1952 Monaco Grand Prix
The 1952 Monaco Grand Prix was the first race of the 1952 Formula One World Championship and was held in Monte Carlo on May 18th 1952. André Simon took his first and only race victory for Motorsport Bleu ahead of two-time World Champion Giuseppe Farina and Phoenix driver Alberto Ascari. This was the first of four victories for Motorsport Bleu that season.
A new season of Formula 1 had arrived, and already some safety changes had been made, with most cars now fitted with anti-roll bars. Giuseppe Farina was still the only champion after taking his second consecutive title, and was looking to net a third with the Alfa, but would be facing stiff competition from the Ferraris of de Graffenried and Sanesi, the Gordinis of Manzon and Sanesi and the Alfas of Fangio and Moss, with some outside competitors such as Pilette, Bira, Parnell or Whitehead also in with a shout. This would be one the most competitive seasons yet. 34 drivers had gathered at Monaco to take part in the first race of the new season. With prequalifying (first introduced at Monza the previous season) now an integral part of the race weekends, only 20 drivers were certain of taking part in qualifying, where they would be joined by eight other hopefuls, all looking to take one of the 20 places available on the grid.
Despite Alfa Romeo's Farina victory in the drivers' championship, Ferrari walked the constructors' title thanks to having equally competitive drivers and a reliable car that allowed them to win four of the last five races. Again, Ferrari would be serious challengers for the title, with their four drivers being re-signed. De Graffenried and Serafini were second and third last season and would want to go that extra position better in 1952, while Parnell and Whitehead would once again be sharing the third car en route to hopefully consistent podium finishes. As for customer teams, they could still count on the increasingly competitive Ferrari America, who would be attending every race.
In 1951, the Alfa was undoubtedly the quickest car over a single lap, with four poles and five fastest laps, but the Ferraris were nearly unbeatable in race trim. To top it off, the Alfa was woefully unreliable, and only Farina was able to consistently score podiums, five overall, which sealed him his second world title despite only winning one race. The other drivers were hit with consistent bad luck. Indeed, with 14 starts in between them, Moss and Fangio only finished three races, albeit two of them in the points, both of them in fourth place, with an additional three points brought by Pietsch, who drove for the team in Monaco. The team had worked on its reliability during the winter and were now aiming for the constructors' title, but would be hindered by Jacques Swaters' decision to convert his Alfas to Bugattis, leaving Alfa without any customer team.
Things had changed at Francorchamps, and the official team name was now Garage Francorchamps, with Ecurie Nationale Belge now being a secondary team. The cars had changed as well, with the two Alfas from 1951 converted to Bugattis and entered as such by the Bugatti Grand Prix side, and Swaters' own Maserati now used full-time by the ENB side of the garage. Only the drivers stayed the same, with Trintignant and Pilette driving the Bugattis (except at Monaco and Rouen, where Pilette would drive the Maserati and would be replaced by Eugène Chaboud). The Maserati would otherwise be driven by guest drivers: Jacques Swaters, Paul Frère, Roger Laurent, Georges Berger, Jan Flinterman, Charles de Tornaco and Charles Van Acker. The team was looking to take that elusive first win.
After being pipped to third place in the championship by ENB, ART were back with a vengeance, with the passing of Yves Giraud-Cabantous being a huge motivator. Manzon and Sanesi were back yet again to score consistent points and hopefully podiums. The new and improved Gordini looked like a promising car, and third in the constructors' championship should again be a formality. The Gordini partnership came with drawbacks, with the hopeless Aldo Gordini driving in Monaco and Rouen. A then-unconfirmed third driver would join Sanesi and Manzon for a further five races.
Motorsport Bleu were coming off their most successful season yet. The ever inconsistent form was more marked in 1951, and Bira was able to take an emotional first win at the death against Pilette in Belgium, and Rudi Fischer scored an other podium in Germany, but no more points were scored. Was the Talbot-Lago beginning to show its age? In any case, the team was ready for their largest title challenge yet. Bira would again drive the full season, occasionally joined by André Simon (for seven rounds), Harry Schell (for five rounds, on loan from Ferrari America), Tony Rolt (for both British rounds), Günther Bechem, John Fitch and Lex Davison (for their respective home races).
