#23 1952 Italian Grand Prix

2021-04-06 00:00

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#1952, Fulvio Conti, Ludovico Nicoletti,

#23 1952 Italian Grand Prix

The Italian Grand Prix at Monza will be the centrepiece for the finale of the championship season in 1952. Scuderia Ferrari and Alberto Ascari have al


The Italian Grand Prix at Monza will be the centrepiece for the finale of the 1952 championship season. Scuderia Ferrari and Alberto Ascari have already secured the title, two rounds ago at the Nürburgring. With the exception of the Indianapolis 500, Ferrari has won every round of the championship. Alberto Ascari, likewise, has won all the rounds he has participated in with the exception of the Indianapolis 500. If Ferrari is to complete its clean sweep of the opposition, it is required to win in front of its home crowd for the final race of the season. Scuderia Ferrari will notably enter five works cars for its home race to ensure the victory at home. As usual, Alberto Ascari is the leading favourite for the race; however, he will expect fierce opposition from his teammate Giuseppe Farina, Luigi Villoresi, Piero Taruffi and participating for the first time since Bremgarten is André Simon. There are also a number of private Ferrari entries. Peter Whitehead is back in his old 125 chassis, whilst Louis Rosier, Rudolf Fischer and Charles de Tornaco all entered the newer 500 model. Competing alongside Fischer at Ecurie Espadon, Hans Stuck enters a Ferrari 212 sportscar. Ferrari has seen little opposition throughout the year, but there is hope that a reformed Maserati and its new A6GCM chassis will be capable of challenging Ferrari once ready. The chassis has already had a lowkey debut with Escuderia Bandeirantes and one works entry; however, the manufacturer has not begun its true challenge. Juan Manuel Fangio remains injured from his neck injuries earlier in the season, but José Froilán González returns for his first championship race of the season with Maserati. Felice Bonetto, who has already done one race with the team, continues to cover for Fangio, whilst a third car is entered for their test driver, Franco Rol. Escuderia Bandeirantes will continue to enter its A6GCMs for drivers Chico Landi, Gino Bianco and Eitel Cantoni.


Enrico Platé will continue to enter the old 4CLT/48 cars for Emmanuel de Graffenried and Alberto Crespo, an Argentine rookie who is impressing in non-championship races. The usual trio of Robert Manzon, Maurice Trintignant and Jean Behra are entered for the leading French cars. Johnny Claes also enters one of the older T15, sponsored by a Belgian noblewoman, the  Vicomtesse de Walckiers. Previously, she has helped sponsor Antonio Branca's efforts in the Grand Prix. The HWM team has cut down to only a two-car entry for the final race of the season. Peter Collins returns to the seat after missing the Dutch round, whilst Lance Macklin once again joins him as teammate. Tony Gaze, the Australian privateer, will also enter his privately owned HWM car. Four cars are entered by British privateers with the Cooper T20, one of the most successful F2 constructors of the year. Mike Hawthorn, despite racing independently in a small team financed by his father, has regularly given chase to the Ferrari cars throughout the year. Hawthorn once again returns with his T20; however, he is also joined by other regular Cooper privateers such as Eric Brandon and Alan Brown of the Ecurie Richmond team. Ken Wharton, who usually races for Frazer Nash, has switched to a Cooper T20 for the first time, although he still remains with his Scuderia Franera racing team. Connaught has been another small British constructor that has been able to punch above its weight in 1952. Their cars, only entering the championship late in the season, have proven capable of challenging the Cooper cars in the midfield. The team, for the first time, will enter a works team for the world championship. Regular Connaught drivers Kenneth McAlpine and Dennis Poore are in attendance in Italy whilst Stirling Moss, who has been released from his ERA contract after the car's poor performance, also joins the Connaught line-up for Italy. Bill Aston will make a return in his little Aston Butterworth chassis.


The car is not expected to run particularly highly, but entering the race remains an achievement for the little Aston car. A team created by the Maserati brothers, the original Maserati constructor founders have so far unsuccessfully tried to get their OSCA 20 chassis to work effectively. The team has laboured throughout 1951 to make a competitive car to no avail; however, in the hands of French privateer Élie Bayol the car will make a return in 1952. Another obscure constructor to enter the race, Italian veteran Piero Dusio, will attempt to enter a Cisitalia sportscar into the race despite it having very little competitive advantage in the race. A record 35 cars will attempt to make their entrance into the final race of the season at Monza. However, the organisers decreed that the 35-car entry list is too big for what can be handled on the racing circuit at Monza. Instead, only 24 cars will be allowed to enter for the race. It is therefore imperative to the drivers that they are not among the eleven slowest in order to make it to the race. The need to qualify is nothing that concerns the Ferraris, Alberto Ascari continues to dominate the sessions, with his fastest time of 2'05"7 still being a second clear of Luigi Villoresi's second fastest time. A further second behind Villoresi is Giuseppe Farina in third, whilst a good effort from Maurice Trintignant's Gordini means he will start from fourth on the grid. The Maserati car does not provide the challenge to Ferrari that they would have hoped; González, the fastest of their cars, is only fifth, two seconds down on Ascari. Taruffi is disappointed that his best time could only grant him sixth place on the grid. He is ahead of Manzon and the final works Ferrari entrant of Simon. Stirling Moss is the fastest of the British cars; he puts in an inspiring time to put him ninth fastest, after having used the slipstream of Ascari on his fastest lap.


