TeamsScuderia Ferrari: 1951 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Some of the stiffest competition comes from those born of the same entity. The toughest competition comes from those who know what the other will do in all situations. In 1950, Alfa Romeo, and its 158, dominated the newly organized Formula One world championship. Toward the end of that year there was another team that posed a serious threat, and it came from the team that was started by the man once in charge of developing race cars for Alfa Romeo. Of course that team was Ferrari.
Enzo Ferrari cut his teeth designing and building successful race cars for Alfa Romeo. However, as a result of World War II, it became apparent that he should go ahead and start his own Scuderia or 'stable'. Scuderia Ferrari was born during the early years of the war, and soon, became a serious player in the auto racing scene when the war came to an end. The first couple of years of Formula One's existence read like the biography of Ferrari coming into dominance.
In Formula One's first year, 1950, Alfa Romeo took the victory in each one of the world championship rounds. Over the course of the year Ferrari started to pose a threat to Alfas dominance, but hadn't been able to break through. Then, in 1951, the beginnings of Ferrari coming into dominance in Formula One and grand prix racing began to be seen. But, it wouldn't all be bright and sunny for the team. There would be some rather dark clouds that would hover over the team in 1951.
The 1951 season for Scuderia Ferrari kicked of in Siracusa, Italy in March of that year. The non-championship race took place on a 3.55 mile street course laid out in the streets of Siracusa. Ferrari showed up to the race with three entrants driven by Ascari, Villoresi and Serafini. Were it not for the presence of the current world champion, Giuseppe Farina, driving his own Maserati 4CLT/48 it would have been a clean sweep of the first three places on the grid by Ferrari. Instead, Scuderia Ferrari qualified 1st, 3rd and 4th for the 80 lap race. Ascari qualified on the pole with Farina alongside. Then came the other Ferrari teammates of Villoresi and Serafini. Besides the three Ferrari teammates, there were another four entrants driving Ferrari chassis. This meant seven out of the twelve entrants were driving some model of Ferrari.
As the race continued on, attrition started to take its toll. The rather high-speed nature of the circuit, along with the race distance, was tough on engines. In the end, only five of the twelve starters finished the race. Alberto Ascari ended up dropping out of the race on the 69th lap due to engine problems in his Ferrari 375. However, things went well for the rest of the Scuderia Ferrari team.
Once Farina and Ascari fell out of contention Villoresi took over the lead of the race and dominated. The only real battle left between any of the cars left running was between 2nd place Dorino Serafini and 3rd place Rudolf Fischer. In the end, Serafini beat out Fischer for 2nd place; nobody could battle with Villoresi. Luigi Villoresi ended up completing the 80 laps in just under three hours. His average speed for the race was just over 90mph and too much for anybody else. He ended up winning the race by over three laps over Serafini.
Two weeks after the race in Siracusa, the Ferrari team entered another non-championship race, this time in Pau, France. The race was the Grand Prix du Pau and it was 110 laps of a 1.76 mile street course. Once again, Ferrari arrived with Alberto Ascari, Luigi Villoresi and Dorino Serafini. As with the race at Siracusa, both Ascari and Villoresi arrived driving the 4.5 liter V12 Ferrari 375s. Dorino also had a 4.5 liter V12, but he drove the model 212. Besides themselves, the main competition Ferrari faced at Pau would only come from a couple of sources. One of those Ferrari had to watch out for was Louis Rosier driving under his own team name in a Talbot-Lago T26C. One of the other competitors to watch out for was Giuseppe Farina driving his own Maserati 4CLT/48.
After qualifying, it would have appeared that the only competition that could stop Ferrari would be some sort of mechanical failure or mental lapse. As in Italy, Ascari set the fastest time and sat on the pole. What was different from Italy was the fact that 2nd and 3rd were also occupied by Scuderia Ferrari drivers. However, qualifying means very little when it comes to how a race will finish. The 1.76 mile street course was tight and winding putting a lot of demands on the transmission and handling of a race car. These two aspects would come to hinder the success Ferrari could have had that weekend.
