1952 United States Grand Prix
The 1952 United States Grand Prix was the ninth race of the 1952 Formula One World Championship and was held in Sebring on October 5th 1952. Dorino Serafini won the first United States Grand Prix, his second win of the season. Giuseppe Farina finished second to extend his championship lead to 7.5 points. Toulo de Graffenried followed his victory at Monza with a solid podium in Sebring.
For the first time ever, Formula One headed to the new airfield circuit in Sebring, Florida. The United States Grand Prix replaced the Indianapolis 500 on the schedule, although drivers could and did take part in the classic anyway. Troy Ruttman won that race for the second year in succession, then showed that success in Europe was also possible by scoring a thrilling victory in the Dutch Grand Prix ahead of fellow American Tony Bettenhausen. Both were also present for their home race, but the focus would be on the championship fight, which is by no means over yet. Giuseppe Farina still les by the smallest of margins from B. Bira, with Robert Manzon, Reg Parnell, Alberto Ascari and Juan Manuel Fangio in reasonable contention, although the entire top fifteen in the championship was still theoretically capable of stealing the championship!
With a grid capable of hosting 30, and with 29 drivers making the long trip, no drivers would fail to qualify for the first time since Germany the previous year. It also means that some of the braver smaller teams that decided to hop over the pond stood a reasonable chance at earning some prize money.
All-Ireland Motorsport's season was over, after a year that was certainly better than 1951. They would be back in 1953 under the name Reatherson Racing Development.
Due to the cost of transporting the cars, Motorsport Bleu had reverted to running two cars for the final races. Bira would of course be one of the drivers, with John Fitch being the local driver who would take part this time. André Simon's title bid was deemed over and the Frenchman was left on the sidelines in favour of his teammate who was fighting for the championship.
Due to Reg Parnell suddenly being in title contention, Ferrari had decided to momentarily scrap the driver rotation programme and give Reg the car for the final two races in order to keep their title hopes alive. Toulo's victory, meanwhile, meant that he kept his seat and would also avoid an eventual pre-qualifying session in Australia.
David Hampshire had also ended his season after Italy. After scoring his first top ten finishes in a still-uncompetitive Alta, he hoped to return better than ever in 1953 with HWMs. Unfortunately, HWM did not adapt to the new rules that were announced a few weeks later, and Hampshire would turn up in 1953 with an Aston Martin.
Harry Schell returned to Ferrari America for his home race. The American had been consistent over the season, scoring five points and marking himself down as a man to watch in the future. Despite this, success would not come until 1954.
Tony Bettenhausen's recent success meant that JAMR had entered him for the remaining races, causing a bit of a stir, as Tony was originally entered at Sebring by Johnny Claes. The Belgian let Bettenhausen go out of good faith and decided to hop into the cockpit once more.
Scuderia Aqua had also finished their very disappointing season, with Piero Carini having failed to even pre-qualify in either of his two attempts. They would return in 1953 without success before folding altogether.
Officine Alfieri Maserati's season could have gone better, to say the least. With 10 failures to make the grid in 14 attempts and only a single finish to show for, Maurice Trintignant had been hired for this race to bring the team back towards the front.
Scuderia Maremmana would again skip the race, preferring to send the three cars straight to Leyburn instead for the Australian Grand Prix.
Ecurie Nationale Belge would also not attend this race physically, but were still represented by local Belgian Charles Van Acker, who would be driving his own Kurtis-Kraft-Offenhauser under his national banner one last time before retiring from European racing once and for all.
Scuderia Ambrosiana's home race turned out to be a disaster, with Bracco's seventh place nothing short of a miracle. A good finish at Sebring was what they needed to bounce back.
O.S.C.A.'s season was also over, but de Filippis was still present in her own Alfa Romeo, being the main attraction for the average American spectator. Women racers, after all, were not very common.
After having spotted the short entry list, British Bentley Racing Motors quickly decided to field all three of their drivers to finally have a chance at some good results. Richardson, Hawthorn and Salvadori would all be hoping for a good, clean race.
In a gigantic surprise for the paddock, Giovanni Bracco took pole position for Ambrosiana ahead of Alberto Ascari, scoring his best qualifying result ever in the Phoenix and the equally impressive Lance Macklin, qualifying third for Johnny Claes. Farina would start the race in a safe sixth position with Bira only 18th, Manzon 13th and Parnell 15th! The Italian had the perfect opportunity to take a dominant lead going to Leyburn for the Australian Grand Prix, and was in fact in a position to secure the title in Sebring were he to win with none of his contenders scoring. As expected, at the back were the three Bentleys and Charles Van Acker, driving the woefully unadapted Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser.
Bracco was slow off the grid and lost the lead to Ascari, with Macklin fending off Serafini and Fangio. Farina's start was also sluggish, and he was passed by Sanesi and Trintignant. Bracco was still there though, and he slipstreamed past Ascari to take the lead once more on lap 2. Macklin couldn't keep up the pace, however, and he dropped behind Serafini. Ascari and Bracco's duel was slowing them down, though, and Serafini was right behind them at the start of lap 5. At the end of said lap, Ascari was in the lead ahead of Serafini and Bracco. Then came Macklin, Taruffi, de Graffenried, Sanesi, Farina, Manzon and Trintignant. Fangio was the first retirement when his engine failed on lap four.
