Teams1952 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
While it could be said 1951 was Scuderia Ferrari coming into a place of prominence in Formula One. Then it could be said 1952 was Ferrari coming into a place of absolute dominance. Throughout the later-part of 1951 Ferrari had begun to replace Alfa Romeo as Formula One's premier grand prix team. In 1952, Scuderia Ferrari would stand all alone at the top.
1952 would be an entirely new experience. For the previous couple of years the team had been building cars according to Formula One specifications. However, with the departure of Alfa Romeo, the world championship governing-body was concerned Ferrari would have no competition, and therefore, interest in the racing series would diminish. The team had proved even more competitive toward the end of 1951 than Alfa Romeo. It was merely a matter of providence that Alfa Romeo's 159, driven by Juan Manuel Fangio, had able to earn the World Championship. Therefore, there needed to be competition. The problem was the competition was beginning to walk away from Formula One due to its incredibly high costs. A change needed to be made. What was decided was that the 1952 and 1953 seasons would be run to Formula 2 specifications. This would give the governing-body time to create new specifications that would help lower costs and increase competition.
In anticipation of the changes, Aurelio Lampredi had designed and built the new Ferrari 500 F2. It debuted at the end of 1951, which allowed the team time to refine it and make it as reliable as possible. The 500 wasn't exactly a new design. It had its roots all the way back in 1949, but it would be newly mated with a 175 bhp 2.0-liter engine. Though simple and straight-forward, the Ferrari 500 F2 would cause Scuderia Ferrari and the Formula One World Championship to become synonymous.
The team's remarkable, and record-setting, season began early. Since the team already had built and tested its 1952 challenger at the end of 1951, the team could enter early season non-championship races with confidence. The team's first race of the season was the non-championship 2nd Grand Prix of Siracusa held on the 16th of March.
Because of the new regulations, and because of the costs associated with designing and building new chassis, only Scuderia Ferrari, and other teams able to purchase Ferrari 500 chassis were ready by the time of the Grand Prix of Siracusa in the middle of March. A number of other older Ferrari 125s and 166s, which had been altered for the race, were also entered by private entrants.
Scuderia Ferrari's driver line-up for the race included Luigi Villoresi and Piero Taruffi. But it also included a former World Champion in Giuseppe Farina, and the previous year's runner-up Alberto Ascari. Farina had been able to make the move to Ferrari after his ride with Alfa Romeo was gone. Reigning World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio raced in an event back in South America, but was absent throughout the early non-championship events. In fact, he would end up missing the entire season when he would break his neck at Monza later on in 1952.
The Grand Prix of Siracusa was a 60 lap event around a 3.34 mile road course. In practice, leading up to the event, Ascari would take what would be the first of many poles. He would traverse the road course in two minutes and sixteen seconds. Ascari's friend, Luigi Villoresi (incidentally it was Villoresi who helped get Ascari his ride at Ferrari), would qualify 2nd with a time just under a second slower. Farina would complete the front row, and a Ferrari one-two-three front row sweep. Piero Taruffi made it one-two-three-four for Ferrari when he started the race from the second row. In all, fifteen cars would start the race.
The start of the race saw a battle between friends. However, Ascari would end up holding Villoresi mostly at bay. Villoresi would try hard though as he would end up setting the fastest lap of the race with a time almost three seconds faster than Ascari's pole time. Unfortunately, the pace was a little too much for Villoresi's 500. He would suffer delays and troubles that would allow Ascari to not only pull away, but also, put Luigi several laps down.
Ascari dominated the 60 lap event. He would end up winning the race by fifty-nine seconds over Piero Taruffi. Farina would make it three Scuderia Ferrari drivers on the podium by finishing 3rd, another thirty seconds behind Taruffi. Of the six cars classified as still running at the end of the race, all six of them were Ferrari chassis of some type.
Not all of the races on the grand prix calendar for 1952 were run to Formula 2 specifications, only the World Championship events were. There were still a number of other non-championship races that allowed the bigger-liter engines to come out of the mothballs and play. The next race on the team's calendar for 1952 was one of those races.
The 6th Grand Prix of Valentino took place on the 6th of April and featured 60 laps around the 2.60 mile road course that wound through Valentino Park. Because of the type of race it was going to be, Scuderia Ferrari made some changes to its car line-up and driver line-up.
Alberto Ascari, Luigi Villoresi and Giuseppe Farina would get to sit behind the wheel of the dominant Ferrari 375 that had almost won the World Championship for Ascari the previous year. Piero Taruffi would drive one of the new Ferrari 500s. Joining Taruffi behind another Ferrari 500 would be Rudolf Fischer. Rudolf Fischer was part of Ecurie Espadon. However, Espadon had purchased a couple of Ferrari 500s to race throughout 1952. Therefore, Fischer was familiar with the car. Interestingly, American Johnny Parsons was entered for the race with a Ferrari 375, but he would end up not appearing for the race.
Picking up right where it left off, Ferrari 375s swept the first-three starting spots on the four-wide front row. Farina grabbed the pole. Ascari started in 2nd and Villoresi 3rd. Taruffi proved the 500 was no lightweight either when he was able to start the race from the 4th position on the front row. Fischer made it Scuderia Ferrari one-through-five.
Three of the thirteen entries would be out of the race on the very first lap due to a crash. A crash would also end Farina's day on the 31st lap. Besides Johnny Claes driving a Talbot-Lago T26C to a 6th place finish, it was Scuderia Ferrari at the top once again. Villoresi would end up winning the race. However, Taruffi would prove the 500 had quite a competitive pace. Despite having an engine over 2.0-liters smaller, Piero would finish 2nd, over a minute behind Villoresi. Fischer would make it two 500s on the podium when he finished 3rd. Ascari finished 5th with the other Ferrari 375. Fuel tank problems slowed his pace.