Admittedly, Group Ultimate owed its position in the entrants' championship to its 1-2 at Indianapolis, but saying that it was worthless was far from the truth. The main Ferrari customer team was on the rise in 1951, with Harry Schell scoring fifth place in Germany and almost another at Zandvoort before spinning out. This time, Group Ultimate, the team owner, decided to enter two separate teams. Ferrari America would carry on with Troy Ruttman completing a full season and Harry Schell driving half of the schedule. The second team would be Team Ultimate. The arrogant-looking name hid a serious project to launch the BMW engine in Formula One, with Group Ultimate creating its own car for the occasion. East German Formula 2 driver Edgar Barth would drive the car for eight rounds.
Jaguar - Aston Martin Racing were pretty enigmatic. Their driver management left a lot to be desired at the start of 1951, with the sacking of all four drivers after their shameful quadruple-DNQ in Monaco being followed by a three-race absence. The decision to have Aston make the chassis and Jaguar the engine was a good one, and with attrition's help, Trintignant's guest drive at the team's home race yielded a podium finish. The team finished the season with Paul Pietsch and Mauri Rose, but both had left the team for this season. In return, the team had hired promising young Argentine José Froilan Gonzalez, who impressed in the Phoenix in the previous two seasons, and seasoned veteran Piero Taruffi, who managed wonders in the under-everything Metcalf.
In an interesting turn of events, Scuderia Maremmana, despite coming off the back of their most successful season yet, had decided to run a reduced schedule, perhaps due to their drivers' ill health. It was no secret that Clemente Biondetti was fighting cancer, and von Brauchitsch looked less motivated than before. With the same combination as the previous season, they should be competitive once again, but it was feared that the team's fate was in the hands of defending British Formula 3 champion Eric Brandon, who made his Formula 1 début at the age of 31.
A major surprise in the off-season was the near-folding of Team Metcalf GP just when Piero Taruffi was getting the car sorted out. Thankfully for the mechanics, the team was taken over by a mysterious Italian who renamed the team Scuderia Aqua. The team had to start nearly from scratch, as they were left with nothing from the original team. The Metcalf chassis and engine, deemed too uncompetitive, had been replaced by a spanking new Maserati A6GCM, and with Taruffi gone to build up JAMR, Piero Carini had been hired to make his début. The team would compete only in Monaco and Italy while waiting for a better challenge in 1953.
Scuderia Ambrosiana were one of the greatest surprises of 1951. In a car that had no right to be called an F1 car and a woefully inexperienced driver in Giovanni Bracco, the Ambrosiana simply had a huge stroke of luck by finishing the Dutch Grand Prix in fifth place out of five finishers. The prize money allowed them to enter more cars in the final race, and Bracco promptly led it to an impressive eleventh place. This team was on the rise, and consistent top tens weren't out of the question for Bracco. As for the second driver, rumours were rife as to how Porfirio Rubirosa got his racing licence, but he'd be there the whole year and was expected to fail to prequalify at most races.
After a promising start to the season, marked by fifth place at Monaco (the only points scored by a Maserati all season), Redman's season took a steep dive when Franco Rol rolled out at Reims, severely injuring himself and leaving him bedridden. It took some time to rebuild the team, but by Zandvoort, they were back with Louis Rosier. However, the Le Mans winner was past his prime, and was promptly fired. Rudi Fischer was initially supposed to drive the new Maserati, but the car would in fact be driven by Nello Pagani, who finished second in Italy after challenging for the win all race.
If you discount Rol's fifth place at Monaco, Claes was the leading Maserati team in 1951. In fact, only the top four teams scored more top tens than Claes and Simon, who finished there six times in six finishes. For some reason though, none of them were in the points, with Claes particularly frustrated by three sixth places, twice just seconds away from sweet points. Even more disappointingly, Simon had been fired to make way for Lance Macklin, who didn't particularly impress at Monza the previous season. also, Tony Bettenhausen would drive the first car in his home race, where Claes would take his first race off to lead the team in a more efficient way.
