate in Formula 1, the CSI decreed that the 1952 and 1953 world championships would be run on Formula Two regulations. Grand prix, being held on a Formula Two format would give development time to manufacturers to build cars for the Formula One regulations that was due to return in 1954. This meant that the championship could be open to a variety of F2 manufacturers and race teams, allowing for an expanded grid for the new season.
Nonetheless, the Ferrari 500, the new Formula 2 car designed by Aurelio Lampredi and Alfredo Ferrari was expected to dominate the competition. The switch to Formula 2 regulations had peaked the interest of Maserati once again. They had withdrawn their works team at the end of 1950, however they announced a works return for 1952 with the development of the Maserati A6GCM. Fangio whilst still hired by the faltering BRM project announced he would be joining the team later in the season where he would be joined by his young protege, José Froilán González who had decided to leave the dominant Ferrari team to work alongside his compatriot and great teacher. The car was not expected until late in the season and Argentina's top two drivers were not in attendance for the opening round. In the mean time, Maserati would have presence on the grid with Enrico Platé entering the old 4CLT models for Emmanuel de Graffenried and Harry Schell.
With the departure of González from Ferrari, Enzo Ferrari announced the return of Giuseppe Farina to the team. Formula One's inaugural world champion in 1950 had a disappointing year in 1951. His relationship with Alfa Romeo had deteriorated significantly and it was expected for him to leave the team even before the Alfa Romeo withdrawal. Farina had rejoined Ferrari, he had served the team in the 1930's when it ran the Alfa Romeo operation and then again served in its foundation years between 1947 and 1949. However these times were also conflicted in team turmoil as neither Farina nor Enzo Ferrari could cooperatively work together. Farina rejoined Ferrari simply because they would provide him the best opportunity to win in 1952.
Farina, however would have to compete alongside fellow veterans Luigi Villoresi and Piero Taruffi in the team, not to mention the team's extremely fast lead driver, Alberto Ascari Ascari would notably not compete in the opening round of the championship, instead fulfilling his ambition to race in that year's Indianapolis 500, America's premier motor race. Enzo Ferrari also installed a new team manager for 1952, Nello Ugolini. Ugolini had previously led Enzo Ferrari's operation during its first incarnation in the 1930's as the semi-works Alfa Romeo entrants. After a management career in football following the Second World War, Ugolini had rejoined the team in 1952.
Ferrari would also be selling their Ferrari 500 to privateers and minor teams for the 1952 season. Ecurie Rosier, the team of driver Louis Rosier had switched to using a Ferrari 500 after the withdrawal of Talbot-Lago, the previous year. This move would hopefully put Rosier back in front running competition, the old Talbot-Lago's he had been running had struggled to compete in previous years. For the first race of the season, Maurice Trintignant, would join Rosier in the older 166 F2 model despite him being under contract with Gordini for most of the season. Swiss team, Ecurie Espadon entered cars for its home grand prix for local drivers Rudolf Fischer and Peter Hirt.
Amédée Gordini had split with manufacturer Simca at the end of 1951, his cars simply running under the name Gordini thereafter. The team had designed a new Gordini T16 for the new season ahead. The team had in the past been very competitive in Formula Two and in a single season, the team had gone from a strong midfield runner to the lead rival of Ferrari's championship challenge. The team were noted for their Formula Two success and with the new regulations, Gordini were expectant of a good result in 1952. André Simon had departed the team to join Ferrari, however Robert Manzon and Maurice Trintignant remained in the team. The team would also enter cars for Jean Behra, an impressive Formula Two driver who had raced for the team in 1951 and Prince Bira of Siam. Bira had a difficult 1951, he had been caught in the failed development programs of BRM and OSCA, barely racing the previous year. In Switzerland, the manufacturer would also see further presence from the Alfred Dattner entered car of Swiss driver Max de Terra.
The British HWM manufacturer would now enter a full season in the world championship due to the change in regulations. The team had been successful in Formula Two and had occasionally raced in Formula One, however with the new regulations, the team took the opportunity to finally enter the world championship properly. For the opening round at Bremgarten, the team entered a car for George Abecassis, the team's co-founder alongside John Heath as well as cars for their young drivers, Stirling Moss, Peter Collins and Lance Macklin.