In 1952, the Formula One World Championship and the French F2 Championship coincided. In fact, the French Grand Prix, held at Rouen-Les-Essarts, counted toward both championships. This encouraged Scuderia Ferrari to resist some of the other non-championship races, and instead, focus on winning two championships. Since the Formula One World Championship wouldn't start until May, the team entered the first round of the French F2 Championship in the middle-part of April.
The first round of the French F2 Championship was the 13th Grand Prix of Pau. The Grand Prix of Pau was run on a 1.75 mile street course that ran through the streets of the small city. As with all of the French F2 Championship events, the race would end up being a timed race, which was three hours in length.
Because it was the F2 Championship Ferrari would only bring their 500 chassis. Unlike its other earlier races, Scuderia Ferrari would face some tough competition. It was obvious after practice the main competition would come from two sources, Equipe Gordini and HWM-Alta.
Despite the presence of strong competition, Ascari would set the fastest time in practice and would start the race from the pole. He set a time around the 1.75 mile street course of one minute and forty-three seconds. His friend, and Ferrari teammate, Luigi Villoresi would start the race 2nd having set a time less than a second slower. Lance Macklin, driving for HWM-Alta, would complete the three-wide front row. Giuseppe Farina would not have a car for the race but would be held as an alternate.
From the very start of the race, no other car could truly touch the Ferrari 500s of Ascari and Villoresi. The simple and elegant 500 had been worked on greatly and was proving vastly more reliable than its competitors. It was likely both of the team's cars would have finished the race on the top-two steps of the podium. However, 78 laps into the race, Villoresi suffered from a crash while pushing, trying to track down Ascari. Because of Luigi's misfortunes, Ascari was able to escape all the more. The crash would end up hindering Villoresi throughout the rest of the season.
At the end of the three hour race, Ascari had gone on to finish with a three lap margin over Ecurie Rosier's Louis Rosier driving another Ferrari 500. Jean Behra finished the race 3rd in the tiny Gordini T11 five laps down. The victory gave Ascari the early lead in the French F2 Championship.
The next race for the team would be the second round of the French F2 Championship, which was the 10th Grand Prix of Marseille. Held on the 27th of April, the Grand Prix of Marseille was another three hour, timed race.
Unlike Pau, Ferrari would enter three cars in the race. The cars were driven by Ascari, Villoresi and Farina. Similar; however, to Pau, Ascari would go on to set the fastest time in practice and would start the race from the 1st position on the grid. Ferrari would face a challenge though. Ascari would cover the 1.62 mile road course in one minute and seventeen seconds. Robert Manzon, of Equipe Gordini, was able to split up the Ferrari teammates and would start the race 2nd. Villoresi would start on the front row in 3rd after recording a time just under two seconds slower than Alberto's time. Farina would get tripped up by both Equipe Gordini teammates, Jean Behra and Maurice Trintignant, and would end up starting the race from the second row in 6th.
As with Pau, the three hour race would prove to be a car-breaker. Very early on the Equipe Gordini cars were able to challenge Scuderia Ferrari, but not Ascari. The fight at the top was furious and would prove detrimental to both Ferrari and Equipe Gordini. On the 9th lap of the race the engine let go in Villoresi's 500. Fourteen laps after Luigi's problems, Manzon was out of the race due to gearbox problems. Manzon would end up getting a second life when he would take over Prince Bira's T15. However, Ascari carried on without a care in the world.
The Italian's pace was such that at the end of the race he would complete 134 laps and would claim victory by five laps over Robert Manzon in Bira's T15! Another Equipe Gordini teammate, Johnny Claes, would end up on the podium in 3rd with another T15. Despite setting the fastest lap of the race with a time over two seconds faster than Ascari's pole time, Farina would end the race not classified after having crashed on the 111th lap.
A little over two weeks after the Grand Prix of Marseille, Scuderia Ferrari was in Naples, Italy for the 5th Grand Prix of Napoli. The race consisted of 60 laps around the 2.54 mile Posillipo circuit. The Posillipo circuited was situated amongst a park and residential homes on a hill overlooking Naples and the Tyrrhenian Sea. This would be the team's final non-championship race before the start of the World Championship season.
The team had a couple of notable absences from its driver line-up for the race. Giuseppe Farina and Piero Taruffi were behind the wheel of Ferrari 500s. However, Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi were both absent. While Villoresi was taking a needed break, Ascari was heading to the United States to take part in what was the second round of the Formula One World Championship, which was the Indianapolis 500.
Despite Ascari and Villoresi's absences, the former World Champion filled in superbly. Giuseppe Farina would take the pole for the race. Taruffi would start the race 2nd.
During the race, Farina dominated. He would set the fastest lap of the race with a lap time of two minutes and fifteen seconds. Only Taruffi would remain on the lead lap at the end of the 60 lap race. When Taruffi crossed the start/finish line to start the 60th and final lap, Farina was just about to finish his to win the race. The gap was almost two minutes between Farina and Taruffi. Giuseppe blew out the other competitors even worse. Franco Comotti would finish 3rd in a Ferrari 166, but was five laps down. After such a dominant display, Scuderia Ferrari was ready for the start of the Formula One World Championship season.
The first round of the World Championship in 1952 was the 12th Grand Prix of Switzerland and it was held on the 4.52 mile Bremgarten road course near Bern. With the absence of Ascari to the United States, and Villoresi's absence from racing altogether, it was up to Giuseppe Farina, Piero Taruffi and Andre Simon to start Scuderia Ferrari's season off on the right foot. Not only would they do their part, but they would end up setting the stage for the Ferrari 500's record-setting season.
