1953 Monaco Grand Prix
The 1953 Monaco Grand Prix was the first race of the 1953 Formula One World Championship and was held in Monte Carlo on May 17th 1953. Reg Parnell won the race, his third and final Grand Prix victory, ahead of the Jaguar - Aston Martin Racing team mates of Maurice Trintignant and B. Bira. It was the first race after major rule changes introduced following the deaths of Luigi Fagioli and Yves Giraud-Cabantous, and confirmed than Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Gordini and JAMR would be the leading forces in the sport for the following years.
The main talking point in the off-season was of course the change in regulations which led to a jumbled up chassis and engine market and also to a host of new private teams, but in the run-up to Monaco, everyone had been talking about Motorsport Bleu's withdrawal from Formula One racing as reigning champions. Despite this, the title race had the potential to be closer than ever.
The off-season was very busy for the constructors champions Ferrari. This year, they were aiming for a first driver's title, with their top two drivers staying on. Serafini and Parnell both won races again and showed good pace but lacked consistency. Reg would have a better shot in 1953 thanks to the end of the car-share with Peter Whitehead, who was traded for Juan Manuel Fangio, disappointed with his treatment at Alfa Romeo regarding his compromised performance (he was nursing a broken neck for most of the season). With three world class drivers, the constructors championship shouldn't have a problem, but they'd need to avoid having Juan, Dorino and Reg taking points off each other.
For the first time in their history, Alfa Romeo failed to win a race in 1952, although their five podiums were enough for third place. Perhaps this lack of success was a catalyst in the falling out between Fangio and the team in general and Giuseppe Farina in particular. The team put all of its resources behind the double world champion, only to see him lose the title in Australia. In the end, Fangio was traded with Ferrari part time driver Peter Whitehead, while Stirling Mosssaw his contract extended despite his lacklustre year. Perhaps a newfound team alchemy could bring the team back to success.
After their promising year in 1951, many expected Gordini to be top contenders for the title in 1952. Instead, they did more of the same. But with outright pace becoming more important under the new rules, Manzon and Sanesi would be closer to the front more regularly. At least, if they stayed with the team. A few days before the start of the season, team manager Ashley Lilly was forced to step down due to undisclosed health problems. A new manager was found in the form of the team boss of new team Anglo Racing Engineering. The team was also upgraded from works-level customer team to full-blown factory team for practical purposes.
When they reverted to a single car for 1952, it looked like the beginning of the end for Phoenix. Instead, it signaled the beginning of progress. Ascari stunned the crowd with a podium at Monaco, and kept the pace for the rest of the season. With the switch to the unproven Mercedes-Benz engines, Phoenix hoped to reach new heights and hopefully take that elusive first victory.
After a surprise podium in 1951, JAMR definitely improved in 1952 with a good choice of drivers and an ever-improving car to score four more podiums. This season, they kept Tony Bettenhausen and José Froilan Gonzalez alongside Maurice Trintignant, who took some of the team's best results on one-off entries. Piero Taruffi was surprisingly sacked despite scoring two podiums, and his replacement was long awaited. In the end, JAMR got the deal of the season, signing reigning champion B. Bira in the fourth car. With such a strong line-up, JAMR would almost definitely score their first victory that season.
Despite a maiden victory in 1952, the simple existence of Group Ultimate was in doubt more than ever. With rising tensions between East and West, a dual East German-American team looked increasingly like a bad idea. The team's finances were also far from safe. With Toulo de Gaffenried as a star signing, they were aiming to make a profit off of the races, but the cost of building their own chassis was taking a toll on the team. Should success not come, Barth, Schell, Ruttman and de Gaffenried would find themselves without a drive for 1954.
The Milanese Scuderia Ambrosiana was one of 1952's pleasant surprises with regular top ten finishes and two giant-killing fourth places. Both drivers had been kept, and the only major change was the switch from the underpowered Maserati engines to more costly Alfa Romeo units. Despite all of this, Ambrosiana was still lacking in the organisation department, as their chassis was still the only one to yet be given a name.
One of the high-profile new entrants for this season is the German giant of Mercedes-Benz, deciding to take over the failing Scuderia Maremmana. One part of the deal was for promising rookie Eric Brandon to stay with the team while von Brauchitsch left to join Bentley and Clemente Biondetti finally retired from open-wheel racing after an illustrious career. The manufacturer had concentrated its development towards the engines, sacrificing chassis performance in the process, but the work had paid off, and Mercedes had found three customers in the form of Phoenix, EMW and Leader. Sports car racers Lucien Vincent, Tommy Wisdom and Helmut Niedermayr would be driving the second car in selected races.