Bayol, in his debut race, also does an unexpectedly strong performance by putting the OSCA car tenth on the grid. Behra is disappointed to be a lowly eleventh for Gordini, whilst regular breakages on his Bristol engine means the Cooper car of Hawthorn can manage twelfth. Bonetto is seriously off the pace of his teammate González; however, despite only being thirteenth, he remains faster than the final works Maserati of Rol in sixteenth. Ahead of Rol sits Fischer's Ferrari and Wharton, entering a Cooper for the first time. Rosier's Ferrari is seventeenth ahead of Landi, the fastest non-works Maserati. The final Connaughts and Coopers of Poore, Brandon, Brown and McAlpine are rounding out the back whilst the slowest qualifiers are the Maseratis of Cantoni and Bianco. Dusio and his bizarre Cisitalia fail to make it on track due to technical difficulties. Like Claes, whose Simca-Gordini also fails to make it on track, the same is for the non-qualifiers. The HWM cars of Collins, Macklin and Gaze, are all among the non-qualifiers; their Alta engine simply does not have the power to compete on Monza's long straights. De Tornaco is frustrated not to qualify his Ferrari 375, whilst the outdated Maserati 4CLTs of De Graffenried and Crespo are unsurprisingly amongst the non-qualifiers. The old Ferrari cars of Whitehead and Stuck are also eliminated as is the little Aston Butterworth of Bill Aston. It has been one of the closest and most competitive practice sessions in history; the slowest qualifier of Bianco is only twelve seconds off the leading time. Despite a serious challenge from his opponents, Ascari will once again start the race from pole position. Having dominated the season, Ferrari is determined to enforce its dominant reputation by winning its home Grand Prix. However, both Trintignant's Gordini and González's Maserati have proven to be capable of challenging Ferrari's pace.


Interestingly, the leading Ferraris all get terrible starts; both González and Trintignant shoot off the line from the second row. González takes the lead whilst Ascari is forced to settle for second as he desperately fends off Trintignant. Manzon and Behra have also started well moving into fourth and fifth place whilst Bonetto achieves an incredible start to move to sixth in his Maserati from thirteenth. It has been a terrible start for Ferrari; only Ascari remains at the front after the first lap. Villoresi, Farina, Taruffi and Simon are all languishing in the lower half of the top ten with the leading British cars of Hawthorn and Moss chasing on their rear. Elie Bayol, driving his OSCA, retires on the first lap, an unfortunate result after an impressive performance in practice. González immediately begins pulling out a lead; however, his A6GCM Maserati is not as fuel efficient as the Ferrari 375 of Ascari behind him. He will have to pit for fuel at some stage during the race. Nonetheless, his outright pace advantage in the early stages is concerning for Ferrari. Fischer's privateer Ferrari retires on the third lap with engine problems; he is then followed out of the race by McAlpine's Connaught with suspension problems. Hawthorn's Cooper, who is running well in eighth, is then forced to pull into the pits with ignition trouble. It will take a full hour for his mechanics to repair his car and send him back on track, bringing him well out of contention. Trintignant, who has been chasing Ascari in the opening laps, is then forced to retire on lap five with an engine failure. Ascari is not running to his usual form; although Trintignant has retired, González has continued to open his lead by a second a lap. Meanwhile, behind him, his teammate Villoresi has made it past Behra's Gordini, and on lap nine, has taken second place away from Ascari as well. However, he will not give up second place easily; he remains locked in the slipstream of Villoresi, and the two Ferraris frantically push to catch González's Maserati.


Behind the top three, Behra remains the leading Gordini, sitting slightly ahead of the Ferraris of Taruffi and Simon. However, both Behra and Taruffi will encounter mechanical troubles forcing them to head to the pits for repairs. Simon then encounters a sudden drop in pace and drops behind Manzon, Farina and Bonetto. González continues to lead; however, halfway through the race, the Maseratis will be forced to come in for their inevitable fuel stops. There is also a reliability concern; the final works Maserati of Franco Rol is forced to retire on lap 24 with engine troubles. Bonetto is the first Maserati into the pits, dropping him out of the battle for fourth place. A couple of laps later, González then pits from the lead, allowing Ascari to return in first place. Villoresi has previously dropped behind his teammate; in his desperation to keep second place, he has worn down his tyres, and like the Maseratis, he will be forced to pit. The Gordini challenge is now well and truly over; Behra, who has already dropped out of the lead race, then retires on lap 42 with engine troubles. Manzon then loses fourth place when he is forced to pit for new spark plugs. By the time he rejoins the track, he will be multiple laps down on the leaders. Farina has therefore taken second place; however, he is quickly being hunted down by González and Villoresi behind him. There are further concerns for Maserati; the privateer car of Bianco retires on lap 46 with engine troubles. Nonetheless, the lead Maseratis are running well; González has retaken second place from Farina and is hunting down Ascari, matching the world champion's best time. The second car of Bonetto, whilst sitting in fifth and having been lapped by Ascari, is also demonstrating impressive speed. He has even managed to unlap himself, as his Maserati power proves the equal to the Ferrari. The Connaught car of Moss has been topping the midfield; he has run consistently in eighth place throughout the race, but gear valve troubles have prevented him from challenging higher up the field. On lap 60, a strong drive is brought to an end when a suspension failure forces him into the pits.


His teammate Poore has taken up eighth place, having followed Moss throughout the race; however, a long fuel stop drops him well down the field. The final laps are fairly processional; Ascari will go on to take the victory to complete one of the most dominant Grand Prix seasons by a single driver and team in Grand Prix history. Nonetheless, like the Alfa Romeo domination before them, it is not expected to last for long. The impressive display from the Maserati cars in which González claims second and Bonetto fifth will mean the Ferraris will be expected to have a much greater challenge in 1953. Villoresi with his new tyres has managed to retake third place from Farina, the last of the drivers not to be lapped by Ascari. Villoresi has somewhat quashed rumours that he is no longer capable of competing among the top after his early season injuries.


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