Farina took the pole for the 62 lap race with a time of two minutes and forty-seven seconds. Taruffi would make it a Ferrari one-two when he would start from the front row in 2nd with a time a little over two and a half seconds slower. Robert Manzon, of Equipe Gordini, prevented it from being a Ferrari one-two-three when he was able to qualify 3rd. Simon started the race 4th. Twenty-two cars would qualify for the race.
Despite Manzon's ability to break into the front row, it would be all Ferrari from the drop of the green flag. Farina would lead the way from the start, followed by Taruffi. The 62 lap race would prove to be too much for a majority of the field, but that also included Farina's Ferrari 500.
Two cars wouldn't complete a single lap. Three more would be out of the race before 5 laps had been completed. Another six cars would drop out of the race before 25 laps had been completed. Amongst those six was Farina. His 500 would retire on the 16th lap due to magneto troubles. His race would not be over, however. He would end up taking over Andre Simon's car for the remainder of the race. Interestingly, the same magneto problems would revisit Farina in Simon's car only 35 laps later.
From the time Farina dropped out with his magneto problems Taruffi took over the lead. He would not relinquish it for the rest of the race. Piero would go on to win the race by more than two and a half minutes over Rudolf Fischer driving another Ferrari 500 for Ecurie Espadon. Jean Behra would finish one lap down in 3rd. Peiro's victory earned him nine points toward the 1952 Driver's World Championship. More importantly, it would begin the Ferrari 500's impressive record in Formula One.
While Ascari was in the United States preparing for the Indianapolis 500, the rest of Scuderia Ferrari traveled to Montlhery for the 6th Grand Prix of Paris.
The Grand Prix of Paris was the third round of the French F2 Championship. Ascari had won the first two rounds. The third round of the championship was held at Montlhery and would take place on the 3.90 mile Troisieme circuit. The Troisieme circuit utilized about two-thirds of the banked oval and a small portion of the road course.
Though Ascari was absent, Villoresi was back. Giuseppe Farina and Piero Taruffi were the team's other drivers for the three hour race. Without the presence of Ascari it seemed the race would be much more hotly contested. Practice seemed to offer validity as Robert Manzon would take the pole for the race with a lap of two minutes and twenty-one seconds. Taruffi would start on the front row in 2nd after posting a time a little over a second slower. Villoresi was one tenth slower than Taruffi and would start 3rd. Farina started from the second row in 4th.
Though Manzon took the pole it was Ferrari that looked the strongest right from the outset. Taruffi, riding the momentum from the Swiss Grand Prix, would end up taking the lead and would begin to pull away.
Andre Simon remained as an alternate driver, but he would end up getting into the race. Villoresi was struggling. Therefore, Farina took over Villoresi's car for what should have been the remainder of the race. However, they would end up being disqualified after 69 laps due to receiving outside help push-starting the car. Simon would take over Farina's car and would benefit.
Taruffi's pace during the race was furious. He would end up setting fast lap with a lap three tenths faster than the pole time set by Manzon. The furious pace would lead to only three cars remaining classified as having finished the race by the end. Simon benefited from Farina's ride and would finish 2nd, albeit three laps down. Louis Rosier, in his own Ferrari 500, would finish 3rd, four laps down. Taruffi's victory made it three-straight victories for the Ferrari 500 in the French F2 Championship.
While the rest of his Ferrari teammates were upholding the team's honors in the French F2 Championship, Ascari was preparing to be the first real contender for the World Championship to take part in the Indianapolis 500 on the 30th of May.
In preparation for the race, Scuderia Ferrari customized one of its 375s for the 500 mile race. In practice and qualifying, the first-ever battle between Formula One and cars designed for Indianapolis ensued. It was obvious the Ferrari 375 would be severely disadvantaged against the purpose-built roadsters.
The speeds during qualifying had been the fastest ever. This posed trouble for Ascari and Ferrari. While Fred Agabashian would go on to take the pole for the race in a turbocharged Kurtis Kraft Cummins Diesel with a four-lap average speed of 138.010 mph, Ascari would struggle to hold onto an average speed over 134 mph. In the end, Ascari would qualify for the race, but in a rather uncustomary 19th.
In the actual race, the speed difference would prove a challenge for the Italian team and driver. However, it wouldn't be the speed that would pose the greatest threat to the team. Ascari's race came to an end on the 40th lap after wheel problems led Alberto to spin out of the race. Thankfully for Ascari, no other Formula One entrant would take part in the Indianapolis 500. In addition, the 500's winner, Troy Ruttman, would not take part in any other World Championship event. Therefore, Ascari still had time to overcome not scoring any points at either of the first two rounds of the championship. Ascari would have a long ride back across the Atlantic. This would give him time to get ready for the rest of the season.
Ascari would re-join the team in time to prepare for the 5th Grand Prix of the Autodromo of Monza on the 8th of June. Ascari was joined by Giuseppe Farina, Andre Simon and Luigi Villoresi.
The grand prix was run to slightly different rules. The victor was based upon aggregate time. The times of two, 35 lap heat races would be added together. The one with the lowest time for both heats would be declared the winner. Therefore, unlike the BRDC International Trophy race, all of the competitors would take part in each of the heat races. Taking place on the 3.91 mile road course at Monza, the average speeds were high and promised to claim its share of victims.