Much like in 1951, Redman ended up being one of very few outfits to score points with a Maserati. Thankfully this time, Nello Pagani didn't go the way of Franco Rol, who had only now recovered from his injuries sustained in the French Grand Prix two years previously. This season, the team had taken the costly gamble of entering a second car for 1952's guest Australian driver Stan Jones. With the new regulations, it remained to be seen whether the Maserati would be more competitive than previous years.
Sadly for Jacques Swaters' Ecurie Nationale Belge, 1952 failed to live up to the very promising hype of 1951. Indeed, the team went from four podiums and third place in the entrants' championship to zero points scored over the whole season. One thing which didn't change and wouldn't change for this season was the revolving door policy for drivers. Pilette would again drive for most of the races, and was joined on occasion by regular drivers Georges Berger, Jan Flinterman, Charles de Tornaco, Roger Laurent and Swaters himself, as well as rookies Andre Milhoux and Olivier Gendebien, with Milhoux also set to compete for EMW in a few races, although his participation in early races was unlikely to be allowed due to inexperience.
Overall, David Hampshire's Alta failed to improve in 1952, despite two overdue top ten finishes and a few occasional young drivers making their debuts on the side. However, with Alta deciding to stop making Formula 1 machinery, Hampshire had to choose an other car, going for an Aston Martin chassis coupled to a Bentley engine. The choice of going back to a single car team would allow David to easily survive until the next season, and the Aston chassis would boost him towards the front.
Despite Scuderia Platé-Varzi being upgraded to factory status, they completely failed to move up the grid, in part due to a poor choice of drivers. Frère was an almost complete rookie, but he ended up being the only driver to qualify for the team, not counting Maurice Trintignant who helped the team to a ninth place in the USA in a one-off appearance. Despite this, the team was sticking to its drivers, with Frère driving the full season, while Marimón, Landi and Balsa shared the second car.
Last season, despite their best efforts, Scuderia Commesso failed to move up the grid, thanks in part to the ageing of Louis Chiron, but also a poor choice of second drivers. Van der Lof, despite their insistence, was not ready for Formula One yet, and only when the FIA refused to give Ottorino Volonterio a license did Rudi Fischer get the drive in Germany. For 1953, the team (now known as Asso di Fiori) had cut back their involvement to a single car shared between Luigi Villoresi and Dries van der Lof. However, the team was in a crisis with the departure of the team principal, leaving them desperately needing stability.
Geoff Richardson was one of the pleasant surprises at the tail end of 1952 with his eleventh place at Sebring, and Bentley had been improving consistently. They quickly adapted to the new regulations and sold quite a few cars during the off-season, improving their odds for the constructors' championship in the process by offering a cheap alternative for new customer teams. On the driver front, the team had also been active, retaining Hawthorn, Richardson and Salvadori, also signing pre-war ace and Maremmana refugee Manfred von Brauchitsch in a politically questionable move, as well as securing André Pilette's services for the Belgian Grand Prix. Their plans were incomplete, and the team was intelligently planning their moves according to the circumstances.
Despite the complete lack of pace from O.S.C.A. in 1952, Felice Bonetto managed to make the grid twice in 1952, paving the way for a full-season charge in 1953. With Piero Taruffi suddenly on the market, he was eagerly signed by the team as first driver, with the 49-year-old Bonetto stepping down to the second car, which was to be entered in four races for one-off drivers. Bonetto would drive in Italy and John Fitch in Switzerland.
All-Ireland Motorsport moved up in the world in the slightest possible way in 1952 by making the grid twice with the help of the dependable Joe Kelly, for whom it was also the first start. Compared to six entries in 1952, the renamed Reatherson outfit would enter seven European rounds (skipping the Netherlands) with a single Bentley-Jaguar to be shared between regular driver Joe Kelly and the new recruit Lance Macklin, who found himself without a drive following Johnny Claes' withdrawal as a private entrant. The Jag engine would be the force that drives the Irish squad up the grid.