A pair of privateer Cooper-Bristol T20's would also make their appearance at Bremgarten. Cooper had been a successful Formula Three manufacturer and would create a Formula Two chassis for the first time in 1952. Although they would not enter a works team, the Formula Two T20 would be sold to privateers. The Coopers entered by the Ecurie Richmond team would see the debut's for British drivers Eric Brandon and Alan Brown. The small Frazer-Nash manufacturer would also make its debut with driver Ken Wharton. The Swiss race would also see the presence of the returning German manufacturers. A Veritas-Meteor, privately owned by Toni Ulmen would be entered at Bremgarten as well as an AFM for Hans Stuck. Stuck being tempted with a grand prix return after missing an opportunity to race at Monza the previous year due to the poor reliability of the B.R.M.
The Ferrari 500's were the clear favourites for the race. Prior to the Swiss Grand Prix, Ascari had taken non-championship victories at Syracuse, Pau and Marseille whilst Farina took victory in Napoli. Ascari would not attend the race in Bern due to his presence in the USA for the Indianapolis 500, however the 1950 world champion, Giuseppe Farina was expected to take the laurels in the absence of both his main rivals, Ascari and Fangio.
Saturday 17 May 1952 Farina is easily the fastest driver in practice, however his best time in the Formula 2 car remained eleven seconds off the pole time set by Fangio's Alfa Romeo the previous year. Taruffi who was second on the grid was two and a half seconds off the pace of Farina's best time. A further two seconds adrift was Manzon's Gordini, the team well impressed with their progress in the off-season. André Simon who was deputising for Ascari put his Ferrari fourth on the grid ahead of an impressive Rudolf Fischer in the privately entered Ecurie Espadon Ferrari 500. The 21 year old, Peter Collins was also impressing, he had put his HWM-Alta sixth on the grid. Behra, another rising talent for Gordini sat seventh on the grid.
The Formula Two regulations gave the Maserati 4CLT/48 a chance to be competitive again, De Graffenried put his Enrico Platé entered car eighth, directly ahead of the two HWM's of Moss and Abecassis. Prince Bira could only manage eleventh ahead of the slowest HWM of Macklin. Wharton in the little Frazer Nash was thirteenth alongside Stuck's AFM. Brown was the fastest Cooper in fifteenth whilst Brandon sat seventeenth on the grid. In between the pair of T20's was the Veritas car of Toni Ulmen. Schell was a disappointing eighteenth in his Maserati whilst Peter Hirt was slowest in his Ferrari 212 sportscar. The Ecurie Rosier Ferrari's of Rosier and Trintignant and the private Gordini of De Terra were all late to practice and therefore ineligible to partake. The three drivers were permitted race entry, however they would be forced to start from the back of the grid.
Sunday 18 May 1952, unlike the previous year, the race was held in warm and sunny conditions. Nonetheless, the drivers would not easily forget the challenge and the threat of the Bremgarten Circuit. In the motor cycle support race, two riders had been killed in the lead-up to the Grand Prix. In addition to this, the sportscar support race had seen the famous pre-war German racer, Rudolf Caracciola seriously injured whilst participating in Mercedes's new sportscar program. These were some grim prospects ahead of the Grand Prix, nonetheless the drivers lined up on the starting grid, ready to compete. Maurice Trintignant, however would not get the opportunity to start. The engine in his old Ferrari 166 was not getting started, the Frenchman therefore wasting a journey to Bremgarten having failed to take part in practice as well.
Farina took an immediate lead at the start whilst Behra got an excellent start to move into third position behind Taruffi's Ferrari. Simon was fourth ahead of Manzon who had dropped his Gordini down to fifth at the start. The debut for De Terra did not go to plan, his older model Gordini pulling into the pits after only a single lap. Rosier would also join his teammate in retirement after a nasty accident. Rosier was lucky to escape with only cuts and bruises after being thrown from his car after making a mistake on lap two. The two German manufacturers of Veritas and AFM were both out when their drivers Ulmen and Stuck retired on lap four. Farina meanwhile was opening up a huge lead at the front of the field. Moss in the little HWM was the man on the move, he quickly established himself as a front runner having moved into third place after climbing the ranks of the midfield. However it was not to last, Moss began to develop a misfire which forced him into the pits for new spark plugs after three laps.
