1953 French Grand Prix
The 1953 French Grand Prix was the fourth race of the 1953 Formula One World Championship and was held in Reims on July 5th 1953. Consalvo Sanesi recorded the first of his six Grand Prix victories driving for Gordini, ahead of eventual World Champion and Belgian Grand Prix winner Tony Bettenhausen in an Aston Martin-Jaguar and other title challenger Reg Parnell in a Ferrari. This was the first European Formula One race which Giuseppe Farina did not attend, as he had been injured in the preceding race.
What a season it had been thus far! Ferrari and Alfa Romeo were no longer the only two teams at the front, and JAMR had brilliantly won the previous two races, three of their four drivers scoring podium finishes (except for González, who was yet to finish a single race). To add to Alfa's drop in form, their lead driver Giuseppe Farina was injured during the Belgian Grand Prix and would miss the following three races.
44 drivers had turned up that weekend, fighting for 32 spots on the grid. Would JAMR win once more? Could Alfa and Ferrari fight back? Could ART spring a surprise? Or would someone else stun the Reims crowd?
For the first time out of three this season, Mercedes had broken out the second car for a local driver, with Lucien Vincent stepping up to the plate after his victory in the 12 hours of Casablanca and his fifth place at le Mans.
For the French Grand Prix, Gordini had brought back Aldo into the third car, bumping Peter Collins back into the ARE Leader-Jaguar and Umberto Maglioli back into the Balkan Eagle.
Following Giuseppe Farina's injury, Alfa Romeo had brought Louis Chiron back from retirement for three races. The 53-year-old Monégasque driver was hoping for one last hurrah, but his career was eventually prolonged by several years.
In a desperate attempt to gain pace, Maserati had signed André Simon to drive in France, hoping to make the grid for the first time since 1952.
To lower travel costs, Bentley travelled directly to the British round, skipping the French Grand Prix.
With Milhoux and Gendebien failing to make the grid in Belgium, two more conventional drivers would drive alongside Swaters in the form of the tried-and-tested André Pilette and the regular one-off Roger Laurent.
With André Simon snapped up by Maserati before he could be re-signed, O.S.C.A. decided to put John Fitch back in the second car for the French Grand Prix.
A very close battle at the front as well as for sixth place. Davison and Hamilton were expected to fail, while Vincent could have given a bit more. Laurent was just unlucky, as half a second would have seen him in qualifying proper.
On the flip side, Fitch, Kelly, Maglioli and Wharton were delighted with their times, as well as the whole Maserati team, who finally managed to set a credible time in the hands of André Simon. Could they finally start a race this year?
There was little surprise in qualifying, with all four Maseratis failing to qualify as well as a few other backmarkers. Peter Collins qualified the ARE Leader, as did several other underdogs. At the front, Consalvo Sanesi scored his second career pole position, ahead of Belgian Grand Prix winner Tony Bettenhausen and defending champion B. Bira.
Serafini and Gonzalez got the best starts and both passed Gordini off the line. Sanesi kept the lead ahead of Bettenhausen and Bira, who subsequently took the lead on lap 2. Serafini quickly passed Trintignant for fifth place, while Sanesi took the lead once more on lap 3. Troy Ruttman and Alberto Ascari were the first retirements of the race, with a blown engine and gearbox failure respectively. They were followed on the sidelines by Piero Taruffi's O.S.C.A., who suffered from suspension issues.
On lap 4, Bira passed Sanesi once more to take the lead, with Bettenhausen still closely following the two of them. In fact, Sanesi and Bira would swap the lead for the next few laps. Gordini, meanwhile, was falling behind, and was passed by Gonzalez, Trintignant and Whitehead. But these standings were changing all the time. On lap 7, Tony Bettenhausen took the race lead. On lap 10, Edgar Barth threw his Ultimate-O.S.C.A. off the road at Thillois.
On lap 11, Bettenhausen spun off from the lead, but managed to get the car back on the track. He dropped back to fifth place in the process, with Sanesi, Parnell, Whitehead and Bira taking advantage of his mistake. He set about recovering the lost ground, passing Whitehead on the next lap, while Bira passed both Whitehead and Reg Parnell for second position. On lap 14, the defending champion took the race lead with a late move at Muizon while Whitehead passed Bettenhausen once again.
On lap 15, Bettenhausen passed Whitehead for the second time, and then Parnell on the following lap to take third place. On the next lap, Aldo Gordini set a provisional fastest lap, while the other drivers were saving their tyres. As a result, he passed Whitehead, Serafini, Gonzalez, Parnell and Bettenhausen in a single lap to take third position. Aldo then proceeded to block all the drivers behind him, which left Bira and a distantly following Sanesi to extend their lead. The closely bunched pack made for close racing, which eventually got too close, as Dorino Serafini retired on lap 20 after colliding with another driver. Which driver it was is impossible to tell, although Gonzalez was fairly close behind him. André Pilette joined him on the sidelines on the following lap with a blown engine out of 17th position.
At the halfway mark, Bira led ahead of Sanesi, Gordini, Bettenhausen, Whitehead, Gonzalez, Parnell, Fangio, Moss and Trintignant in tenth. Then came Bracco, Manzon, Rubirosa, Chiron, van der Lof, de Graffenried, Schell, Fischer, Pagani, Hampshire, Swaters, de Filippis, Claes, Macklin, Fitch and Collins.