The other Irish team in the championship, Erne's début season had gone better than expected considering the completely inexperienced Roberto Mières, but with Ferrari selling their car at a much higher price this season, they had to settle with a Maserati chassis and engine, also relocating to Northamptonshire to reduce travel costs. To further this goal, the team would also miss the season opener in Monaco as well as the season-ending United States Grand Prix in order to keep as much spare cash as possible. Mières was still driving the car. Erne's future was very much tied to that of Maseratiby then.
Along with Redman and Ferrari, Maria Teresa de Filippis had been one of three entrants to make the grid in every single entry in 1952, although she failed to finish every time. She showed promising pace in the Maserati and then in the Alfa Romeo though, and with some generous donations, she acquired a Bentley chassis and an O.S.C.A. engine to put in the front for the European season. To add to that, the new BRUNEL outfit would allow Maria to travel once again to the United States for the final Grand Prix in a Bentley.
Evolving from Fritz Riess' failed project last season, the new EMW factory team also turned a few heads by being based in West Germany while officially being East German. On top of this, the team angered a few other team bosses by attempting to sign their drivers, such as part-time Aqua driver Günther Bechem or Bentley man Manfred von Brauchitsch. Eventually, Aqua agreed for Bechem to drive in the races for which he was free, with uncertain rookie André Milhoux competing in the remaining races (pending an uncertain license). Milhoux was denied a license for the opening two races and had to be replaced by team boss Fritz Riess.
The mysterious Chinese Leader squad failed to start a race in 1952, but saw a high point when Luigi Villoresi topped the charts in pre-qualifying in Great Britain. But with Villoresi on the way out to join Asso di Fiori, Leader had to settle with the disillusioned Johnny Claes, too tempted by the probably large paycheck. Evidently, Leader were optimistic about the season, entering every race from a new base in Dortmund, even selling one of their chassis while acquiring a new Mercedes engine which would help them further.
With the owners of Birmingham Motorsport having ran out of their lottery money, they somehow managed to convince their factory owner to finance their season in exchange for renaming the team, in other words, F.H. Warden Steel would be sponsoring Birmingham Motorsport, the second instance of sponsorship in Formula One (following Graham Whitehead's entry in the 1951 German Grand Prix by the Daily Express). With British cars the obvious option, the team started with £100 000 and purchased a Bentley chassis and a Jaguar engine, cautiously entering Ken Wharton into four North European races.
After buying what was left of Metcalf in early 1952, Scuderia Aqua failed to materialize and only managed a couple of DNPQs with Piero Carini. Unsurprisingly, the Italian wasn't back for more, but instead, the cash-strapped team made the unfortunate decision to build an engine for itself, which ended up being far too underpowered for the competitiveness of Formula One. With barely enough cash to stay running, the team borrowed £25 000 in order to purchase a new chassis (a Bentley 53C) and enter a few races with Günther Bechem. It would be a miracle for them to survive until 1954.
Anglo Racing Engineering was one of the new British entrants, originally based in London, they recently moved to the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent. They were the first team to purchase a chassis from Leader and coupled it to a Jaguar engine. Entering all European races, they seemed ambitious but well-prepared for it. Through their team manager, they also had connections to Gordini, which would prove useful for 1954 (their manager was also interim manager at Gordini during Ashley Lilly's illness). The 21-year-old Peter Collins looked like a very interesting prospect following his success in Formula 2 and his victory in 1952's 9 Hours of Goodwood against tough opposition such as Stirling Moss and Peter Whitehead.
Balkan Eagle was an ambitious team entered by the Bulgarian bicycle magnate Stefan Bogdanov out of his factory funds. The factory being state-owned, the team was effectively state-backed, although the government denied any involvement. The team's goal was to increase capitalist investment into Bulgaria. However, with the absence of interested Soviet manufacturers or high-quality Soviet drivers, Bogdanov had to look elsewhere. Luckily, his pre-war Italian connections landed him three Alfa Romeo chassis and three Maserati engines, and a litany of drivers. Rudi Fischer would drive the whole season, alongside regulars Lance Macklin and Aldo Gordini. Both of them were also contracted to other teams though (Macklin to Reatherson and Gordini to ART), so would occasionally be replaced by rookie Umberto Maglioli and Australian specialist Lex Davison.
Royal Racing Automobile Company had barely existed for a few months and they were already attempting to live expensively. They purchased the relatively cheap Maserati package for Duncan Hamilton, leaving them with barely enough to cover expenses for the season, then promptly attempted to purchase a Ferrari 550 for drivers already under contract, finally settling on Jacques Swaters, who backed out of the offer when the team was denied purchase due to insufficient funds. With such mismanagement, it wouldn't be a surprise for this team to go under before the end of the season.