Things were going well for Ascari, and even, Serafini. However, about halfway through the race problems started to arise. Finally, on lap 46, Ascari's 375 developed transmission problems which ended his race. Only three laps later, Dorino's race came to an end when his 212 started to have steering problems. It became too dangerous for him to continue on, and so, he retired from the race. Villoresi's race went entirely different.
Luigi proved to have the touch with his 375 as he would go on to win over Louis Rosier and his Talbot-Lago. Luigi covered the race distance in three hours and seventeen minutes. Giuseppe Farina was able to climb up from his 6th starting spot on the grid to round out the podium finishing 3rd.
The 3rd Richmond Trophy race took place the same day as the Grand Prix du Pau, and so, Ferrari was unable to compete in that non-championship race. This meant that Ferrari was unable to try and keep a streak going whereby the team took the pole and win at that race. The next opportunity Ferrari had to do just that came in April with the 6th Grand Prix of San Remo in Ospedaletti, Italy. This race saw Ferrari's usual drivers show up all driving 375s. Ascari continued to show his dominance in qualifying as he once again took the pole, covering the 2.0 mile road course in 1:52. Luigi Villoresi set the 2nd fastest time. Emanuel de Graffenried put in an inspiring performance in an Enrico Plate Maserati 4CLT/48 to start the race 3rd. Serafini qualified 4th.
As with most of the races to this point of the season, the Grand Prix of San Remo was one of attrition. The 90 lap race truly took a toll on the competitors, but this time, it would be Ascari that would prove to have the touch.
It had been a frustrating season for Ascari up to this point. He had proven to be the class of the field in qualifying in each race he had entered up to that point, but problems sidelined him. This was not to be his fate in San Remo. In the end, only his teammate Serafini could hang with him as only Serafini remained on the same lead lap with Ascari by the end of the race. Villoresi, unfortunately for the team, proved to not have the touch this time. On lap 63 of the 90 lap race Villoresi was knocked out of the race when he made a mistake and suffered from an accident that knocked him out of the race.
After San Remo, Ferrari no-showed at any grand prix, but the team did enter the Mille Miglia at the end of April. The team entered three 340 America's for the 1,000 mile race. Ascari, Villoresi and Serafini were each given their own car and were paired with other drivers. Ascari was paired with Senesio Nicolini. Villoresi was paired with Piero Cassani and Dorino Serafini was paired up with Ettore Salani. Up to this point of the season, Scuderia Ferrari had been dominant, but the 1951 Mille Miglia would put a dark cloud over the rest of its season.
The race started at 9pm on Saturday night. In addition to starting late at night, the weather was far worse than had been experienced in years prior. The weather would end up catching out the pairing of Serafini and Salani. The two would suffer from an accident that would end their attempt at the Mille Miglia. Serafini and Salani's accident was of little note compared to what took place with Ascari and Nicolini a little later on. After only a few miles past Brescia, Ascari was startled by some headlights appearing to be coming right for him from a side road. As a reaction to what he believed to be happening, Alberto maneuvered the car and, with the tough weather conditions, lost control and slammed into a crowd of people. One of those hit by Ascari's car was a prominent doctor from the area. This brought manslaughter charges against Alberto because he was driving the car. As a result of the charges and the horror of what happened, Ascari vowed to never drive in the Mille Miglia again after that year.
Villoresi would celebrate winning the marred race when the lead was handed to him near the end. Despite the win, Ferrari's foray into sports car racing during the 1951 season had been marked with tragedy. The fact of the accident and the manslaughter charges had to affect Ferrari and Ascari, especially since it took three years for the lawsuit to be resolved. What is even more interesting is that Ferrari would not enter a car for that year's 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Ferrari team would not be seen or heard from for a couple of weeks after the terrible accident in Italy. The team missed the washout that happened at Silverstone and the 3rd BRDC International Trophy race in the early part of May. In fact, Scuderia Ferrari would not appear at an event until the first round of the Formula One world championship at the end of May in Switzerland.