The Ferrari engine was obviously a step up from the Maserati engine Phoenix used in 1950, as proven by Gonzalez' two top ten finishes in France and Germany. However, Gonzalez left to join the promising JAMR team, leaving Ascari alone at Phoenix. Stirling Moss was touted as a possible replacement, as was Mike Hawthorn, but none was confirmed in time, and Phoenix were left with a single car to represent them at Monaco. No entries had been confirmed for the rest of the season, so their future looked bleak.
Scuderia Platé-Varzi was one of the bigger disappointments of the second half of the previous year. After a promising start with two top tens, their form quickly declined, and they ended the season with six failures to make the grid in two races. With Maserati now buying the team out again, works status could help to lift the team back on its feet with the help of questionable signings Paul Frère and Onofre Marimon. A bold choice that might pay off.
After a frankly worthless start to 1951, Commesso picked up the pace by plonking a Ferrari engine in a Maserati, and it worked (more or less). By the end of the year, they were solid midfielders, and the high point of their season came in France, where Louis Chiron managed to haul the car up to ninth position, the team's best result at that point. Chiron was still there, and at 52 years of age, was ready for another full season of racing. He would be occasionally joined by a second driver, with Dries van der Lof, Tony Gaze and Ottorino Volonterio each doing some races in the second car.
Despite his uncompetitive and sadly unreliable Alta, David Hampshire was soldiering on for a second season in which he'd take part in only the European rounds in order to leave an opportunity for young British drivers to start their F1 careers at their home race. Finishing races was a necessity now.
1951's Bentley was quite possibly one of the worst cars in the field, and it took a miracle for Geoff Richardson to qualify for the Dutch Grand Prix. Now, with a larger scale attack on Formula 1 and a merger with BRM, Richardson, Hawthorn and rookie Roy Salvadori had their work cut out for them.
After the epic fail that was the revolutionary Reatherson, Henry Reatherson himself admitted that his car was useless. Instead, Joe Kelly would drive a slightly more competitive ERA with the same Maserati engine at the front. This just might have been enough to make it out of pre-qualifying on a few occasions.
Let's face it, the OSCA was fundamentally flawed at the hands of Jean Behra. Over the winter, the car couldn't have really gotten better. The three races the team would take part in would only serve to gather experience for 1953, should the team survive until then. On the upside, Felice Bonetto was a dependable hand who would help the team forwards.
No one knew where Leader was from. Apparently, it was led by a mysterious Chinese businessman known only as the Leader, and he expected the cars to dominate the racing world in a matter of years. It was unknown how Luigi Villoresi got tempted to go there, maybe the Ferrari engines, but he'd be stuck there that season.
The amusingly-named Welsh team Fighting Mongooses were bringing another new British element to Formula One with the début of both the Cooper chassis and the Bristol engine. Jean Behra was to drive the car for the three races where the team was entered.
Birmingham Motorsports, created by two Brummie lottery-winners, looked professional enough, but with only an Alta being available to them, rookie Ken Wharton would have a hard time in his first season of Formula One.
Erne Racing Development was another of the more mysterious entries for this season. When entering, ERD gave no information regarding their internal structure, but Argentine rookie Roberto Mieres would be driving an old customer Ferrari.
After plenty of rumours about the identity of their entry, International Racing Group was finally confirmed just days before Monaco. The small team would run a customer Maserati with a Porsche engine which would serve as a test for an eventual works Porsche team. Rudi Fischer drove the car in Monaco.
Ecurie Australie already entered the Indianapolis 500 in 1950 with disappointing results, but now they'd be competing directly against the big boys. Doug Whiteford (in a Talbot-Lago-Talbot), Jack Brabham and David McKay (both in HWM-Altas) would all be looking to shine in their home race.
Despite her disappointing performance in her home race last year, Maria Teresa de Filippis was coming back this year to drive, in Belgium, Italy and the United States. Best of luck to her.