A small team founded for the sole purpose of entering promising female drivers not under contract, Brits Under No European Legislation had purchased a single Bentley engine to couple to Maria Teresa de Filippis' existing Bentley chassis to jointly enter the United States Grand Prix for which she lacked the money to travel.
With so many top teams finding themselves in pre-qualifying, it would always be a foregone conclusion as to who would make it at the very front. Moss, Gonzalez, Gordini and Rubirosa all made it with ease. Behind them, though, there would have to be some disappointments. Of course, we had both factory Maseratis failing to make the cut, as did Barth's Ultimate, Macklin's Irish Bentley or Richardson's works Bentley. None of the new team drivers taking part made it through, with all three Balkan Eagles failing to make it by a fair margin, although Fischer was the closest. Maglioli was by far the most disappointing considering his sportscar success. The Mille Miglia runner-up and Targa Florio winner ended up last and over a second behind Hamilton, despite a vastly superior chassis.
The season starts with Alfa Romeo thoroughly beaten by both Ferrari and Gordini, and JAMR well on the pace as well. Mercedes-Benz barely fail to qualify while both Ambrosianas make the cut, as well as Nello Pagani, as usual the top Maserati driver. David Hampshire comes encouragingly close to the grid, while von Brauchitsch ends Bentley's hopes of qualification. Johnny Claes continues the Belgian tradition of failing to start in Monaco by taking over where ENB left off last season. Swaters' crew decided against making the long trip, instead choosing to begin the season at the much closer Dutch Grand Prix.
Parnell got off to a brilliant start, leaving everyone in his dust. Serafini and Sanesi followed him, with Manzon, de Graffenried and Gonzalez behind them. Despite all their best efforts, they were unable to catch up very quickly. Their attempts to do so streched out the pack, and Serafini was quickly left alone in second place ahead of Manzon, Sanesi, Gonzalez and Farina. In fact, the whole front of the grid was bunched together apart from the untouchable Reg Parnell. The only one who was falling back was Stirling Moss, who was in a distant eleventh place by lap 12, his spot in the top ten effectively taken by Giovanni Bracco.
By lap 14, Toulo de Graffenried took second place to lead the charge against Reg Parnell, but this didn't last. On the following lap, his transmission failed at the Casino, leaving him as the first retirement of the race. Three laps later, Stirling Moss also retired, this time from an oil leak, out of tenth position leaving 18 cars in the race. Almost immediately afterwards, Harry Schell blew an engine out of thirteenth place as the third retirement of the race. Among the confusion, Bettenhausen and Trintignant made up some of the gap back to the main pack.
Towards lap 20, Robert Manzon broke away from the pack and attempted to catch Parnell, although Farina vaguely managed to hold on, which only managed to stretch out the back a bit more, as Parnell simply picked up the pace to compensate. Keeping up became increasingly difficult, and the main pack was an accident waiting to happen. The fight for seventh place was especially tough between Serafini, Bracco and Sanesi. Consalvo lost it under braking at the Chicane on lap 25 and was sent into the stone wall on the left side of the track, colliding with the straw bales and coming to a halt in the run-off. Miraculously, Sanesi walked out of the car unhurt.
Manzon proceeded to break away once more, though still too far from Parnell to make a difference. Gonzalez, Farina and Bira all followed from a distance, followed by Fangio, Serafini, Bracco and Trintignant. However, Robert was pushing too hard, and his gearbox promptly gave up on lap 32, leaving Aldo Gordini as the final running Gordini, in eleventh position out of fifteen remaining.
The chasing pack at that point consisted of Fangio, Bira, Trintignant, Bracco, Farina, Serafini and Gonzalez in constantly changing order. Well, until lap 37, when Gonzalez lost control of his Aston Martin, throwing the car into the straw bales at Sainte Dévote. He was in third place at the time. The field was already down to 14, and the race hadn't yet reached halfway. Bettenhausen duly took his place in the chasing pack.