At Switzerland, not only did Ferrari have to face its first race back after the tragedy in Italy, but, they also had to face, for the first time that year, the dominant Alfa Romeo SpA team and its awesome line-up of drivers including Giuseppe Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio.
At the Swiss Grand Prix, both Ferrari and Alfa Romeo showed up with four cars. The driver line-up for Ferrari included Alberto Ascari, Luigi Villoresi and Piero Taruffi. Though he drove his own Ferrari, Peter Whitehead was Ferrari's fourth driver for the Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten. Whitehead already had a relationship with Enzo in that he was the first to be able to purchase one of Ferrari's Formula One chassis.
Juan Manuel Fangio set the pole time with a 2:35 lap of the 4.52 mile road course. Fangio's teammate, Farina, started the race 2nd. Luigi Villoresi was the highest qualifying Ferrari driver. He started the race 3rd. The next highest starting Ferrari driver was Piero Taruffi. He started the race from 6th on the grid. Ascari would start 7th and Whitehead would start 9th.
Twenty-one drivers prepared to take on the road course at Bremgarten for 42 laps. Over half of the entrants would still be running at the end of the race, but Villoresi would not be one of them. After having a good couple of grand prix races earlier on in the year, and of course scoring the victory at the Mille Miglia, the first round of the world championship did not hold good news for Luigi. The race started out with overcast skies and eventually turned to rain. This made the track rather treacherous, but nothing compared to what Villoresi had experienced in the Mille Miglia. However, 12 laps into the race Luigi made a misstep with his 375 and crashed out of the race. Twenty-four laps later, it was Peter Whitehead's turn to make a mistake at the wheel, thereby causing him to fail to finish as well. Ascari didn't look at all like the driver he was known to be. Alberto had nothing for the Alfa 159s and settled for finishing the race 6th, one spot out of the points. Though not a regular Ferrari driver up to that point in the season, Taruffi took full advantage of his opportunity and was the only threat to Alfa that Ferrari could pose. Juan Manuel Fangio went on to win the race, but Piero drove an inspired race in the difficult conditions to finish the race 2nd. Farina rounded off the podium by finishing 3rd.
Just like that, Piero Taruffi was 2nd in the driver's championship, only a couple of points behind Fangio. Ferrari's main threats of Ascari and Villoresi left Bremgarten without having scored any points between them.
June 17th of 1951, officially the 2nd round of the Formula One world championship, was held at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. In the 1951, the old 8.77 mile course, which included many public roads, was in use. The race scheduled was going to be a real test for the teams, cars and the drivers as it consisted of 36 laps. The total race distance, therefore, was over 300 miles. In addition to its length, the old course was also fast. Brakes, engines and transmissions would take a severe pounding over the course of the race. Four cars arrived for the Alfa Romeo SpA team, while Scuderia Ferrari only brought three, driven by Ascari, Villoresi and Taruffi. At the time of this race, Taruffi was sitting second in the championship and looked to add more points to his total. Ascari and Villoresi just looked to get their Formula One seasons going.
Fangio was, again, the class of the field in qualifying as he took the pole with a lap of 4:25 in his 159. Villoresi qualified 3rd and Ascari 4th. Taruffi kept the sequence going as he would qualify 5th.
The day of the race was sunny and dry. The sun, however, would not shine on Taruffi this day. Only 8 laps into the race, Piero developed problems with his rear axle and transmission and was forced to retire from the race. Fangio's Alfa 159 incorporated specially made suspension and wheels that were meant to help with braking functions. However, this new design gave his Alfa Romeo team troubles. Despite setting a fastest lap of the race time that was almost three seconds faster than his qualifying time, victory was naught to be found. Fangio's teammate and reigning world champion, Giuseppe Farina, took over the lead of the race on the second lap and was untouchable for the most part. A good sign for Ferrari was that Villoresi was able to take the lead and hold onto it for a couple of laps before having to relinquish it again to Farina.