Hampshire and Chaboud would be very happy to clear the first major hurdle of the season, while there was major disappointment for those who didn't. Notably, Louis Chiron failed to get through for Commesso, as did Rubirosa for Ambrosiana and both of the works Maserati drivers, Paul Frère and Onofre Marimon. This would become something of a familiar sight throughout the season.
Ferrari and Alfa started the season strongly with four of their six cars in the top ten and de Graffenried 11th, with only Moss disappointing with a shocking performance to fail to qualify. There were also have some surprises, such as Gonzalez plonking the Aston-Jaguar on the front row of the grid and Taruffi also qualifying, as well as Giovanni Bracco putting the Ambrosiana on the second row. Other good surprises were Ascari getting the Phoenix to another top ten grid slot and Eric Brandon getting to within half a second of his much more experienced team mate von Brauchitsch to take twelfth spot, while Biondetti again disappointed by failing to qualify for the race. Other disappointments were Chaboud and Pilette failing to qualify, something the Belgian outfit hadn't done since Monaco the previous year. With Trintignant barely scraping onto the grid, the street circuit was turning into a bogey track for ENB.
Fangio, Trintignant and Bira got the best starts, but Whitehead's was just horrendous and Gonzalez took the opportunity to take the race lead, a first for a British car and for Gonzalez himself! But the frontrunners' starts were pretty average, so Whitehead was still second ahead of Farina and Bracco. In fact, Whitehead was alongside Gonzalez for the lead at the end of the lap, and Bracco was doing the same with Farina's Alfa! Fangio followed in fifth place, taking advantage of Serafini's start which left him eighth. This lead wouldn't last, as the Aston's flaws started to show. In one lap, he was passed by Whitehead (who took a large lead), Farina, Bracco and almost Fangio. But the man on the move was, believe it or not, Eric Brandon, who was already well into the top ten. However, Gonzalez was already back in third place on the next lap, just behind Whitehead and Farina, while Fangio was already fourth. But Whitehead made a mistake, and Farina took advantage of it. He took the lead from Gonzalez and Bracco, with Whitehead and Fangio immediately behind them.
But the conditions were difficult. A lot of mistakes were made. Gonzalez was in the lead again on lap 5, with Bracco second and Farina and Fangio fighting for third place. Consalvo Sanesi recorded the provisional fastest lap of the race, which was immediately bested by Harry Schell. Whitehead, meanwhile, was closing in, making it a five-way battle for the lead, with Alberto Ascari, Manfred von Brauchitsch, André Simon, Consalvo Sanesi and Eric Brandon all getting closer as well! Fangio was the next to take the race lead, on lap 7, while Johnny Claes became the first driver to retire in 1952, the Maserati breaking down at Ste Dévote. Toulo de Graffenried then scored fastest lap, while Fangio and Farina started to establish a small lead, while the whole pack was gathering behind them. While the fastest lap changed hands literally every lap (Sanesi, Pagani, Simon, then Manzon), Fangio's lead was beginning to get larger. Then, he made a mistake and fell to third behind Farina and Sanesi, who was again on splendid form. But Sanesi also made a mistake and fell to fourth, behind Farina who now had a pretty good lead over Fangio and Simon, who was rocketing up the field. But positions were changing all over the order, and the Monégasque crowd was loving it!
Farina now had a safe lead, with Simon and Gonzalez fighting for second place, not something you'd have expected to see barely months earlier. Whitehead joined the fight, and they started to pull away, though still far behind Farina. But the Englishman quickly fell back behind Sanesi and just ahead of de Graffenried, Fangio and Ascari. But Farina was losing pace a bit, and by lap 20, Gonzalez and Simon were right alongside him with Sanesi a short way behind. At the end of the lap, Gonzalez was back in the lead, with Simon quickly following, though he would drop back to third just afterwards. On lap 24, Farina was back in the lead, though it only lasted a lap, as Gonzalez was through again on the next lap by outbraking Farina at Tabac. In the process, Farina made a mistake, and Whitehead and Simon were now right behind him. Whitehead and Farina decided that enough was enough, and they both caught Gonzalez quickly. On lap 29, Farina took the lead again, with Whitehead a bit further back. Harry Schell's Ferrari was stopped by the side of the road at Mirabeau, gearbox in pieces. He was having a dreadful race in 16th place.
