1951 British Grand Prix
The 1951 British Grand Prix was the fifth race of the 1951 Formula One World Championship and was held at Silverstone on July 15th 1951. Giuseppe Farina scored his fourth career victory, benefiting from the retirement of Consalvo Sanesi on the final lap. Sanesi was classified second ahead of Frenchman Maurice Trintignant, Peter Whitehead, Piero Taruffi and Stirling Moss. Only six drivers finished the race.
The Grand Prix was notable for the fatal accident of Yves Giraud-Cabantous 13 laps from the finish while running in second place. His was the second fatal accident in Formula One in just three races.
After the French Grand Prix at Reims-Gueux, Giuseppe Farina led the championship despite not having won a race up to that point, simply by virtue of his two consecutive fastest laps. He was also the only driver to have scored twice that season, showing the unpredictability involved this year. He was looking to improve on his championship lead at Silverstone, but with the three drivers to have won a European round (Manzon, Bira and de Graffenried) also in the race, he would have a tough time doing so. Most of the grid was similar to the previous few races, except for a few exceptions, the main ones being Consalvo Sanesi, who was back in the Gordini for the team's home race, and Peter Whitehead, whose points finish at Reims convinced the big man himself to keep him on the official Ferrari team for his home race, while his compatriot Parnell was loaned to Ferrari America.
Ferrari America will themselves expand to a three-car lineup for this race, with Harry Schell making his return to Formula 1 after driving a couple of races last season for AAR. This weekend would also see a few one-offs having a shot, namely Tony Rolt for Scuderia Maremmana, Peter Walker for Hampshire Racing Alliance and Brian Shawe-Taylor for Scuderia Platé-Varzi. JAMR were also back to the grid, this time with just two drivers in order to comply with the entry cap: Maurice Trintignant, who was loaned by ENB, not taking part in this race citing the cost of travel as reason, and Indy 500 winner and second at Silverstone last year Mauri Rose, who would stay with the team until the end of the year.
We also saw the arrival of two new teams: British Racing Motors, with David Hampshire accepting to drive for them after leaving his own car to Peter Walker, and All-Ireland Motorsport, with a revolutionary wide-body design for Joe Kelly. It remained to be seen whether the car has any sort of speed. Also, two privateers, who made their way to Indianapolis earlier that year without much success, would make their European débuts in customer Alfa Romeos: Mike Hawthorn, a 22-year-old who had won many local handicap races at Goodwood and Dundrod, and 31-year-old Australian Tony Gaze, founder of the Goodwood circuit.
The qualifying session was incredibly close, and the 33 entrants were separated by less than four seconds, and the 22 starters were separated by less than two seconds. While Dorino Serafini scored his second pole position of the season, Piero Taruffi took advantage of the close field to qualify in second place for Metcalf. Harry Schell also qualified well, starting fourth, much higher than he ever managed with AAR. Championship leader only managed to qualify in 18th position. The other disappointment was Tony Bettenhausen, who barely failed to qualify. Mauri Rose was far from the grid while teammate Trintignant qualified tenth.
At the start, everyone got away cleanly, but at Stowe, André Simon lost control of his Maserati, spinning in the center of the track. Not everyone was able to avoid him, and Bira and Parnell both attempted to use the outside line to pass the scene, but Bira was tagged by Simon, and in turn tapped the front wheel of Parnell's Ferrari. Race over for all three, big names in the Formula One paddock. The race continued, however, and at the end of lap 1, the order was the same at the front, with Serafini ahead of Taruffi, Sanesi, Schell and Giraud-Cabantous. This didn't last long, as Serafini made a small mistake on lap 2. Since everyone was still bunched together, he dropped to third behind Taruffi and Sanesi. Schell was still fourth, while Giraud-Cabantous was passed by Villoresi for fifth place.
Everyone was fighting hard up and down the field, but Taruffi was surprising everyone by pulling out a lead of five seconds in the Metcalf of all cars! Sanesi, who had hung on for the first four laps, was now beginning to fall back in the clutches of the pack. On lap 5, we had the fourth retirement of the race, with the engine in de Graffenried's Ferrari calling it quits. He was fighting for 11th place at the time. Sanesi was quickly back on the pace, however, and within two laps, he was back behing Taruffi, with Villoresi now leading the chasing pack. Taruffi wasn't going to let that happen, and he pulled out the fastest lap of the race at that point to pull out a lead even bigger than before! Manfred von Brauchitsch retired from the race on lap 9, looking exhausted returning to the pits for the final time. The race was quickly down to 16 remaining cars, after Luigi Villoresi retired from third place on the following lap.