The HWM's remained competitive, Abecassis had taken up the chase, moving past Manzon's Gordini to take fifth position. However it was not to last, on the thirteenth lap, Abecassis had a halfshaft failure which spun his car out of control and into an earth bank. Abecassis was badly bruised but otherwise unhurt. At the same time, his teammate of Collins would also retire with an identical problem but luckily in less dramatic circumstances. HWM manager, John Heath, concerned with the simultaneous failure would then go onto retire his remaining two cars of Moss and Macklin on the grounds of safety. Manzon then dropped out of the lead running, his Gordini requiring extensive repairs in the pits to replace a broken radiator. However most significantly, Farina lost his dominant lead when he pulled into the pits to retire his car with magneto failure. This meant Taruffi now lead the race ahead of Behra's Gordini and the Ferrari of Simon. However Farina wasted no time in calling Simon into the pits, a lap after his own retirement to take control of his teammate's car.
A broken exhaust was causing overheating and driver discomfort to second placed man, Jean Behra. The Gordini driver pulled into the pits for repairs, however in doing so he had allowed Farina to take second position. Farina once again was the fastest driver on the circuit, however new race leader Taruffi had an extensive lead over Farina now in second. Behra would eventually return to the track, however Fischer in the private Ferrari was driving very well at his home grand prix and was now in third position. Behra was now pushing hard, slowly closing the gap to Fischer's third position in the race. Behind Behra sat Bira in the older model Gordini who had a huge gap to Wharton's Frazer Nash in sixth position. Wharton rounded out the final runners ahead of the Cooper's of Brown and Brandon, De Graffenried's Maserati and the Ferrari sportscar of Hirt. Schell had become another to depart the race when his old Maserati suffered a blown engine.
Farina who had been gradually closing on Taruffi would go out of the race for a second and final time when another magneto failure brought Simon's car to a halt. Bira then saw his engine explode, leaving a cloud of smoke trailing the circuit. This put Wharton's Frazer Nash into fifth and in for a chance for points in the constructor's first grand prix. Brandon's Cooper then had to pit for repairs dropping him down to last position. The remainder of the race was quiet and processional, Taruffi took a solid victory following the dropout of Farina in the race. Fischer was elated with a second position, the Swiss driver delighted with a podium at his home grand prix. Equally impressive was Jean Behra in third. The Gordini driver had finished on the podium at his first grand prix, an impressive feat. Ken Wharton was also happy to give the Frazer Nash points in its first running outside the United Kingdom. The final points position went to the Cooper of Alan Brown who like Wharton scored points on his championnship debut.
La sfortuna di Farina sta diventando veramente qualcosa di incredibile e di proverbiale. A Berna, subito alla partenza del Gran Premio automobilistico, l’italiano balza al primo posto, distanziando tutti gli avversari. Al diciassettesimo giro aveva già circa quarantacinque secondi di vantaggio sul compagno di scuderia Taruffi. Improvvisamente i magneti della Ferrari di Farina si rifiutano di funzionare e l'asso torinese si vede costretto al ritiro. Passa al comando Taruffi, seguito a pochi secondi da Simon, della sua stessa scuderia, e da Behra su Gordini. Al ventiduesimo giro Simon cede la sua Ferrari a Farina e il capo-squadra della scuderia modenese si lancia impetuosamente all'inseguimento di Behra e di Taruffi; ma anche i magneti della macchina ottenuta in consegna da Simon non funzionano a dovere. L’ex Campione del Mondo riesce a colmare il mezzo minuto perduto nel ricevere in consegna la macchina del collega francese. Raggiunge e sorpassa Behra, riduce a venti secondi il suo distacco da Taruffi, ma evidentemente la macchina non è in grado di sopportare lo sforzo e al cinquantunesimo giro Farina si ritira definitivamente.
Taruffi ha fatto una corsa regolarissima, cronometrica ed ha meritato il successo per l'abilità con cui ha saputo distribuire le forze in una corsa di oltre 460 chilometri. Dei ventuno partiti ben pochi sono giunti al traguardo finale. Anche Fischer deve la soddisfazione del secondo posto al saggio piano di corsa e alla resistenza della sua Ferrari. L'eroe della giornata è però il francese Behra, ex corridore motociclista. Egli ha accortamente lottato con i due assi italiani, resistendo alla torrida temperatura prodottasi nell'interno della sua macchina a causa del surriscaldamento degli organi di scarico. Behra al è fermato più volte ai box per farsi innaffiare abbondantemente d'acqua il fianco sinistro semi abbrustolito dal vicino tubo di scappamento. La Gordlni da lui pilotata ha dimostrato ottime possibilità.