Throughout the length of the race, the 4.5 liter V12 engine in the Ferrari 375s were more than capable of keeping the heat on the supercharged 159s. And, in the end, while it was Farina who took the victory, Alberto Ascari was able to stay on the same lead lap as Farina and finished 2nd. In addition to Ascari's good result, Luigi Villoresi was able to finish the race 3rd. Just like that, Ferrari, as a team, left Belgium having scored 10 points total toward the championship and both Ascari and Taruffi were tied for 4th in the individual driver's championship standings. Farina had gone past Fangio into the overall lead of the championship standings and was looking in good shape to defend his crown as champion.
July 1st, a couple of weeks after Spa, the next round of the Formula One championship was held in Reims, France. The European Grand Prix, as it was known that year, was held on the triangular shaped course made up of public roads between Reims and Gueux. In total, the course was 4.85 miles in length and it was another high-speed circuit as it was mostly three long straights interrupted with hairpin turns.
Up to this point, Fangio had taken the pole at each of the championship races. Reims would be no exception. Fangio set the pole time of a 2:25. The best qualified Ferrari driver was Ascari in 3rd. After Ascari, Villoresi qualified 4th. At Reims, Ferrari had replaced Piero Taruffi with Jose Froilan Gonzalez. Jose put his 375 on the grid in 6th place.
The race was truly confusing. Fangio would end up setting the fastest lap of the race once again, which earned him one point towards the championship. But this would not be in the car he started the race with. After leading the first lap, his car started to slowly develop problems until it had to be parked after running 15 laps. Fangio was then handed his teammate Fagioli's car for the remainder of the race. After taking over Fagioli's car, Fangio proved his talent by being able to lead the last 27 of the scheduled 77 laps to take a shared victory with Fagioli. In the midst of all the trouble and excitement surrounding Fangio, it would practically be forgotten Ascari took over the lead and led the first 8 laps. Then, two-thirds into the race, Ascari suffered his own car problems and ended up parking his ride, but then, took over Gonzalez's car. Ascari, too, put in an inspired drive in a borrowed car and would end up sharing a 2nd place finish with Gonzalez. Villoresi remained free from drama throughout the hot and sunny race to finish 3rd, albeit some 3 laps down to Fangio and Ascari.
Due to the shared drive, both Ascari and Gonzalez would finish the race having scored three points. This was a good result for Gonzalez given the fact it was his first race for Ferrari. Villoresi, though finishing 3rd, would end up scoring 4 points toward the championship since he didn't have to share a drive with another driver. When it was all said and done, Ferrari had scored another 10 points as a team. Ascari had earned a total of 9 points in the driver's championship. Villoresi had earned 8 points. However, by this point in time in the season, Fangio had 15 points and Farina 14.
Two weeks after Reims, the championship headed to Silverstone, England. Not counting Indianapolis, the race at Silverstone was the 4th round of Formula One championship. The race distance that year was 90 laps of the 2.88 mile course circulating around what was an old airbase. After scoring three points when Ascari took over his car and finished 2nd at Reims, Gonzalez was brought into the championship hunt. After Silverstone, Jose was brought to experience an even greater honor.
Fangio had been dominant in every qualifying effort to this point of the Formula One season. In fact, Alfa Romeo had been almost unbeatable in every Formula One race to this point. This all changed in England. In qualifying, it wasn't Fangio and Alfa that dominated, but Gonzalez in his Ferrari 375. Jose set the fastest time with a 1:43. Also, for the first time, a car and team other than Alfa Romeo and Ferrari cracked into the top three in qualifying. Joe Kelly, driving an Alta GP, was able to qualify 3rd. Alberto Ascari would start the race 4th. Villoresi started 5th.
