1951 Italian Grand Prix
The 1951 Italian Grand Prix was the eighth and final race of the 1951 Formula One World Championship and was held in Monza on September 9th 1951. The race was won by Toulo de Graffenried, who became the only driver that season to win more than one race. Nello Pagani finished in second position for Ecurie Nationale Belge ahead of already-crowned World Champion Giuseppe Farina.
The championship was well and truly over, as Giuseppe Farina secured his second consecutive world championship at Zandvoort, but the circus continued on to the final race of the season at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. 13 of the 44 drivers were Italian, and all would be looking for a good performance in front of the home crowd. However, some would not get that chance, as seven of them had to face the first ever prequalifying session, along with eleven other drivers who would have to fight their way to qualifying proper. Of the 18 drivers, only 8 will join the big boys on Saturday, and maybe Sunday.
- Scuderia Maremmana brought a third car for their home race, driven by Felice Bonetto, who was still looking for a full-time drive after being left without one after Maserati's withdrawal.
- Scuderia Platé-Varzi brought four cars to the race, for four drivers who had never driven for them. Pilette was on loan from ENB, while Argentine Formula Libre driver Marimon, Cisitalia founder Piero Dusio and sportscar driver Lance Macklin were all making their F1 débuts.
- Reg Parnell drove the third works Ferrari this time, with Whitehead driving a third car for Ferrari America, whose first two cars were driven by local hero Villoresi and Indy 500 winner Troy Ruttman.
- For this race, ENB brought some local flavour to their team by offering Nello Pagani a drive for his home race again, this time in an Alfa Romeo. Little-known sportscar racer Charles de Tornaco was originally entered in the third car, but with his entry being turned down, Jacques Swaters would step in the Ferrari once again.
- Caught out by the entry cap, ART had to cut back to two cars for this race, and with the championship being decided, they entered the team's first two contractual drivers, Bettenhausen and Manzon, with Sanesi shockingly left on the sidelines for his home race.
- After his victory in the Daily Mail Trophy, Mike Hawthorn was finally allowed to compete in a second Grand Prix weekend.
- Thanks to Bracco's good performance in the Netherlands, Scuderia Ambrosiana had four entries for their home race, and they took full advantage of this by entering the customary car for Bracco, two more for two of the team's founders, Giovanni Lurani and Franco Cortese, and a fourth for impressive Dominican diplomat and driver Porfirio Rubirosa.
- OSCA Automobili made their first step into Formula 1 with a completely new package: a brand new OSCA chassis with an OSCA engine and rookie Jean Behra hired as last resort after failing to lure Felice Bonetto to the team.
- The field now counted a female driver again, with local sportscar driver Maria Teresa de Filippis making her international début.
Prequalifying and qualifying
The main surprises of pre-qualifying were Hawthorn, Marimon and Cortese making it through with Ascari failing to do so, along with Mairesse, Hampshire and Kelly. Louis Rosier and Tony Gaze also made it to main qualifying.
Qualifying itself was also very close, with Nello Pagani taking an impressive pole position ahead of veteran racer Clemente Biondetti for Scuderia Maremmana and Scuderia Commesso's Louis Chiron. Peter Whitehead, in fourth place, was the top driver for a manufacturer. Jacques Swaters also impressed with sixth place, while Giuseppe Farina was only in thirteenth place. Among the notable names who failed to qualify was German GP winner Reg Parnell, Belgian GP pole setter André Pilette and perennial sixth place finisher Johnny Claes. For Claes and Parnell, it was the first time they'd failed to qualify.
Pagani made a relatively good start and kept the lead, but Biondetti didn't and was passed by Chiron and Whitehead. The best start was made by Serafini, who was side by side for 20th place at the end of lap one after starting 24th. Biondetti dropped further back on lap 2 when de Graffenried passed him as well. Whitehead was now second, but Pagani had a decent lead, that would at least continue his moment of fame. While ENB were leading, they were also the first to retire, when Jacques Swaters' Ferrari stopped by the side of the road with a blown engine. He was seventh at the time. Louis Chiron then took second place, while Tony Bettenhausen's race was over before it really began, with the Gordini giving up the ghost on the third lap. He was still in 16th place when his gearbox failed.