Then, André Simon set a provisional fastest lap to get back up to second place, passing Whitehead and Gonzalez. But that lasted for all of one lap. At the Chicane, Consalvo Sanesi span around into the straw bales under braking and at low speed, and Simon managed to avoid him, but chose the wrong side and ended up losing a lot of time, dropping to third again. Sanesi retired in the incident, from seventh position, leaving 17 cars on track. But the incident left what appeared to be bits of straw in the Maserati's radiator, which slowed him down for a few laps, as it did Whitehead, who also chose the wrong side of Sanesi, though losing less time at the scene. At this point, all Farina had to do was manage his lead, since Gonzalez' Aston-Jaguar couldn't keep up the pace over a longer distance, although at least the car was holding up, unlike his teammate's. Taruffi's car was sitting in a pile of smoke at the Casino with a blown engine. Piero was fighting with Bracco for an anonymous 13th place.
For a few laps, Farina and Gonzalez were pretty even on pace, so the main focus was on the battle for third still raging between André Simon and Peter Whitehead. But their constant squabbling meant that they were soon joined by Fangio and Bira, who had been doing an excellent job making up the lost ground. A revelation of the weekend also retired from the race, with Eric Brandon's Ferrari-Jaguar conking out at Portier. He was in an excellent seventh position before his car started to malfunction, retiring a few laps later. Also, in a completely unrelated event, Alberto Ascari trolled the field by setting the provisional fastest lap of the race, then got counter-trolled by de Graffenried who did the same on the following lap. In the battle for third, Fangio and Whitehead dropped back, leaving Simon and Bira in a good, fair battle. In fact, Simon was on fire and he caught and passed Gonzalez for second place just on the halfway mark. For fifth place though, the whole field was bunching up again, making for yet another large yet clean fight. One driver who wasn't in that fight though was de Graffenried, whose Ferrari was stopped in the pits with a destroyed gearbox. He was, coincidentally, in fifth position at the time.
Gonzalez passed Simon once more and began building a gap, while Bira and Manzon were breaking away from the chasing pack. Then came one of the race's turning points: Gonzalez' Aston-Jaguar stopped. Engine blown. A sad Argentine by its side. This left Farina with a huge lead over Simon, Manzon, Bira, Whitehead, Ascari, von Brauchitsch, Fangio, Ruttman, Serafini, Bracco, then daylight, then Pagani and Trintignant. It was plainly clear that Simon was the only driver who could possibly catch Farina, which he did on lap 65 thanks to a rare mistake by Giuseppe, but on the next lap, Farina was ahead again, and he built up the gap again. In the next laps, the only incident of note was Troy Ruttman setting fastest lap, impressive compared to his overall performance, which wasn't very good. The next event was von Brauchitsch slowly catching up to Manzon for third position, though that particular challenge was short-lived. In fact, Ascari was catching up and took fourth place on lap 77, while von Brauchitsch was caught by Ruttman and Bira. While Farina rubbed it in everyone's face by setting a new fastest lap, Ascari was now much quicker than Manzon and looking like he would take an easy podium, and sure enough, he took third position on lap 83, just when Ruttman's Ferrari stopped by the side of the road. He was in seventh place and getting caught up by Whitehead when his oil pump failed.
