1952 Australian Grand Prix
The 1952 Australian Grand Prix was the tenth and final race of the 1952 Formula One World Championship and was held in Leyburn on November 2nd 1952. The first Australian Grand Prix to count for the World Championship, it was also the race where the title was decided. Coming to the race, Giuseppe Farina had a 7.5-point lead over B. Bira, but the double champion retired early on while Bira won with the fastest lap, securing his first title. Consalvo Sanesi finished the race in second place for Gordini, ahead of Reg Parnell in the Ferrari.
The season had ended up largely like 1951. Farina had led for most of the way, yet had failed to win a race thus far. Gordini and Talbot-Lago had both had good starts to the season, but had failed to keep their momentum, while the Ferrari drivers had dominated the second half of the season, with five wins, including the preceding four races. Despite this, Farina had managed to score four second places, and came to Leyburn with a 7.5 point lead over Bira, the only other mathematical challenger. Bira would have to win and hope that Farina did not finish in the top four. If Farina finished fourth, Bira would have to score the fastest lap to take the championship. Despite the long distance, 35 drivers were present at the remote airfield circuit, including eight locals.
The second Bleu Talbot-Lago would be driven by the young Lex Davison, who had finished third at the Australian Grand Prix at Bathurst in 1947.
After taking the season off championship racing to try his hand at non-championship races, Tony Gaze returned for his home race in his first drive for an actual team, that team being Scuderia Commesso instead of a private entry.
Ecurie Australie made their second appearance after the 1950 Indianapolis 500. The drivers were 1950 Australian Grand Prix winner Doug Whiteford, young rally driver David McKay and multi-midget champion Jack Brabham, who made his Formula One début.
After Maurice Trintignant's top ten finish at Sebring, Maserati returned with two cars for regular driver Paul Frère and Marcel Balsa, who had already driven for the team in the Netherlands.
Due to a lack of Australia-based drivers, Garage Francorchamps would not be present at this race. Budget issues were also rumoured to be involved.
Scuderia Maremmana returned for their final race under that name. Eric Brandon was the sole European driver this time, as the other two cars were handed to 1951 Australian Grand Prix winner Warwick Pratley and New Zealand GP winner John McMillan.
For their home race, Redman racing team would field a second Maserati for the up-and-coming Stan Jones, who also made his début.
Maria Teresa de Filippis had chosen not to make the costly trip from the USA to Australia.
Bentley reverted to a single car for Geoff Richardson, who had shown to be the better driver.
Jaguar - Aston Martin Racing would exceptionnally field a fourth car for the drive-less Maurice Trintignant, who had brought them their first podium the previous year.
Ferrari put all three cars in the top five, Bira was well placed to take advantage of an eventual retirement from Farina in fifth place, JAMR placed all four cars in the top twelve, and Stan Jones stunned the crowd by not only being the only local driver to make the grid, but also by being the quickest Maserati driver in the field. Fangio and Ruttman disappointed majorly, but still made the grid, while Marcel Balsa showed why he was not in a top car at the time (and never would be).
After the qualifying session, a number of attending supporters stormed the pit area and pillaged the Alfa Romeo pits, disgruntled at the thought of Giuseppe Farina winning yet another world championship. Various parts were destroyed and the cars dismantled. The governing body condemned the fans responsible, as did the rest of the teams, and the series would not return to Australia for a number of years following the incident. With most of Alfa Romeo's machinery being lost, doubt was cast over their participation in the race, but the mechanics managed to retrieve enough parts to rebuild a full car, which was naturally given to Farina. Already unhappy with the team's focus staying on Farina, Juan Manuel Fangio immediately left the circuit and returned home, vowing never to drive for Alfa Romeo again. Stirling Moss, sitting on the sidelines as well, also cast doubt on his future with the team, although he would eventually stay with Alfa Romeo for two more years.
Farina got the better start and led off the line from Serafini and de Graffenried, but the championship leader's car was not well set-up. Due to the last-minute rebuild of the car, he didn't have the capability to fight for the win, and when Serafini came up behind him on the second lap, Farina made no effort to stop him. All he needed was for Bira not to win, and he saw that Serafini had the pace to prevent Bira from winning. However, Farina proved to be his own undoing. At the start of the third lap, a moment's lack of attention saw him brake too late for the first corner and squeeze Serafini off the track and out of the race. Farina was leading again, but knew he didn't have the car to help him win. Behind him, Bira was confident in his machinery, but was driving a tactical race, preferring to hold on until later in the race to push for the win. Parnell wouldn't be a contender, also suffering from issues early on, but Toulo de Graffenried was on the move and challenging Farina for the race lead. Further back, Gonzalez retired after eight miserable laps with a gearbox failure.
