1953 United States Grand Prix
The 1953 United States Grand Prix was the ninth and final race of the 1953 Formula One World Championship and was held in Sebring on October 25th 1953. The title decider between Tony Bettenhausen, Consalvo Sanesi and Reg Parnell, all three qualified in the top three grid positions, but ended up retiring from the race, bringing the title fight to an anticlimactic end with Bettenhausen crowned champion. Giuseppe Farina won the race, ahead of B. Bira and José Froilán González.
What a season it had been. JAMR dominated the field through reliability alone while the Gordinis proved to be the faster cars (let down by unreliability). Aston Martin-Jaguar sealed the constructors' title in Italy, but coming into the final race of the season, many places were still to be fought over. The drivers' title once again came down to the wire. Tony Bettenhausen led on 27 points, with five podiums that season, while Consalvo Sanesi was right behind on 26, every point scored in his three victories. Sanesi had won every race he had finished. Reg Parnell was also still in the title race on 24 points with four podiums and consistency, but he would need a podium to even hope to take the crown.
On the contructors' side, second place was also still to be decided as Gordini only had a six-point lead over Ferrari. On the entrants' side, the Gordini-Ferrari fight was repeated while Asso di Fiori would attempt to profit from Phoenix's absence to take fifth place and valuable prize money. All in all, 34 drivers had made the expensive trip to Sebring and would be competing for 32 spots on the grid. Reatherson, Aqua, O.S.C.A., de Filippis, Hampshire, Erne and EMW simply didn't bother to make the trip across the Atlantic Ocean.
Anglo Racing Engineering would enter Peter Collins after Wacker was given the third Gordini for his home race.
Scuderia Ferrari decided to fire Juan Manuel Fangio with immediate effect after the Italian Grand Prix and had replaced him with Jack Brabham, who had already appeared as substitute for the injured Dorino Serafini.
Lance Macklin, without a Reatherson to drive, returned to Balkan Eagle.
For this race, the third Gordini was handed to local driver Fred Wacker.
With André Simon out of a drive after O.S.C.A. decided not to go to Sebring, he promptly stepped back into the Maserati, almost certain of making the race.
Only Harry Schell and Toulo de Graffenried represented Group Ultimate at Sebring, with Schell in the Ultimate and de Graffenried in the 555.
Ecurie Nationale Belge sent the Bentley and Aston to Sebring, driven by Pilette and Gendebien respectively.
As announced, Ambrosiana reverted to two cars for the final race.
With de Filippis not sending her own car to Sebring, she drove for the separate BRUNEL outfit, created solely to make sure she would compete in Sebring.
Asso di Fiori put Dries van der Lof back in the Aston-Jag in a desperate bid to outscore Phoenix.
The Bardahl Oil Company, after missing out on the previous year's race, entered two cars for reigning AAA champion and Indy 500 winner Sam Hanks and Bill Vukovich respectively. They were given special permission from the AAA to take part, as any AAA driver taking part in another race would normally be banned.
Cliff Bergere, polesitter for the 1946 Indy 500, came out of retirement at age 56 to take part in one last race. Best of luck to him.
The top three in the championship would start the race in the top three positions, guaranteeing a titanic struggle for the title in the final race. Equally notably, the works Maserati of Paul Frère made the grid for the very first time that season.
The start was fairly uneventful and every driver got away cleanly. Nello Pagani's Maserati engine failed halfway through the first lap, ending his race very early indeed. On lap 3, Sanesi and Trintignant passed Bettenhausen, who was already obviously having a bad day. On the next lap, the Frenchman took second place from Sanesi. Then, Olivier Gendebien, in his first race start, skidded on oil at the Esses and retired in a violent shunt out of 28th position. He was taken to the hospital as a precaution.