The race, itself, turned into a battle between Fangio and Gonzalez. In fact, only Fangio and Gonzalez would remain on the lead lap. Fifty-six laps into the race, Ascari's race came to an end when his 375 developed gearbox problems. Villoresi would have a lap advantage over Felice Bonetto and would finish the race 3rd. Fangio would end up leading the race for 30 laps, but it would not include the most important lap. In the end, Jose Gonazalez would lead 59 laps and would go on to score the victory. The victory earned him 8 points toward the championship. But more importantly, Jose had the honor of scoring the first of many Formula One victories for Scuderia Ferrari.
Just like that, Jose Froilan Gonzalez was vaulted up in the ranks of championship contenders. He had a total of 11 points after Silverstone. Villoresi's 3rd place finish meant that he had now earned 12 points. However, Fangio's 2nd place meant he added another 6 points to his tally. Therefore, after Silverstone, Fangio had 25 points, Farina 15 and Villoresi 12.
Another two weeks later and the Formula One season arrived in Germany and the Nurburgring for the German Grand Prix. The German Grand Prix in 1951 took place on the famous 14.1 mile Nordschleife. Ferrari brought four cars to the race. Besides Ascari, Villoresi and Gonzalez, Ferrari had Piero Taruffi back driving for them. Not to be outdone, Alfa Romeo SpA, despite their financial woes, brought four cars also to the Nordschleife. Fangio and Farina were there. In addition to them, Alfa employed the talents of Felice Bonetto and Paul Pietsch to do battle with the coming challenge of Ferrari.
It would have appeared that once Ferrari finally broke through and scored the victory at Silverstone, there was a changing of the guard in one sense. No longer was there an Alfa Romeo dominance at each and every race and this fact was immediately true during qualifying at the Nurburgring. After the troubles he had faced at different times throughout the season, things seemed to start to come together for Alberto. Ascari went out during qualifying and promptly set the fastest time with a 9:55 lap. Neither Fangio, nor Farina, were even able to set the 2nd fastest time. That honor went to Gonzalez. Fangio and Farina qualified 3rd and 4th respectively. After them however, it was the other two Ferrari drivers of Villoresi and Taruffi.
Given the length of the circuit, the race was only going to be 20 laps in length, but there were more than enough opportunities for action throughout the course of just one lap. Surprisingly, given the nature of the track's location and length, the race took place under sunny, mild and dry conditions.
Initially, the battle at the front was between the two Ferrari teammates of Ascari and Gonzalez. Jose was able to lead a lap before Fangio came into the picture. Fangio showed that the 159 was still a very potent adversary for the 375 as he would set the fastest lap of the race, equaling the qualifying time set by Ascari. In addition to the fastest lap, Fangio would also lead some 8 of the 20 laps. However, Juan was the only one of the Alfa drivers able to complete the entire race distance. Ferrari, though, struggled with no such issues.
Taruffi was the last of the runners on the lead lap by the end of the race. He drove a steady and consistent race to finish 5th. Ahead of him on the track was his Ferrari teammate Villoresi who would finish 4th. Gonzalez just couldn't keep up the fight with Fangio and had to settle for 3rd despite having led a lap. The battle ended up being between Ascari and Fangio. Finally, for Ascari, all of the elements came together. Alberto ended up leading 11 of the 20 laps and would take the victory over Fangio. Before this race, Ascari wasn't even one of Ferrari's biggest championship contenders. With the victory, however, Alberto vaulted up into 2nd place overall in the driver's championship race. What was better for Ferrari was the fact that each of its cars finished the race and in the points. In total, Ferrari bagged 17 points. The points helped Ferrari to have three drivers in the top-five of championship contenders. The only unfortunate part about it all was the fact Fangio still had a 10 point advantage over 2nd place Ascari in the championship race.
The season, for Alberto Ascari, had been up and down. Alberto left Germany on a high point. Less than a month later, August 15th, Ascari would be humbled once again. Meanwhile, Gonzalez would be seen flying high once again.
It's hard to image a course longer than the Nordschleife, but less than a month after the German Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari entered three cars for the non-championship race the Circuito di Pescara. The Circuito di Pescara took place on a 15.89 mile course made up of streets and public roads that wound through the streets of Pescara, Italy and the surrounding countryside. The deepening financial woes at Alfa Romeo saw no cars attend this race despite it taking place in its home country.