Around that time, Farina and Bracco gained a short lead over the others, with Bracco leading Farina, and therefore in a scarcely believable second position, although still miles behind Reg Parnell. They failed to make up any ground though, and were instead cought by Dorino Serafini. Around the same time, Tony Bettenhausen's Aston Martin contracted race-ending steering issues. The American was in seventh position. He was soon joined on the sidelines by Porfirio Rubirosa's Ambrosiana, suffering from a similar problem. He was fighting for second-last position with Nello Pagani.
Apart from the battle for second and a fight for tenth between Gordini, Ruttman and Pagani, the field was very spread out, and so at the halfway point of the race, Parnell had a huge lead over Bracco, Serafini, Farina, Bira, Trintignant, Fangio, Whitehead, Ascari, Ruttman, Pagani and Gordini.
For Parnell to have been so dominant, he must have thought he was at the Nürburgring, but he wouldn't score the fastest lap. That honour would go to Dorino Serafini, who overtook Bracco for second place in the process. Well, until lap 58, where the Ferrari transmission gave up, probably from the stress its driver was putting on it. Bira took the opportunity to catch up to Bracco and Farina.
But from lap 55 onwards, Parnell's lap times became slower and slower. Perhaps he thought his lead was large enough, or perhaps he was experiencing some mechanical issues. In any case, Giovanni Bracco was now eating into his lead, followed by Bira and Farina. In fact, by lap 67, most of the gap had simply disappeared. However, Giuseppe Farina wouldn't be part of the chase any more, as he span around at the Chicane, colliding with the remainders of the straw bales struck by Sanesi earlier on. He was in fourth place at the time, leaving ten drivers remaining.
Parnell was now driving a race of conservation. It was obvious that the car was misfiring, so he had to drive as fast as possible while preserving the car. Losing the lead would only be a matter of laps. On lap 71, he was still ahead when the race was reduced to nine drivers when Aldo Gordini span out at Portier, stalling the car. He was in 8th position in his first Grand Prix start.
Reg Parnell held on until lap 76, when Giovanni Bracco made his way through into the lead at Massenet. Bira was third, followed by Trintignant, Whitehead, Ascari, Fangio, Pagani and Ruttman. Two laps later, Bira passed Parnell as well to rise to second position in his Aston-Jaguar, a great performance for the team with Trintignant in fourth position himself. This time, Reg put up a fight and took second again on lap 79, only to relinquish the position on lap 82. Incredibly, on the next lap, he was through once again!
In fact, Bira was also having car trouble, making himself and Parnell easy targets for Peter Whitehead and Maurice Trintignant, who both were catching up. In fact, both of them passed him on lap 89, but Whitehead fell behind his ex-team mate on the following lap. However, that was not the most important event of lap 90. At the very front, heartbreak occurred when Giovanni Bracco's gearbox blew up in flames, taking away a certain maiden victory for Scuderia Ambrosiana and Bracco himself.
Also, Alberto Ascari was making his way back into the pack. On lap 92, Ascari had passed Whitehead and was neck and neck with Bira, Trintignant being well up the road and now in second place behind Reg Parnell, who was incredibly back in the race lead! In other news, Troy Ruttman's engine exploded around the same time. He was in 8th and last position.
From here on in, relating the orders of position three to five would be useless, as the order was constantly switching. Parnell ended up scoring his third career victory ahead of Maurice Trintignant, who scores his third podium, while he and Bira score JAMR's sixth and seventh podiums without a single victory. Whitehead saves the day and three points for Alfa Romeo from the back of the grid, while Ascari also manages to score the first points for the Mercedes engine.
|José Froilán González
|Maria Teresa de Filippis
- Final race victory for Reg Parnell.
- First entry for Peter Collins, Umberto Maglioli, Duncan Hamilton and André Milhoux.
- First entry for Mercedes-Benz (under that name), Rennkollektiv EMW (under that name), Asso di Fiori (under that name), Reatherson Racing Developments (under that name), Anglo Racing Engineering, Royal Racing Automobile Company and Balkan Eagle.
- Most career starts: Giuseppe Farina and Dorino Serafini (24)
- Most career entries: Piero Taruffi, Giuseppe Farina, Dorino Serafini, Juan Manuel Fangio and Alberto Ascari (25)
|Jaguar - Aston Martin Racing
|Alfa Romeo SpA
|Phoenix Racing Organisation
|Redman Racing Team
- Only the top five positions are listed.
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1952 Australian Grand Prix
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1953 Dutch Grand Prix
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1952 Monaco Grand Prix
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1954 Monaco Grand Prix