Consalvo Sanesi's engine then started to smoke, although he didn't seem to notice it. Bettenhausen made his way through on lap 5 and the Gordini engine finally decided to give up altogether four laps later. In the meantime, Trintignant decided not to slow down to let Bettenhausen through and instead took the race lead, demoting Parnell to second place. Bettenhausen had a lot of ground behind him but failed to keep the gap open very long. By lap 12, he had been passed by Bira, Gonzalez and Farina, leaving Reg Parnell provisionally World Champion. Robert Manzon and Fred Wacker both retired during that time, on laps 13 and 7 and due to an oil leak and a gearbox failure respectively. Gordini were left with yet another triple retirement. Johnny Claes also threw his Leader into the straw on the following lap, followed by de Filippis and Stirling Moss, both with blown engines. Stan Jones promptly threw his Maserati off the road as well.
On lap 18, Parnell made a move on Trintignant and took the lead once more. For fifth place, Bettenhausen passed Gonzalez, but had to relinquish his spot a few laps later, only to pass Bira on the following lap. Peter Collins anonymously retired on lap 22 with a suspension failure before the championship was ultimately decided. On lap 22, while lapping Paul Frère, Parnell ran wide and into the straw bales, spinning out of control and ending his race. With the two other contenders knocked out, Tony Bettenhausen had won the World Championship. And he promptly decided he didn't need to care anymore. In two laps, he was passed by Brabham, Whitehead, Serafini and de Graffenried.
On lap 29, the order was changed once more when Maurice Trintignant, the race leader, span on oil and into the retaining wall. He was followed by Bill Vukovich, whose Jaguar engine exploded after an otherwise promising race for the inexperienced driver. On the next lap, down in seventh place, Tony Bettenhausen figured that with nothing left to play for, he might as well just stop the car after a few victory laps, and he did just that, pulling up into the pits and stepping out of his car to enjoy a glass of World Champion-level champagne. He'd earned it.
But the race was still going on, and it was a really good one. While Bettenhausen had finished his champagne and was now celebrating with the spectators, Giuseppe Farina was left in a comfortable lead and in a position to take his first victory in over two years. Gonzalez was leading Bira and Brabham for second place by a small margin while the battle for fifth place was raging between Serafini, Rubirosa, Whitehead, Schell and de Graffenried. Brabham soon let go of the JAMRs and fell into the other pack, turning it into a fight for fourth place. On lap 35, Bira had taken second place while Porfirio Rubirosa was closing in on Gonzalez.
With three laps remaining, Dries van der Lof and Paul Frère both retired with gearbox failures while the battle for fourth ended up with Jack Brabham taking his first points for Ferrari with Whitehead just behind. Rubirosa once again came close to scoring, but alas, no cigar. Giuseppe Farina took his and Alfa Romeo's first victory since the 1951 British Grand Prix. Tony Bettenhausen took the first World Championship for an American driver.
- Final pole position for Reg Parnell.
- First points for Jack Brabham.
- Final start for Nello Pagani Fred Wacker.
- First start for Olivier Gendebien, only start for Cliff Bergere.
- First entry for Cliff Bergere, only entry for Sam Hanks.
- Final entry and start for the Ferrari America name.
- First entry and only start for Cliff Bergere.
- First entry and start for BRUNEL.
- Only entry and start for Bardahl Oil Company.
- Final start for Redman Racing Team.
- Reg Parnell: 12 laps (1-8, 18-21)
- Maurice Trintignant: 16 laps (9-17, 22-28)
- Giuseppe Farina: 14 laps (29-42)
- Youngest World Champion: Tony Bettenhausen (37 years, 1 month, 13 days)
- Most total career starts: Dorino Serafini and B. Bira (31)
|1||Jaguar - Aston Martin Racing||50|
|2||Alexander Racing Team-Gordini||35|
|4||Alfa Romeo SpA||32|
|5||Phoenix Racing Organisation||10|
- Only the top five positions are listed.
| Previous race:
1953 Italian Grand Prix
| Alternate Formula 1 World Championship
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1954 Monaco Grand Prix
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1952 United States Grand Prix
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1954 United States Grand Prix