Alberto went out during qualifying and set the fastest time. Luigi Villoresi set the second fastest time. Despite the absence of Alfa Romeo, there was still some stiff competition. Louis Chiron, driving for Ecurie Rosier, proved this fact when he was undaunted and pushed his Talbot-Lago T26C to the third fastest time in qualifying. Gonzalez ended up qualifying 4th. Ferrari decided to have under its team umbrella again Peter Whitehead and his older Ferrari 125 chassis. Peter would only be able to qualify 14th. With the absence of Alfa, the Ferrari teammates and attrition would be the main competition.
Immediately, the attrition got the better of Ascari when the green flag fell to start the race. Alberto would not even complete one lap when his 375 suffered from oil pressure problems. Villoresi was only able to make it one-third of the total race distance of 12 laps when transmission problems brought his race to an end. Fifteen entrants would qualify for and start the race. By the end, eight of those fifteen would still be running. Surprisingly, Peter Whitehead and his older Ferrari 125 was one of them. Peter would finish the 192 miles 5th and one lap down.
Jose Froilan was able to come up from his 4th place starting spot on the grid to take the win over Frenchmen Louis Rosier and Philippe Etancelin. The victory by Gonzalez meant that Ferrari had scored three victories in a row between championship and non-championship entered races. Ferrari looked to keep the streak going when it entered its next race, the non-championship Grand Prix of Bari.
The Grand Prix of Bari took place of September 2nd and was only two weeks before the Italian Grand Prix. The race in Bari would be good preparation for the fast, car-wrecker Monza circuit. As a result of this fact, Ferrari showed up to Bari, Italy with four cars driven by Ascari, Villoresi, Gonzalez and Taruffi. Alfa Romeo, on the other hand, only showed up to the race with two cars for Fangio and Farina.
Fangio had gotten tired of getting beaten out for the pole in the lat two races, and so, promptly went out and set the fastest time in qualifying. Ferrari drivers were able to set the 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 11th fastest times.
Though setting the 4th fastest time in qualifying, Farina's race was over after only 8 of the 65 laps of the 3.44 mile road course. This left everything up to Fangio. Alfa, being down to just one driver, caused Ferrari to hopeful. However, 18 laps in Ascari's woes continued. His 375 suffered a fire which knocked him out of the race. Thirteen laps later, Ferrari took another hit when Villoresi had to drop out of the race due to an oil leak. Not even halfway through the race and two of Ferrari's four cars were out of the race. Concerns began to be raised.
While struggles were coming upon the other higher qualified Ferrari teammates, the race was going splendidly for Piero Taruffi after a terrible qualifying effort. Piero climbed his way up through the field. He had a full lap advantage over his nearest competition and was able to carry on to a very good and steady 3rd place finish. Three laps ahead of Piero, the real battle was taking place between Fangio and Gonzalez. In the end, Fangio was able to handle being the remaining hope for Alfa Romeo and would be able to fend off Jose in order to take the win.
Race 6 of the Formula One season was held on September 16th at Monza, Italy. 190 miles, or, 80 laps of the 3.9 mile circuit was the scheduled distance that year. The 1951 Italian Grand Prix would bear witness to the coming tide of Ferrari dominance and influence in Formula One.
Things started out not that much different than at most other points of the season. Juan Manuel Fangio went out in his 159 Alfa and set the fastest time in qualifying. In fact, even his teammate, Giuseppe Farina, had been able to out-pace any other car in order to start the race 2nd. However, 3rd through 6th were all Ferraris. Alberto qualified 3rd, Gonzalez 4th, Villoresi 5th and Taruffi 6th. It was obvious, should any of the Alfa drivers have a slip-up at any portion of the race there was going to be a wave of Ferrari ready to pounce and take advantage. Neither Fangio, nor Farina, could afford to have any problems, or else, their championship hopes or retention would have been under serious threat.