Happy to be back on the European continent, Ascari went out and promptly took the pole for the race. Farina would start on the four-wide front row in 2nd. Jose Froilan Gonzalez, driving the new Maserati A6GCM would be able to start from the front row as well in 3rd. Villoresi would complete the front row as he would start the race 4th. Simon would start the race from the four-wide second row in 5th place. In all, twenty-nine cars would start the race. Having missed his connecting flight from Dundrod, Fangio drove all through the night from Paris and would arrive thirty minutes before the start of the first heat race. He would start dead-last as a result.
Ten cars would be out of the race by the time 10 laps had been completed. None of the retirements were bigger than Fangio's on the 2nd lap. He would crash and would end up with a broken neck, which caused him to sit out the rest of the 1952 season.
While everybody else was struggling with problems, Ferrari and Ascari seemed to not miss a beat throughout. Ferrari would sweep the top-three spots. Ascari would win heat one followed by Farina and Simon. Villoresi struggled and would finish the heat in 8th, down three laps.
The starting positions for the second heat race were determined by the finishing order of the first. Since many didn't even finish the first heat race, and therefore, had no chance of winning, the starting field in the second heat was much smaller. Only sixteen would start.
After the first heat victory, and thus starting from the pole for the second heat, it seemed all Ascari had to do was hold on and he would win the race. However, racing punishes cars, and there is no guarantee of anything until crossing the line at the end of the race.
Sure enough, on the 14th lap of the race, Ascari's chances at overall victory came to an end when he had camshaft failure. Villoresi's chances ended before the race even began when it was found his 500 had valve problems. This left Farina and Simon to fight it out. Farina would win the second heat by more than a minute and a half over Simon.
When the times were added together Farina won the race easily over Simon. Simon finished a lap down. Rudolf Fischer finished 3rd, but three laps down. With the exception of the Grand Prix of Valentino back in early April, the Ferrari 500 had won every single race it had entered to that point in the season.
A couple of weeks after the Grand Prix of Monza, Ascari had an opportunity to get his World Championship effort in order. On the 22nd of June the third round of the World Championship, the Belgian Grand Prix, was set to go.
The Belgian Grand Prix, in 1952, was scheduled for the ultra-fast and popular Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Always a favorite with fans and drivers, the 8.77 mile circuit, composed of public roads, posed a serious challenge, threat even, to drivers and teams. It was very fast. It took a great deal of bravery to be fast at the circuit. Being situated in the heart of the Ardennes Forest, the Spa circuit was also challenging, and dangerous, when it came to the weather.
During practice the course was dry. Appearing as though already the leader in the championship, Ascari went out and took the pole for the race with a lap of four minutes and thirty-seven seconds. Farina would start 2nd followed by Piero Taruffi in 3rd. This made it a clean sweep by Ferrari of the front row.
By the time of the race to start rain had been falling on the track. This would slow the pace of the field down quite a bit. However, Ascari had proved to be so much faster that when the race began the rain appeared to do little in the way of equalizing the playing field. With the exception of one lap led by Equipe Gordini's Jean Behra, Ascari dominated and pulled away. All-in-all, the 36 lap race proved to be rather boring. Alberto would lead 35 laps and would take the victory. Robert Manzon, who was running 3rd, had just started his last lap as Ascari came into view for the victory. Almost two minutes later, Farina would finish the race 2nd.
Because Alberto set the fastest lap of the race, as well as took the victory, Ascari was right back into the title fight. He was tied at the top with his Ferrari teammate Piero Taruffi.
One week after climbing back into the Formula One World Championship battle, Ascari and Scuderia Ferrari prepared to start the fourth round of the French F2 Championship. On the 29th of June the 20th Grand Prix of Marne was set to take place on the 4.46 mile road course between Reims and Gueux.
Reims was another ultra-fast circuit. Average speeds at the circuit regularly exceeded 105 mph! This played to the strengths of Alberto who posted a lap time during practice of two minutes and twenty-six seconds. This would prove to be more than fast enough for the pole. Farina would qualify with the second-fastest time, which was just under two seconds slower. Robert Manzon would round-out the front row with a 3rd place starting position. Comparatively, Villoresi struggled. His time was six seconds slower than his friend's and only good enough for the second row and 5th place.
Villoresi's struggles in practice, and at the very start of the race, were evidence of how his season had gone to that point. Only four laps into the race the engine on Luigi's 500 let go. Seeing as how the race was three hours, this was a very early exit. Alberto would go on and click off the fastest lap of the race right from the very start. Then, in a wonderful gesture to his friend, he promptly pulled over and let Luigi take over his car for the rest of the race.
Despite setting the fastest lap of the race, Scuderia Ferrari would be bested by Equipe Gordini. At the end of the three hour race, Jean Behra would complete 71 laps, one more than Farina in 2nd and Villoresi in 3rd. This marked the first time to that point in the season the Ferrari 500 had not won a Formula 2 race in which it was entered!
After being beaten for the first time, the Ferrari 500 would come roaring back at the next event of the season, which was the French Grand Prix.
The French Grand Prix was held on the 6th of July and counted toward both the World Championship and the French F2 Championship. Since it was part of the French F2 Championship it ended up being a three hour timed event instead of a specific number of laps. The race was held on the 3.16 mile Rouen-Less-Essarts street course near Normandie, France.
The gauntlet for other competitors was prepared right from the start. In practice, Alberto would set the fastest lap time and would start from the pole. Giuseppe Farina would make it a Ferrari one-two on the starting grid, and, Piero Taruffi made sure it would end up a Ferrari one-two-three by starting the race 3rd.