Pagani's lead couldn't last, and on lap 4, Whitehead took the race lead from Pagani, de Graffenried and Chiron. Fangio also set the fastest lap that would stand for the whole race. The lead changed hands again on lap 5 when Chiron passed both Pagani and Whitehead to take the race lead for Scuderia Commesso! The Monegasque driver set about increasing his lead while Fangio joined the fight for second. On lap 8, it became a battle for the lead when Louis Chiron rather amazingly spun off at Vialone, ending his race. Fangio inherited the lead ahead of Pagani, Whitehead, de Graffenried and Biondetti, who was fighting his way to the front again. While Fangio pulled away slowly, Biondetti and de Graffenried lost a bit of ground and were under threat from Farina and Bira.
Meanwhile, Pagani and Whitehead were in a fantastic and clean fight for second place. Their struggle allowed the following drivers to catch up, making for an even better fight, with the positions constantly changing. Fangio was now leading with a 12.5 second gap over Farina, with Pagani third around 6 seconds further back, but that was the sort of gap that can be easily caught. Indeed, by lap 15, Pagani had passed Farina and was getting closer to Fangio. Sensing the danger, Fangio pulled out even quicker laps to extend his lead. In fact, by lap 19, his lead had extended to over 25 seconds. But just as everyone was beginning to celebrate Fangio's return to form, bad luck struck yet again for the Argentine as his gearbox let go on lap 21. He was joined on the sidelines by Mauri Rose, his team mate from the first part of 1950.
This left the defending two-time champion Farina to fight for the lead with the 1949 125cc motorcycle champion Pagani. At first, Farina's experience showed, and he started to pull away, but soon, Pagani's relative youth (Nello was 40, but still five years younger than Giuseppe) allowed him to gain back the lost time and take the lead again on lap 24. Their fight bunched up the pack, and Biondetti, Whitehead and Moss were now in the fight for the race lead! In the meantime, Paul Pietsch and Troy Ruttman retired from mechanical failures. Both had been having fairly disappointing races in the lower midfield.
On lap 27, Farina, Pagani and Biondetti crossed the line side by side. On the next lap, it was the eldest of the three who had the lead (Biondetti, that is). Almost immediately, Pagani set an amazing lap to pass both Farina and Biondetti to retake the lead from Biondetti, followed by Farina and with Whitehead just behind and de Graffenried catching up. On lap 32, at the halfway point, this was the race order: Pagani and Biondetti were still scrambling for the race lead, with de Graffenried, Farina and Whitehead rounding out the points. Moss, Bira, Manzon, Bracco and von Brauchitsch made up the rest of the top ten. They were followed by Trintignant, Fischer, Villoresi, Simon, Bonetto, Gonzalez, Serafini, Taruffi, then daylight, then Louis Rosier.
But the fight continued all over the field. Apart from Rosier, everyone still had a distinct chance of winning the race. Gonzalez retired from the race on lap 35, probably after skidding on oil, stalling the car. Pagani was still running away with the race lead, but was unable to put any sort of gap between him and his challengers, which would put him in a delicate situation further down the road. This didn't take long, as he made a mistake on lap 40. The fast nature of Monza meant he took half a lap to get back up to speed, which allowed both de Graffenried and Farina to pass him and continue their battle, this time for the lead, although Pagani and Whitehead were still major threats.
With a splendid lap, de Graffenried pulled away from Farina, while Biondetti joined the fight with Manzon edging closer and closer. As Pagani began to catch up to Farina and de Graffenried, Biondetti started to lap really fast and took third place right from under Pagani's nose. And when Toulo made a mistake on lap 48, he was there to take advantage, starting lap 49 side by side with Farina for the lead. However, the two very experienced racers, both wanting the win, made light contact, and while Farina was mostly OK, Biondetti ran off the track. Thankfully, he managed to rejoin the race, but he had dropped to fourth, while Pagani took advantage of the collision to take the lead once more with just 15 laps to go.