In fact, Ascari was getting quicker and was now catching André Simon for second place. In a Phoenix. But he was beginning to falter, and he would have to settle for third, since Manzon was now a fair way behind. In other news, Bracco's Ambrosiana gave up out of tenth position and von Brauchitsch lost control at Tabac, span off and struck the outside wall. He got out of the car himself, but was transported to the hospital for checks. This left ten drivers with ten laps remaining: Farina, who would need some terrible luck to avoid winning the race, Simon, still hanging on beautifully in the Talbot-Lago, Ascari, on the verge of causing a huge upset, Bira, the author of a fantastic comeback drive from last place on the grid, Manzon, having done a good race and being almost certain of scoring points, Whitehead, now pretty much on his own and cruising to sixth position, Serafini and Fangio, both duelling for seventh place, with Fangio setting the fastest lap, which he would keep (therefore scoring an extra point), then Trintignant and Pagani, both a long way back.
But Simon wasn't finished. Somehow, he found some unbelievable pace while Farina was cruising. The mechanics were literally already celebrating their victory while Simon was going faster and faster. He started catching up, and sure enough, by lap 95, Simon was stunning the crowd by taking an improbable lead. Of course, with all his experience, Farina fought back, but despite his Alfa's superiority, his raw pace was no match for Simon's, and the two were literally side by side to start the final lap of the race! Simon had the inside line at the Gazomètre and passed Farina under braking, but Giuseppe did the same to Simon at Sainte Dévote! Through Casino Square, they were side by side, but coming down to Mirabeau, Farina looked for a gap on the outside, but André defended his position fairly. Farina touched the street curb with his tyre and was sent spinning around! Thankfully, he avoided an accident thanks to tremendous car control, but he stalled and took some time restarting the car. The defending double-champion would have to admit defeat against the 32-year-old Frenchman, who took his first victory, and the first for his team since the Belgian Grand Prix the previous year.
|1||30||José Froilán González||Aston Martin-Jaguar||1:49.2||-|
|2||42||Clemente Biondetti||Ferrari-Jaguar||1:50.2||+ 1.0|
|3||46||Eric Brandon||Ferrari-Jaguar||1:50.5||+ 1.3|
|4||36||Alberto Ascari||Phoenix-Ferrari||1:50.7||+ 1.5|
|5||14||David Hampshire||Alta||1:50.9||+ 1.7|
|6||48||Aldo Gordini||Gordini||1:50.9||+ 1.7|
|7||22||Lance Macklin||Maserati||1:51.1||+ 1.9|
|8||52||Eugène Chaboud||Bugatti||1:51.5||+ 2.3|
|9||6||Louis Chiron||Maserati-Ferrari||1:51.6||+ 2.4|
|10||34||Piero Carini||Maserati||1:51.7||+ 2.5|
|11||40||Onofre Marimón||Maserati||1:52.3||+ 3.1|
|12||28||Luigi Villoresi||Leader-Ferrari||1:52.4||+ 3.2|
|13||38||Paul Frère||Maserati||1:52.8||+ 3.6|
|14||60||Porfirio Rubirosa||Ambrosiana-Maserati||1:52.9||+ 3.7|
- First win for André Simon.
- First pole position for Peter Whitehead.
- First podium for André Simon and Alberto Ascari.
- First points for André Simon and Alberto Ascari.
- First start for Eric Brandon.
- First entry for Eric Brandon and Piero Carini.
- José Froilán González: 11 laps (1, 5-6, 20-23, 25-28)
- Peter Whitehead: 1 lap (2)
- Giuseppe Farina: 77 laps (3-4, 13-19, 24, 29-64, 66-94, 98-99)
- Juan Manuel Fangio: 6 laps (7-12)
- André Simon: 5 laps (65, 95-97, 100)
- Youngest race winner and podium scorer (not counting Indianapolis): André Simon (32 years, 4 months and 13 days)
- Most career starts: Piero Taruffi, Giuseppe Farina, Dorino Serafini, Juan Manuel Fangio and Toulo de Graffenried (14)
- Most career entries: 8 drivers (15)
|2||Alfa Romeo SpA||6|
|3||Phoenix Racing Organisation||4|
|4||/ Alexander Racing Team||3|
- Only the top five positions are listed.
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1951 Italian Grand Prix
| Alternate Formula 1 World Championship
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1952 English Grand Prix
| Previous race:
1951 Monaco Grand Prix
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1953 Monaco Grand Prix