Having teammates between himself and the other competitors allowed Ascari to know that his main fight would be with his teammates throughout the race. However, right from the start of the three hour grand prix Ascari grabbed the lead with an absolute choke-hold and wouldn't let it go. Over the course of the three hours Scuderia Ferrari's cars ran flawlessly. The drivers had confidence they could push their cars when they needed without worry of the car failing them. Ascari would do exactly that, push.
Alberto would complete 77 laps in three hours and led right from the start. His advantage over Farina in 2nd place was a lap. Farina's advantage over 3rd place was another lap. Piero Taruffi would end up making it a Ferrari one-two-three finish. His gap over 4th place was also a lap.
Ascari ended up setting the fastest lap of the race in addition to taking the victory. This put him in the lead of the World Championship by five points over Taruffi and six points over Farina. The top three places in the World Championship standings were occupied by Scuderia Ferrari pilots. The victory also aided Ascari in another championship. After scoring victories at the first two rounds of the French F2 Championship, the victory at Rouen helped Alberto remain at the top of the standings. He would have another opportunity to increase his lead in the F2 standings one week later at Les Sables.
The sixth round of the French F2 Championship took place on the 13th of July, one week after the French Grand Prix. The sixth round was the 2nd Grand Prix of Sables d'Olonne. As with the others, it would be a three hour test around the 1.45 mile Les Sables road course.
Ferrari's drivers for the race were the usual: Ascari, Farina and Villoresi. Another usual happening was Alberto taking the pole for the race. He would set the fastest lap during practice at one minute and twelve seconds. Farina just missed clipping Ascari for the pole when he set a time only one tenth slower. Manzon rounded-out the front row with a time almost two seconds slower than Alberto's. Villoresi would start from the second row in 4th.
Though short in length, the layout of the circuit made it rather dangerous. It featured mostly straights where acceleration and top-speed became important. However, this would make things difficult for it would be easy, while pushing the car under acceleration, to brake too late and end up crashing out of the race. In addition to that, the course featured some sweeping esses where it would be very easy to get them wrong and also crash out of the race. The circuit was very deceiving primarily due to the fact the cars of that time were running drum brakes and would need to be taken car of in order to last the entire race. However, the nature of the track made it very difficult for the brakes. It would have been tremendously easy to go into a tight corner and realize the brakes had gone away.
No matter what the causes were, the sixth round of the French F2 Championship would be littered with crashes, and mostly around the first hour of the race. The troubles began before the race even started. Behra suffered from a crash and was unable to start the race. Then, on the 41st lap, Harry Schell's race came to an end with an engine retirement and a crash. It was suspected that oil was laid down on the track because over the course of the next four laps there would be four more crashes. On the 44th lap of the race, Farina was caught out and crashed, thus ending his race. One lap later, the pole-sitter, Alberto Ascari, also suffered from a crash that ended his race. This opened the door for Equipe Gordini's driver Robert Manzon, but he could not compete with Ferrari's other driver, Luigi Villoresi.
Villoresi seemed fully recovered and would compete 136 laps during the three hour race. He would end up with a margin of victory of over three laps on Peter Collins in an HWM-Alta. Johnny Claes would end up in 3rd, five laps down. After a truly frustrating season to that point, the result was a truly splendid relief for Villoresi. This also kept Ferrari's record-setting season going.
The team's next race of the season was the fifth round of the Formula One World Championship, which was the British Grand Prix. Held on the 2.92 mile road course at Silverstone, the pace would be fast, that is, if the rain stayed away.
In practice, there was a surprise, of sorts. Ascari was unable to take the pole for the race! However, another Ferrari driver would. Giuseppe Farina would prove to be fastest and would take the 1st position on the starting grid. Ascari would start alongside in 2nd. Taruffi made it another Ferrari one-two-three on the starting grid with what was the third-fastest time.
Throughout the weekend, the sky looked ominous, but it would stay dry. Ascari would take advantage of this right from the start when he would shoot into the lead. From that point on, the real race was behind Ascari. Farina's poor start put him back in the back somewhat. This meant he was in a fight throughout the race. Brit, Mike Hawthorn, also impressed and provided further hindrance to Farina.
Meanwhile, Ascari was out in front and was without a care in the world. He would end up leading every single one of the 85 laps. By the end of the race he would end up lapping the entire field. He would score the victory by a lap over Taruffi in 2nd. Hawthorn greatly impressed and was able to finish 3rd, albeit two laps down to Alberto. Farina totally slipped out of the points-paying positions and finished the race 6th, some three laps down.
After setting the fastest lap, and winning the race, Ascari extended his lead in the World Championship. His advantage was eight points over Taruffi and fifteen over Farina.
A couple of weeks would pass before the team took part in another race. The team's next race; however, was actually two races taking place about four hundred miles apart. The first of the two races took place on the 2nd of August and it was the 2nd Daily Mail Trophy race held at Boreham. The other race was the German Grand Prix, which took place at Nurburg, Germany on the 14 mile long Nordschleife.
The Daily Mail Trophy race was run to Formula One specifications. Therefore, Ferrari took a couple of 375s to that race. Luigi Villoresi would drive one of the cars. Argentinean, Chico Landi, would drive the other.
The race pitted the Ferrari 375 against the much distressing BRM P15. The 375, piloted by Villoresi, showed it was still the dominant car when it would go ahead and set the fastest time in practice and would take the pole. Jose Froilan Gonzalez, driving one of the BRMs, would start 2nd. Landi would put the second 375 on the front row in 3rd. The second BRM, piloted by Ken Wharton, would start also on the front row in 4th. The fight was set to go.