After 10 laps, Taruffi led Sanesi by 15 seconds, with Giraud-Cabantous, who had inherited third place, already 23 seconds back. Schell and Serafini rounded out the points. But despite the staggering progress made by Metcalf these past races, everyone knew this lead wouldn't last, and slowly but surely, Sanesi started to make up the gap. Lap 12 saw yet another retirement, this time the Maserati engine of Johnny Claes deciding that enough was enough. He was in ninth place at the time. At that point, Serafini was much closer, and he was within 6 seconds of Taruffi after lap 14. Taruffi tried to expand the gap again, but only managed to make a mistake and let Sanesi get closer, now within 3.5 seconds. On the same lap, it was Harry Schell who retired spectacularly, his Ferrari engine going up in flames at Club Corner, leaving Serafini alone in fourth place behing Taruffi, Sanesi and Giraud-Cabantous.
On lap 17, Taruffi made another mistake, and his lead vanished in one moment, Sanesi took the lead, and Taruffi was now under threat from Giraud-Cabantous. Serafini was still fourth, with Peter Whitehead now fifth. Sanesi set about increasing his lead, but Taruffi wasn't just going to let go, and he increased his pace, not enough to stay behind Sanesi, but enough to get himself out of harm's way from behind. But he made a mistake and was soon under attack from Yves. On lap 20, Sanesi was leading with a 17 second gap back to Taruffi and 21 seconds over Giraud-Cabantous. Farina was 34 seconds behind and Peter Whitehead 52 seconds behind. A driver who was impressing once more was Giuseppe Farina, now increasingly close to the points after starting 18th. He was fighting over fifth place with Whitehead, Robert Manzon and, to a lesser extent, Fangio. This quickly turned into a battle for fourth, as Dorino Serafini became the third front-running driver to retire, after yet another Ferrari engine failure.
The battle for fourth was won by Manzon, who started to catch up to his team mate Giraud-Cabantous, with Farina just a bit further behind and being chased by his team mate Fangio. The Argentine was soon all over the rear of his World Champion team mate, and the battle began, with the two being joined by Whitehead on the next lap. On lap 27, we saw yet another retirement, that of Tony Gaze, heartbreaking for the Australian, sniffing a good finish thanks to attrition. He was tenth at that point. The next big change in the order came on the exact same lap, when Taruffi span on oil, keeping the car going, but he was passed by G-C, which made for a Gordini 1-2-4 at the moment, although Manzon was now running the risk of being passed by the likes of Fangio, Farina or Whitehead. It was indeed Fangio who got by first, taking fourth place on lap 30. At the same time, the race was now down to 11 drivers after the retirement of Clemente Biondetti, the 52-year-old Italian calling it quits due to fatigue, ending a weekend to forget for Scuderia Maremmana. He was ninth at the time.
On the next lap, Farina also made his way past Manzon, who therefore dropped out of the points, leaving a Gordini 1-2 and an Alfa 4-5 with Taruffi third in the Metcalf. This third became second once again on lap 32, when YG-C made a mistake of his own. But the Frenchman wasn't going to let go without a fight, and passed the Italian on the next lap, only to be passed on the lap after that! Fangio took advantage of this to set the fastest lap of the race and get closer and closer to the fight for second place. This theory was quickly disproven as YG-C promptly scored a new fastest lap and duly took second place and a decent gap at that. Fangio was even caught and passed by Farina! But the surprises kept on coming: Stirling Moss then set the fastest lap on lap 37, Chiron passed Whitehead, Farina passed both Taruffi and G-C for second place and finally, Fangio retired from the race with a gearbox torn to shreds, leaving just ten cars in the race.
Eventually, the scrap between Taruffi, Farina and Giraud-Cabantous ended up with victory for Taruffi, with Farina falling far, far back. But Taruffi and the Frenchman weren't done yet, and the two continued their fight. Louis Chiron also retired from the race, the third driver to do so due to physical exhaustion. He was fighting for sixth place with Peter Whitehead. But the surprises kept coming, and from the most unusual of places, as Alberto Ascari took the new fastest lap of the race in his Phoenix!
He immediately lost his fastest lap, as the Gordinis were now at their performance peak, with Sanesi and Manzon setting a shared fastest lap. However, Sanesi was slowing down, and G-C and Taruffi were catching him at a rate of knots. Eventually, the inevitable happened and Yves Giraud-Cabantous took the lead of a Grand Prix for the first time on lap 45. Taruffi was left a bit further behind, but was still a solid third with every hope of winning the race. Giraud-Cabantous started to try to improve his lead, but he soon found it very difficult to do. Under pressure from his team mate, he made a mistake, and Sanesi took the lead once more on lap 49. The fastest lap was again bettered, this time by Maurice Trintignant in the Aston-Jaguar!