Surprisingly, Gordini began extending his lead over Bettenhausen, although he was still a fair way behind Sanesi. In fact, Bira and Sanesi were taking it easy, and Gordini sensationally passed both of them within two laps to take the race lead for the first time in his career! In fact, Bira was forced wide during Gordini's overtake, and Sanesi took the opportunity to overtake the Thai prince. Nello Pagani then anonymously retired out of 18th place with an oil leak.
But Sanesi was still slowing down, and Bira passed him on the very next lap. On lap 28, Gonzalez and Bettenhausen both passed him as well. On the following lap, Sanesi passed Gonzalez for fourth, but the real event was Bira taking the lead once again by passing Aldo Gordini at the Calvaire! On lap 30, the championship lead was almost certain to change hands when Maurice Trintignant's engine expired out of eleventh place after a miserable race, taking the championship leader out of the running for potential minor points. On the same lap, Sanesi moved back up to third by slipstreaming past Tony Bettenhausen.
On lap 32, Sanesi confirmed that he meant business by passing Aldo Gordini for second place. Further back, Reg Parnell passed Gonzalez for fifth position. On the following lap, Maria Teresa de Filippis' transmission failed after suffering trouble for the previous few laps. Crucially though, at the very front, Consalvo Sanesi finally caught and passed Bira to take the lead once again, hoping to finally score his long-awaited maiden victory. Reg Parnell also gained another position by passing Tony Bettenhausen for fourth position.
Manzon caught up to Gonzalez on lap 34 and passed him, but failed to make the move stick, while a bit further behind them, in twelfth position, Giovanni Bracco spun on Nello Pagani's oil while attempting to overtake Dries van der Lof on the front straight, colliding with the pit wall and ending his race. On lap 36, Sanesi ran wide at Thillois and was passed by Bira and Gordini, while Bettenhausen passed Parnell again for fourth place, but these positions would change majorly on the following lap.
On lap 37, attrition struck a major blow to the front of the field, as Bira (race leader) suffered a steering failure, Gordini (second) an engine failure and Whitehead (tenth) a gearbox failure. Sanesi therefore led with pretty much nothing standing in his way, with Bettenhausen in second ahead of Parnell, Gonzalez, Manzon and Rubirosa, who was eyeing a chance for a maiden points finish. In fact, on lap 38, he passed Manzon and entered the points for the first time in his career, although Manzon passed him again on the following lap. Johnny Claes then retired anonymously with a gearbox failure.
With only a few laps remaining, Peter Collins and John Fitch were battling for 17th position when the young Brit apparently braked too early at Muizon, launching the American over Collins' rear wheel. The car landed quickly and John Fitch got out of the heavily damaged car under his own power, but in visible pain. On the same lap, Robert Manzon took fourth place from Gonzalez.
On the final lap, Robert Manzon's Gordini engine went up in smoke, but nothing could prevent Consalvo Sanesi from winning his very first Formula One Grand Prix, after at least four near misses in the past. Tony Bettenhausen finished second to take the championship lead, Parnell came third (scoring the fastest lap), his first finish since his Monaco victory, Manzon was classified fourth despite his engine failure, and José Froilan Gonzalez took the final two points in his first finish of the season.
Porfirio Rubirosa scored his best result since the previous year's Dutch Grand Prix with a seventh place, van der Lof scored another top ten finish, and Peter Collins became the first driver to take a Leader (albeit a customer one) to the finish of a Grand Prix.
|1||12||Louis Chiron||Alfa Romeo||2:40.24||-|
|2||38||André Simon||Maserati||2:40.56||+ 0.32|
|3||76||John Fitch||O.S.C.A.||2:40.75||+ 0.51|
|4||48||Jacques Swaters||Bentley||2:42.71||+ 2.47|
|5||10||Joe Kelly||Bentley-Jaguar||2:44.69||+ 4.45|
|6||70||Roberto Mieres||Maserati||2:45.11||+ 4.87|
|7||24||Umberto Maglioli||Alfa Romeo-Maserati||2:45.26||+ 5.02|
|8||40||Ken Wharton||Bentley-Jaguar||2:45.46||+ 5.22|
|9||46||Roger Laurent||Maserati||2:45.75||+ 5.51|
|10||58||Lex Davison||EMW-Mercedes||2:46.57||+ 6.33|
|11||4||Lucien Vincent||Mercedes||2:47.27||+ 7.03|
|12||44||Duncan Hamilton||Maserati||2:49.12||+ 8.88|
- First race win for Consalvo Sanesi.
- First points for José Froilán González.
- First laps led for Aldo Gordini.
- First and only entry for Lucien Vincent.
- Final entry for Roger Laurent.
- First start for Anglo Racing Engineering.
- Consalvo Sanesi: 15 laps (1, 3, 5, 11-13, 33-35, 37-42)
- B. Bira: 17 laps (2, 4, 6, 14-22, 29-32, 36)
- Tony Bettenhausen: 4 laps (7-10)
- Aldo Gordini: 6 laps (23-28)
- Most total career starts: Dorino Serafini (27)
- Most total career entries: Alberto Ascari, Juan Manuel Fangio, Dorino Serafini and Piero Taruffi (28)
|1||Jaguar - Aston Martin Racing||28|
|2||Alexander Racing Team-Gordini||14|
|4||Alfa Romeo SpA||10|
|5||Asso di Fiori||4|
- Only the top five positions are listed.
| Previous race:
1953 Belgian Grand Prix
| Alternate Formula 1 World Championship
| Next race:|
1953 British Grand Prix
| Previous race:
1952 French Grand Prix
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1954 French Grand Prix