However, the fight would not come to fruition, at least not between BRM and Ferrari. Within three laps, one of the BRMs was out of the race due to a crash. This left just Wharton to battle with Villoresi and Landi. Rain had fallen on the track prior to the start of the race. This leveled the performance gap to a degree. This was obvious when Mike Hawthorn was able to take over the lead and hold onto it for the majority of the race with his small Cooper-Bristol T20. Unfortunately for the hometown driver, the track began to dry out. This swung the performance momentum back in favor of Villoresi. He would end up taking the lead and would hold on to take the victory. Landi would also get by Hawthorn and would finish in 2nd, ten seconds behind. Hawthorn still gave the British fans some excitement as he would hold on to take a splendid 3rd place finish.
The next day, four hundred miles away, the German Grand Prix was preparing to be run. The German Grand Prix was 18 laps of the famous long and twisty Nordschleife. While Villoresi took the victory over in England in a non-championship race, Ascari, Farina and Taruffi were preparing to uphold the team's honors in the sixth round of the World Championship.
Ascari recovered from being beaten by Farina at Silverstone and would record the fastest lap time during practice. He would cover the 14 miles in ten minutes and four seconds. Farina would qualify 2nd. Taruffi would be beaten by two of Equipe Gordini's drivers and would start the race 5th.
When the race began, it became an Alberto Ascari exhibition. Ascari held onto his lead right from the start and began to pull away from the rest of the field. At over ten minutes a lap, it would be difficult to be lapped by the leaders, but also, to un-lap one's self. Ascari; however, proved it wasn't too hard to lap the competition.
Thirty-three cars qualified for the race. However, four would be out of the running without having even completed a single lap. Of course, one lap of the Nordschleife was similar to two or three laps of some of the other grand prix circuits. Though four wouldn't make it either to start the race, or, through the completion of a single lap, there would be seven more cars that would fail to make it to the end of the second lap. The twisty and long circuit would take a toll on the car's engine, brakes and gearbox because of the acceleration, braking and shifting. Out of the thirty-three that qualified for the race, only twelve would be running by the end of the 18 lap race.
Ascari, in the meantime, was suffering no such difficulties and was lapping the course, and the field, hand over fist. All but 2nd and 3rd would be lapped by Ascari by the end. Everything seemed to go Alberto's way throughout the race. Even low oil troubles would not hinder him from securing victory.
Heading into the final lap of the race, Ascari had to peel off into the pits to top off the oil and to check the car. This was a lengthy stop, which allowed Farina to assume the lead. However, Ascari's race-pace was such that he had more than enough time to re-take the lead and claim the victory. Sure enough, he would rejoin the race and began his pursuit of Farina. Despite driving the same type of car, Alberto was able to catch and pass Farina before the end of the race. He wouldn't merely clip Farina at the line though. He managed to reel in Giuseppe early enough that he would cross the line with an advantage of fourteen seconds over Farina. Ecurie Espadon driver, Rudolf Fischer, would finish the race 3rd. He was the last car on the lead lap, but was over seven minutes behind Ascari at the end. Piero Taruffi would finish a lap down in 4th.
By setting the fastest lap of the race, and, earning the victory, Ascari had achieved the feat in four-straight races, and therefore ensured the World Championship would be his. After being runner-up the year before, Ascari was finally declared the World Champion. Amazingly, there were still two races left to go in the season. This was the first time the title had been settled so early. So much for competition for Scuderia Ferrari.
While one championship had been decided, there was another that was close to being decided and had two more rounds still to go as well.
On the 10th of August Scuderia Ferrari was in St. Gaudens for what was the 16th Grand Prix of Comminges. The race was the seventh round of the French F2 Championship and it took place at the 2.72 mile road course in St. Gaudens.
The last couple of races had proven to be helpful for Ascari and Ferrari. If he were to score a victory at St. Gaudens he would be ensured of taking the French F2 title as well.
Everything looked good after practice. Ascari took yet another pole after he completed a lap in one minute and fifty-one seconds. He wouldn't be flanked by teammates though. Instead, he would end up surrounded by Equipe Gordini cars. Maurice Trintignant and Robert Manzon would complete the front row. Though they would sit on the front row with Ascari their fastest times were still three seconds, or more, slower than Alberto's best time. Ferrari teammate, and former World Champion, Giuseppe Farina was over four seconds slower with his best time and was forced to start the race from the second row in 4th. Ferrari's third driver for the race, Andre Simon, was even slower. His best time was over ten seconds slower than Ascari's. This relegated Simon to the fourth row and a 10th place starting position.
While he proved in a wholly different league in practice, speed means nothing if the car can't make it to the finish. This was never more-true for Ascari than the Grand Prix of Comminges.
When the race started, Ascari was up at the front. However, problems quickly arose for the Italian. Then, on the 2nd lap of the race, Alberto had to retire from the race because of steering problems. Just like that, despite all of the speed, Ascari was out of the race. Or was he?
To ensure he would garner the French F2 Championship on top of the World Championship title, it was decided he would take over Andre Simon's Ferrari 500. Though losing time waiting for Simon and having to make the driver change, Ascari was; nonetheless, back on track and hunting down the leaders.
Ascari would be helped, in part, by attrition. The three hour race was certainly taking its toll. Although there were nineteen who started the race, the attrition was such that only six would be still running by the end of the race. In addition to the attrition, the pace of the race was such that another two would end up not being classified by the end of the race due to being too far behind. Ascari; however, wasn't one of those too far behind by the end of the race.
In fact, Ascari proved Simon's car was just fine. He proved it was him behind the wheel of the car that made up a lot of the difference. Ascari was able to hunt down the leaders. Of course Trintignant and Manzon had already retired from the race earlier with problems. However Farina and Jean Behra were still running, and they were not incapable behind the wheel.