Almost immediately, things were not looking good for Farina. Six laps into the race, Giuseppe's engine developed problems. He was forced to retire his car, but, took over teammate Bonetto's car afterward. Farina's early troubles were not to be a good sign for Alfa Romeo. As a result of his problems, Farina's hopes of retaining the title went up in smoke like his car's engine. Things were definitely not getting any better for Alfa. On lap 39, the collective wind must have gone out of Alfa Romeo's sails when pole-sitter Fangio's engine also went up in smoke. The most concerning and unfortunate part of the failure of Fangio's engine was the fact that Bonetto's car had already been given up to Farina. There wasn't another car Juan could have jumped into to try and salvage some points.
With the exception of Farina being able to drive Bonetto's car to a 3rd place finish, the highlights of the race was all Ferrari and Alberto Ascari.
Fangio led the first 9 laps of the race. Then, Ascari was able to challenge and pass Fangio for the lead. From that time on, Ascari set sail into the distance. Only Gonzalez could keep on the same lap with him. Ascari would overcome the woes he had been experiencing in the non-championship races to score a dominant Formula One victory, the 4th victory in a row for Ferrari. It was also the 3rd victory in a row for Ferrari in Formula One. Luigi Villoresi and Piero Taruffi rounded out the points paying positions.
Once again, Ferrari had managed to have each one of its cars finish in the points. This time, however, it was a 19 point total for Ferrari as a team. Fangio's failure, and Ascari's dominant performance, meant the championship race tightened up. Fangio was stuck on 27 points, but, just like that, the ten point advantage Juan had all but disappeared. Ascari was only two points back and Gonzalez was only another four points back of Ascari. Once again, Ferrari still had three drivers in the top-five of the driver's championship standings. Ferrari had gone from being dominated, like everybody else in 1950, to scoring its first victory and becoming a dominant player of its own in 1951.
Similar to 1950, the championship would come down to the final race of the season. Unlike 1950, the battle for the championship was between two teams. It would all play out on the 3.9 mile street course of Pedralbes in the Grand Prix of Spain. 70 laps awaited to decide who would be the champion of '51.
The threat of Fangio losing out despite the lead he had had for a majority of the season looked to be a reality when Ascari took the pole with a lap of 2:10. Fangio would start 2nd, but Gonzalez would be right there starting 3rd. Farina's championship hopes were finished but he still showed the fight within as he qualified 4th. Piero Taruffi qualified 7th. Luigi Villoresi struggled in qualifying and could only set the 10th fastest time. In all, 20 drivers qualified for the last race of the Formula One season.
The day of the race was incredibly hot and dry and would end up becoming a deciding factor in the race. The race distance was 70 laps, but the race was well and truly over before even lap 15.
Things were looking good for Ascari from the start as he led and even had Gonzalez between himself and Fangio. However, the heat would begin to show how it was going to have an impact on the championship outcome. On lap 6, Taruffi threw tread from off his tires. On the very next lap, Villoresi suffered from the same problem. The very next lap after that, Ascari also threw tread. Six laps later, the other Ferrari driven by Gonzalez also threw tread. Fangio chose a larger tire before the start of the race and it proved to be the difference as he didn't have the problems the Ferrari drivers had. The excessive time necessary to change tires multiple times meant Fangio could cruise to victory and the championship. Gonazalez would end up the race in 2nd and Ascari would finish the race 4th. Forty-eight laps into the race Villoresi's day came to an end when his car developed ignition problems. Taruffi never got going again after his wheel problems on lap 7.
The championship ended with Fangio with 31 points, Ascari with 25, Gonzalez 24 and Villoresi 15.
After the season, Alfa Romeo announced they would not compete in Formula One in 1952. By all accounts and purposes, with Alfa's announcement, Ferrari emerged alone on the top step in Formula One. How fitting for Enzo Ferrari to be the one that once designed and helped shaped Alfa's dominance to now eclipse them and take over their role of dominance, a role of dominance that could only be appreciated upon the completion of the 1952 season.