But the Frenchman has experience, and he wants to use it. To start lap 52, both are side by side. But Taruffi is catching up fast, and the Italian caught and passed Sanesi on lap 53, while G-C retook the lead. He managed to build it up this time, and Taruffi was caught by Sanesi. Briefly, the paddock was shocked when Whitehead was passed by Trintignant and almost by Alberto Ascari! This lasted all of 5 laps, and Whitehead got past again on lap 58. Meanwhile, Taruffi was dropping back and was now caught by Giuseppe Farina, who was now smelling his chances of a first win this season. Ascari then retired from the race on lap 60, with another blown Ferrari engine. He was in 8th position at the time.
On the next lap, the fastest lap of the race was set by Robert Manzon, who was in fifth place with a healthy gap between him and anyone else. Sanesi, meanwhile, was catching G-C and on the verge of passing him, which he did on lap 63. The race then became somewhat boring, apart from Whitehead catching Manzon and passing him on lap 68. But then, everything came crashing down for ART, as Giraud-Cabantous and Manzon both retired within seconds of each other! The way they retired, however, was more dramatic. Manzon's engine blew, another victim of the crushing heat. But that was the least of Mr. Lilly's problems, as Giraud-Cabantous, one lap ahead, came through Maggotts literally just after Robert and span on the oil and into the grass. The car dug into the ground and was set barrell rolling twice, ejecting Yves in the first roll. The Frenchman was sent to the hospital with severe head and neck injuries, but passed away in the ambulance at the age of 46.
But the show must go on, and there were now 6 cars left. Simply finishing would be enough to score granted that another driver would retire, and it was looking likely at this point. The six drivers left were Sanesi, Farina, Taruffi, Whitehead, Trintignant and Moss. At that point though, on-track passing would have no chance of happening, as the attrition had left huge gaps between the drivers. On lap 77, Farina set what would remain the fastest lap of the race, his third in a row.
But one driver was not going to be content with his position, and that driver was Maurice Trintignant. He was trying his damned best to gain a position on Whitehead, and the Jaguar engine looked like it could last the whole distance. Indeed, by lap 81, Maurice was right behind Peter, looking for fourth place. On lap 83, they were side by side, but for third as Piero Taruffi heartbreakingly retired from third place, losing a certain podium for Metcalf by spinning into the hay bales at Copse, probably due to heat exhaustion.
Now back to the only thing worth commentating on: the battle for third place. On lap 84, Maurice pressured Whitehead into a mistake at Stowe. The Brit ended up spinning and losing heaps of time, leaving him little chance of making up the lost ground. A possible podium for JAMR? In any case, he would score much needed points, as with three laps left and five cars remaining, all of them would score. The race victory was determined on the second-to-last lap, as Consalvo Sanesi incredibly retired from the race, having just ran out of fuel! He'd be cursing his mechanics to hell and back after this mistake.
This left Giuseppe Farina with an unassailable lead over the surprising Trintignant and Whitehead, who gave up the fight after seeing the unlucky Sanesi's car stopped on the side of the track. All three entered the last lap at a reduced pace and crossed the finish line without trouble, with Stirling Moss aiming to unlap himself in the hope of keeping fourth place.
As it turned out, it wouldn't happen. Trintignant was two laps behind and therefore was classified third, with Whitehead fourth three laps behind Farina. This left Sanesi in second place despite retiring from the race, but he'd still be cursing his mechanics, as he definitely would have won had he not ran out of fuel. Moss didn't even make it in the points, as a very slow start to the race and a horrid race meant he ended up six laps behind...just behind Piero Taruffi, who took fifth place for Metcalf.
- Final entry and start for Yves Giraud-Cabantous (deceased).
- First entry for Geoff Richardson.
- Final entry for Brian Shawe-Taylor and Peter Walker.
- First points and podium for Aston Martin.
- Only points for Metcalf.
- First entry for BRM and Reatherson.
- Only entry for RRA.
- Only entry for Geoff Richardson.
- Dorino Serafini: 1 lap (1)
- Piero Taruffi: 15 laps (2-16)
- Consalvo Sanesi: 55 laps (17-44, 49-52, 63-85)
- Yves Giraud-Cabantous: 14 laps (45-48, 53-62)
- Giuseppe Farina: 2 laps (86-87)
- Most career poles: Dorino Serafini (3)
- Most career fastest laps: Giuseppe Farina (3)
- Most career starts: 6 drivers (10)
- Most career entries: 8 drivers (11)
- Least classified drivers (6)
- Least finishers (4)
|Alfa Romeo SpA
|Ecurie Nationale Belge
|/ Alexander Racing Team
- Only the top five positions are listed.
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1951 French Grand Prix
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1951 German Grand Prix
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1950 British Grand Prix
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1952 British Grand Prix