Ascari showed off. By the end of the three hour race Ascari hadn't just caught up to everybody. He left everybody behind. By the end of the race he would lap the entire field. He would complete 95 laps and earn the victory over Farina, who was a lap down in 2nd. Jean Behra completed the podium, but he was six laps down by the end of the race. In the effort to chase down, re-take the lead and score the victory Ascari would set fastest lap of the race with a time one tenth faster than his own pole-setting time.
The victory ensured Ascari would be the French F2 champion. All that was left was to run the eighth and final round. Nobody could stop him from receiving the title. Therefore, the final round would end up being a matter of pride more than anything else. However, the eighth and final round of the French F2 Championship would have to wait.
One week after the team's victory at St. Gaudens, Scuderia Ferrari arrived in the Netherlands for the Grand Prix of the Netherlands. This was the first time the grand prix counted toward the World Championship.
In 1952, the Grand Prix of the Netherlands took place at the 2.60 mile Zandvoort road course. The race that year was 90 laps, or 234 miles, of the circuit right on the country's coastline.
Though already World Champion, Ascari wouldn't back down any. During practice, he would set yet another fastest lap and would take the pole with a lap time of one minute and forty-six seconds. Because the championship was already decided, Taruffi wasn't present with the team. Instead, Villoresi was back behind the wheel of a Ferrari 500. He would struggle a bit and would only be able to set what was the sixth-fastest time. Farina was, as usual, the other Ferrari driver. He would, once again, come up short against his Ferrari teammate and would start the race 2nd. Mike Hawthorn would thoroughly impress throughout the weekend. He would start the race 3rd.
When a driver has the best car, whether declared champion already or not, it is most difficult to expect that their pace would slow down. It surely didn't in Ascari's case. Alberto would lead right from the very start of the race and wouldn't let go of it throughout.
It would be easy to forget about the car that carried Ascari to the World Championship if the car wasn't so good just in its own right. Throughout the course of the 90 laps, the Ferrari 500 proved to be the class of the field. Running like true teammates, the Ferrari 500s of Ascari, Farina and Villoresi ran one-two-three. More importantly, by the end of the race, they were the only cars still on the lead lap.
Ascari would lead every one of the 90 laps and would score the victory by forty seconds over Farina. Villoresi came up from his 6th place starting spot to finish 3rd a minute and a half down to his friend. This gave Ferrari yet another one-two-three and further helped to cement the legend of the Ferrari 500.
Ascari would record the fastest lap of the race as well. This made it five-straight races in which the Italian would record the fastest lap of the race, as well as, the victory. It also helped to keep the streak the Ferrari 500 had going. In every single Formula One World Championship race in which the Ferrari 500 had been entered it had won and set fastest lap. It also had managed to take the pole in every single Formula One World Championship event in which it was entered.
One week after the seventh round of the Formula One World Championship the eighth, and final, round of the French F2 Championship was set to take place. Scuderia Ferrari travelled to La Baule for what was the 11th Grand Prix de La Baule.
While Ascari was already the French F2 and Formula One champion, there was still plenty still at stake. However, it mostly settled around the team and the car by this point in time of the season. Scuderia Ferrari had been flexing its dominant muscles. The Ferrari 500 had proven to be in a class all by itself. The final round of the French F2 Championship was only another opportunity to continue the record-setting season.
Ascari would oblige the team with yet another pole. He would lap the 2.64 mile road course in one minute and fifty-seven seconds. Manzon, in his Equipe Gordini T16, would grab the only other front row starting position with a lap time exactly a second slower than Ascari's. Farina and Villoresi would occupy the second row in the 3rd and 4th respectively. Their times were within two seconds of Alberto's. Nineteen cars qualified for the three hour final round of the French F2 Championship.
At the start of the race, Ascari was able to escape with the lead. Farina and Manzon were battling it out. The two would end up touching at the start of the 2nd lap of the race and would be knocked out of the running. This promoted Villoresi. Luigi was glad to have the opportunity and took full advantage. In an effort to try and chase down his friend, Villoresi would record the fastest lap of the race.
With the main competition behind out of the race, Ascari could relax to a certain degree. But he would still be fast. Only eight cars would be classified as still running by the end of the race. And yet, none could be classified as being able to run with Alberto.
Alberto would win the final round of the championship by more than a lap over Villoresi in 2nd. Louis Rosier, in another Ferrari 500, would end up finishing the race 3rd. He was four laps down by the end.
Villoresi's 2nd place effort enabled Ferrari to take the top-three positions at the end of the French F2 Championship. Ascari scored the championship victory with 43 points. Farina followed in 2nd with 22 points. And Villoresi finished in 3rd with 17 points.
Over the course of the eight rounds of the French F2 Championship Scuderia Ferrari won all but one of the rounds. Alberto Ascari had also been able to score the pole for every single one of the races in which he entered. Ferrari only lost out on the pole-position once throughout the entire eight rounds and that was when Ascari was in the United States preparing for the Indianapolis 500. Over the course of his F2 Championship run, Ascari earned five victories. Villoresi earned one, as did Taruffi.
A couple of weeks went by before the team prepared for what was the final round of the Formula One World Championship for 1952. Unlike the previous year, the final round of the World Championship would take place in front of the new World Champion's home crowd.