At this point, Bira was seventh, but moved up to third in a single lap by scoring what would remain the race's fastest lap, securing a much-needed point in the process. However, Ascari, Parnell, Manzon and Trintignant were right behind him and willing to fight for position, which they did. Suddenly, the race changed on lap 13, when Farina's makeshift engine eventually failed, Porfirio Rubirosa following him on the sidelines. As told in the famous post-race interview with all drivers, he spent the rest of the race in that spot following the events and hoping for a miracle. By then, de Graffenried was leading from Parnell, Ascari, Manzon, Trintignant and Bira, who then promptly passed the Aston-Jag to take fifth position (helped by the lapped Piero Taruffi spinning out of the race ahead of them), which was not enough. He needed to win. On top of that, Harry Schell had caught up and was starting to pass them.
Bira followed the American forward and past Manzon, and on lap 20, the Thai prince's championship hopes only rose as Toulo de Graffenried retired from the race lead, pushing his engine too hard, not aware that his lead was as large as it was. This left Ascari in the lead for Phoenix once more, followed by Schell and Bira, while Parnell dropped back after driving into an escape road to avoid the spinning Lex Davison. Some were quick to point out that Davison was Bira's teammate for the race... However, Parnell and Trintignant soon caught up, leaving Bira in fifth at the halfway point of the race. At the same time, Schell passed Ascari and too the race lead. He didn't keep it for very long, as Ascari regained it on lap 37, while Bira passed Schell on the next lap, catching up to Ascari. On lap 40, Bira was right behind Ascari, but Bettenhausen had a spin just in front of them, giving Ascari some breathing room. He was unable to use it, however, spinning on oil and losing out to Bira, Trintignant and Schell. He then passed them both, but Schell fought back, only to lazily spin out on oil left by Eric Brandon, whose gearbox had just failed. With ten laps remaining, Bira led from Ascari, Johnny Claes, Trintignant, Parnell, Manzon, Pagani, Sanesi, Bracco, Ruttman, Barth, Frère, Macklin, Richardson, Chiron and Jones.
Bira won the race, while the fight for second raged on from second place to eighth! Sanesi won out, ahead of Parnell, while the tiring Ascari won a five-wide slipstreaming fight for fourth place ahead of Manzon, Pagani, Claes and Trintignant. Bira's victory, his third of the season, secured his first world championship.
- First world title for B. Bira.
- First laps in the lead for Harry Schell.
- First start for Stan Jones and Lex Davison.
- First entry for Stan Jones, John McMillan, David McKay, Warwick Pratley and Jack Brabham (only entry for McMillan, McKay and Pratley).
- Final entry for Doug Whiteford.
- Final race win, fastest lap, podium, points, start and entry for Talbot-Lago-Talbot.
- Final race start and entry for the BMW engine, final entry for the Alta engine.
- First and only entries for HWM.
- First and only title for Motorsport Bleu.
- Final race win, fastest lap, podium, points, start and entry for Motorsport Bleu.
- Final race start and entry for Claes Racing Developments, Scuderia Commesso (under that name) and Scuderia Maremmana (under that name).
- Final entry for Ecurie Australie.
- Giuseppe Farina: 11 laps (1, 3-12)
- Dorino Serafini: 1 lap (2)
- Toulo de Graffenried: 8 laps (13-20)
- Alberto Ascari: 14 laps (21-28, 37-42)
- Harry Schell: 8 laps (29-36)
- B. Bira: 16 laps (43-58)
- Youngest World Champion: B. Bira (38 years, 3 months and 18 days)
- Most career starts: Giuseppe Farina and Dorino Serafini (23)
- Most career entries: Piero Taruffi, Giuseppe Farina, Dorino Serafini, Juan Manuel Fangio and Alberto Ascari (24)
|3||Alfa Romeo SpA||35.5|
|5||Phoenix Racing Organisation||17|
- Only the top five positions are listed.
| Previous race:
1952 United States Grand Prix
| Alternate Formula 1 World Championship
| Next race:|
1953 Monaco Grand Prix
| Previous race:
|Australian Grand Prix|| Next race:|
1958 Australian Grand Prix