Ascari was building up his lead, while Bracco and Serafini were unable to keep up and were joined by de Graffenried, Taruffi, Sanesi and Macklin, then Manzon. This was all approximate, of course, as positions were changing all the time. Serafini, however, was breaking away and gaining ground on Ascari, followed by de Graffenried and Taruffi, who was busy setting insanely quick laps (although Manzon held the fastest lap). After a quarter of the race (12 laps), Ascari still led from Taruffi, Serafini, de Graffenried and Macklin. Then came Sanesi, Bracco, Manzon, Schell (already?), Farina (tenth), Parnell, de Filippis, Pagani, Bira, Trintignant, Fitch, Bettenhausen, Rubirosa, Ruttman, Moss (20th), Gonzalez, Chiron, Claes, Barth, Salvadori, Van Acker, Hawthorn and Richardson, who had had a horrendous start to the race.
Ascari's lead was still uncertain, and Taruffi and Serafini were both quickly catching up. The battle for fifth was also getting more intense, with Bracco, Sanesi, Macklin and Schell all within three seconds of each other. Then, Bracco broke away, while Farina and Manzon joined the fight, while Sanesi fell back. Further back, Richardson was being very impressive after his initial setback, having already passed Hawthorn, Barth, Van Acker and Salvadori. The second retirement of the race came on lap 18, where Troy Ruttman span off at the Esses while fighting for fourteenth with Parnell, Fitch, Bettenhausen and de Filippis. On the next lap, Ascari finally lost his lead to Dorino Serafini, while Robert Manzon set what would remain the race's fastest lap. Reg Parnell also joined the tightly bunched battle for fifth place.
Taruffi was losing ground and getting caught by Giovanni Bracco and Robert Manzon. De Graffenried also passed Ascari for second place, making it a Ferrari 1-2. Taruffi was then passed by Bracco, who also caught Ascari. Manzon was also catching Taruffi, while Farina was also gaining ground on all of them. At the halfway mark of the race, Serafini led from de Graffenried, Ascari, Bracco, Manzon (fifth), Taruffi, Farina, Parnell, Schell, Macklin (tenth), Bettenhausen, Sanesi, Fitch, Bira, de Filippis, Trintignant, Pagani, Chiron, Moss, Rubirosa (20th), Claes, Richardson, Salvadori, Barth, Van Acker and Hawthorn. Gonzalez' race was also over, having crashed out on lap 23. He put a wheel on the grass at the first corner, lost control and was sent into the wall. He was in 21st position.
Gonzalez was followed by Nello Pagani, whose Maserati gearbox failed him on the next lap, out of seventeenth place, leaving 25 cars still in the race. Then, while Serafini was making sure he won the race, the race behind him changed massively from lap 30 onwards, with less than twenty lap remaining. On lap 31, de Filippis' Alfa Romeo broke down, leaving oil on the track. Alberto Ascari was following, and he skidded on the oil slick, sliding into the straw bales at high speed, the car digging into the grass and doing a barrell-roll in the air and landing on its wheels. Alberto was thrown out of the car, but walked back to the pits uninjured. Maria was 18th, Alberto fifth. On the following lap, Bracco's Ambrosiana suffered a suspension failure, throwing him out of the race as well, out of second position, no less! In the next two laps, Sanesi and Macklin both retired as well from mechanical failures, out of third and sixth respectively. This changed the whole order at the very front, and after Salvadori's retirement from 17th position, the minor points were much changed by lap 36 (three-quarters of the race).
Serafini's lead was now nigh on unassailable, but the fight for second was unbelievably tight, with Parnell, Bettenhausen, Farina, de Graffenried and Manzon all within ten seconds of each other! A bit further behind, Bira and Schell were fighting over seventh place, with Trintignant and Chiron doing the same over ninth. Then came Taruffi, Moss, Claes, Richardson, Rubirosa, Fitch, Barth, Van Acker and Hawthorn. Two laps later, Mike Hawthorn span out. The Bentley hit a straw bale awkwardly, and Mike tried to block it with his hand. It worked, but he got out of the car in visible pain and holding his wrist. At the almost very front, Farina was making a mockery out of the battle for second, setting quick lap after quick lap to easily put de Graffenried et al a fair way behind him. On lap 41, Johnny Claes retired from 13th position, having just been passed by the staggering Geoff Richardson.
In the end, while Serafini and Farina easily finished 1-2, de Graffenried eased home to take third place, while Parnell and Schell had to be separated by a photo-finish for fourth place. Bira and Manzon were the big losers of the race, finishing only seventh and eighth, leaving Bira as the only mathematical contender to Farina. Maurice Trintignant delighted Maserati by taking a commendable ninth place, the team's first top ten finish under its new identity, while Geoff Richardson somehow managed to drag his Bentley kicking and screaming to eleventh place, the team's first finish, and ahead of five different cars, believe it or not! Tony Bettenhausen was contending for points when he retired with two laps remaining, and he was eventually classified in twelfth position.
- Final race victory for Dorino Serafini.
- Final podium for Toulo de Graffenried.
- First and only pole for Giovanni Bracco.
- First start for John Fitch and Roy Salvadori (only start for Salvadori).
- Final start for Charles Van Acker.
- First entry for John Fitch.
- Final entry for Charles Van Acker.
- First and only pole position for Ambrosiana.
- Final pole position for the Maserati engine.
- Final entry and start for Kurtis Kraft and the Offenhauser engine.
- Final points for Ferrari America.
- First and only pole position for Scuderia Ambrosiana.
- Final entry for Garage Francorchamps under that name.
- Most career starts: Giuseppe Farina, Dorino Serafini and Juan Manuel Fangio (22)
- Most career entries: Piero Taruffi, Giuseppe Farina, Dorino Serafini, Juan Manuel Fangio and Alberto Ascari (23)
|2||Alfa Romeo SpA||35.5|
|5=||Jaguar - Aston Martin Racing||14|
|5=||Phoenix Racing Organisation||14|
- Only the top five positions are listed.
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1952 Italian Grand Prix
| Alternate Formula 1 World Championship
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1952 Australian Grand Prix
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1953 United States Grand Prix