Scuderia Ferrari travelled back to Italy to prepare for the eighth and final round of the World Championship on the 7th of September. In front of thousands of adoring fans, Ascari and Ferrari prepared for the Italian Grand Prix, which was held at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
Another Italian team was prepared, however, to take the fight to Ferrari in the last race of the season. Maserati had returned to grand prix racing with its new A6GCM and it was proving to be a very capable grand prix car. With a light amount of fuel in the tank, the Maserati had proven capable of leaving the Ferrari 500 behind. The last time Maserati had been at Monza, Fangio was one of its drivers. However, he was severely injured in the race earlier in the season and was unavailable to try and defeat the Ferrari juggernaut. Therefore, Maserati turned to fellow Argentinean, Jose Froilan Gonzalez, and Italian Felice Bonetto.
In practice before the race, Scuderia Ferrari proved to Maserati they would need more than a little help if the team with the trident logo wanted to score the upset. As he had throughout the season, Ascari would start from the pole. He had been able to record a time of two minutes and five seconds around the 3.91 mile course layout. Luigi Villoresi followed the example of his friend and teammate and would end up starting the race 2nd. Farina would make it a Ferrari sweep of the first-three positions when he qualified 3rd. Taruffi couldn't match the pace of his Ferrari teammates and would start the race 6th. Andre Simon made it five entries for Scuderia Ferrari. His best time was some seconds slower and would start the race 8th.
Jose Froilan Gonzalez thought he would try a different tactic during the race. He would take advantage of the A6GCM's pace on light fuel and would try to open up a large enough gap over Ascari to hold on for the victory. Initially it worked. With a light fuel load Gonzalez shot into the lead and began to quickly pull away from the field. Ascari led the chase from 2nd.
After 36 laps, Gonzalez had to pit. The tactic would prove to backfire. Though he had opened up a twenty second lead over Ascari, it wasn't enough. After pitting, Jose would rejoin in 5th place. Once in the lead, Ascari left everybody behind. He would lead the final 44 laps of the 80 scheduled and would take the victory for Ferrari in the last round of the World Championship. Gonzalez would put together a gallant fight from 5th to finish the race 2nd. Villoresi would hold on to finish the race 3rd. Both Ascari and Gonzalez set the fastest lap of the race.
Not counting Indianapolis, Ascari won every single World Championship grand prix in which he entered for 1952. Scuderia Ferrari, and the Ferrari 500, would end up winning every World Championship grand prix for 1952 (not counting Indianapolis). During the course of the Formula One World Championship season, the Ferrari 500 proved to have a better winning percentage than the McLaren MP4/4 that would eclipse it for the most wins over a number of races. Between championship and non-championship races the Ferrari 500 was entered in, by either Scuderia Ferrari or other teams, the chassis earned 21 victories out of 29 races entered. The majority of the non victorious races were ones in which other teams, besides Scuderia Ferrari, had entered a 500.
Out of the four races Scuderia Ferrari entered with its old 375, the team only lost once. Even in the race in which the team was beaten for the win, Ferrari still earned a podium finish. The car that had beaten Scuderia Ferrari's 375 one time was another 375 driven by another team. Such was Ferrari's dominance in grand prix racing during the early 1950s, and yet, there was still one more non-championship race the team would enter before the year was done.
Another week after the Italian Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari remained in the country but travelled to Modena for what was the 3rd Grand Prix of Modena on the 14th of September.
The team would enter four cars in the race. Ascari, Farina and Villoresi were drivers for three of the cars. However, a new driver emerged for the team. Sergio Sighinolfi would end up driving a fourth Ferrari 500.
A good thing can't stop so easy. Ascari proved this by claiming another pole. His lap time around the 1.42 mile road course was one minute and four seconds. Villoresi would start alongside in 2nd after recording a lap time just under a second slower. Farina made it three in a row for Ferrari when he qualified on the second row in 3rd. Proving the 500 could take almost any driver and make them look good, Sergio would qualify on the third row in 6th.
Although the course was short, the race would not be. The Grand Prix of Modena would be 100 laps of the 1.42 mile road course and it would prove to be incredibly tough on everyone. The constant acceleration, braking and shifting put enormous strain on the car and the driver.
Everything appeared fine from the start of the race. Nine laps into the race the first victim was claimed. Jean Behra was out of the race due to differential problems. The second victim would be somewhat of a surprise. On the 18th lap of the race, Ascari was out. His 500 had developed an oil system problem that dropped him out of the race, at least for a moment. It was decided Sergio would give up his car to Ascari for the rest of the race.
Unaffected by the problems Villoresi and Jose Froilan Gonzalez became embroiled in a tough battle that raged throughout the rest of the race. Both would set the same fastest lap of the race. This was an idea of how close the fight between the two really was. The finish would prove absolutely climatic.
Ascari was fighting to make his way back to the top after taking over Sergio's Ferrari 500. Villoresi and Gonzalez could have cared less. The battle between the Ferrari 500 of Villoresi and the Maserati A6GCM of Gonzalez was titanic and would literally come down to the wire. At the line for the completion of the 100th lap, Villoresi would beat out Gonzalez, literally, by a nose. They would finish the race with the same exact time! Ascari, driving Sighinolfi's 500 would be able to climb all the way up to 3rd place and would finish twenty-eight seconds behind Villoresi and Gonzalez. Farina would quietly finish the race in 4th.
After a truly difficult and trying year, Villoresi was able to cap-off what was, for Scuderia Ferrari, an absolutely dominant season, the likes of which had never before been seen, not even during the days of Auto Union and Mercedes Benz. Given the fact 1953 would also be run to Formula 2 specifications, Scuderia Ferrari had reason to be confident going into the following season. Alberto Ascari had every reason to be confident he would be able to retain the World Championship title. Of course that confidence depended upon the presence and health of one Juan Manuel Fangio.