But de Graffenried was still there, smelling victory. His next laps were the stuff of legends, and he not only took the lead, but took an astonishing one. With so little time left in the race, it was the perfect moment to strike. Pagani was unable to keep up, and Farina, also keeping a good pace, was able to pass Pagani for second place on lap 53. Two laps later, Rosier's Maserati broke down. A shame, since he had been driving like a champion for the 20 previous laps and was just behind Felice Bonetto just before his retirement. But while the podium places were already determined, with de Graffenried surely on his way to his third career victory and Pagani and Farina still battling fairly for second place, the other points places were shaken up with the almost simultaneous mechanical retirements of Whitehead, Biondetti and Manzon. This left Robert Manzon, Stirling Moss and Prince Bira to fight to the proverbial death for fourth and fifth places. Bira couldn't keep the pace, and Moss and Manzon were left alone. Manzon looking for his first points since his win at Monaco and Moss for his first points ever.
Meanwhile, Pagani and Farina were at the peak of their battle, as both started lap 61 side by side. Pagani put the odds on his side by setting two of the best laps of the race to leave Farina in the dust and even catch de Graffenried! They were side by side again to start lap 63, and in the same position to start the final lap! Pagani had the inside at Curva Grande and took the lead, but Toulo used the slipstream to pass him again at Lesmo. The Baron kept his lead down to Vialone, and Pagani was able to take the slipstream and pass for the lead at Vedano! But just when they thought it was all over, de Graffenried showed his experience. On the exit of the second Vedano, there was still dirt over the track from Biondetti's earlier off. De Graffenried had spotted it, but Pagani failed to avoid the slippery surface and was sent into a spin on the cobbles. Toulo was left to take a sweet victory, confirming both the constructors' and entrants' titles for Ferrari. Pagani managed to get going again and crossed the line a safe second. Farina was left a distant third, sealing his fifth podium in five finishes. Moss beat Manzon by a whisker to take a brilliant fourth place, scoring a 2-3-4 for Alfa Romeo, and a 3-4 for the works team.
- Charles de Tornaco was originally entered for Garage Francorchamps, but his licence was turned down. He was replaced by Jacques Swaters.
|Maria Teresa de Filippis
- Only pole position for Nello Pagani.
- Only podium for Nello Pagani.
- First points for Nello Pagani and Stirling Moss.
- Final start for Paul Pietsch, Mauri Rose and Louis Rosier.
- First entry for Onofre Marimón, Franco Cortese, Porfirio Rubirosa, Lance Macklin, Maria Teresa de Filippis, Piero Dusio and Jean Behra (only entry for Cortese and Dusio).
- Final entry for Paul Pietsch, Mauri Rose, Guy Mairesse.
- Final pole, podium and points for Ecurie Nationale Belge.
- Final entry for Scuderia Platé-Varzi before getting bought by Maserati, Mike Hawthorn.
- Nello Pagani: 23 laps (1-3, 24-27, 29-40, 49-51, 62)
- Peter Whitehead: 1 lap (4)
- Louis Chiron: 3 laps (5-7)
- Juan Manuel Fangio: 13 laps (8-20)
- Giuseppe Farina: 4 laps (21-23, 48)
- Clemente Biondetti: 1 lap (28)
- Toulo de Graffenried: 19 laps (41-47, 52-61, 63-64)
- Most career starts: Piero Taruffi, Giuseppe Farina, Dorino Serafini, Juan Manuel Fangio and Toulo de Graffenried (13)
- Most career entries: Piero Taruffi, Giuseppe Farina, Dorino Serafini, Juan Manuel Fangio, Toulo de Graffenried, Maurice Trintignant, Alberto Ascari and José Froilán González (14)
- Oldest driver to lead a lap: Clemente Biondetti (53 years and 22 days)
- Most total points: Alfa Romeo (119.5)
- Most race leaders (7)
|Toulo de Graffenried
|Alfa Romeo SpA
|Ecurie Nationale Belge
|/ Alexander Racing Team
- Only the top five positions are listed.
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1951 Dutch Grand Prix
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1952 Monaco Grand Prix
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1950 Italian Grand Prix
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1952 Italian Grand Prix