The British Grand Prix was once again hosted at the Silverstone circuit, an old Second World War airbase. It had hosted the first world championship race in 1950 but had been pushed to the fifth grand prix of the season for 1951. The circuit was another long fast sweeping circuit that put demand on the engines, however it would not be as troublesome for the engines as the previous rounds at Spa-Francorchamps and Reims.
Alongside the usual entrants of Giuseppe Farina, Juan Manuel Fangio and Consalvo Sanesi, Alfa Romeo had planned to enter a fourth car for Luigi Fagioli. Fagioli however having been forced to hand his car over to Fangio at Reims had decided to quit the team. Felice Bonetto was then invited to do a race for the Alfa Romeo squad. Bonetto, the former man to head the Milano project would take over Fagioli's contract to run the remaining races of the season for Alfa Romeo as a fourth car. The team were now consistently running four cars as opposed to three, the increased threat from the Ferrari's had forced Alfa Romeo to increase their man power.
Scuderia Ferrari were looking closer than ever to Alfa Romeo, only poor reliability on the 375 chassis had kept Ascari from winning their first grand prix at Reims. Taruffi was still unfit to race due to illness, so José Froilán González now a full-time member of the team took his place. Regular pilots, Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi remained in action alongside Peter Whitehead now driving the private Tony Vandervell Ferrari 375. The dark blue Ferrari had been driven by Reg Parnell in France, however Whitehead defected to Vandervell for his home race. The old Ferrari 125 that Whitehead owned was quickly becoming outdated and he needed some new machinery to compete at the front.
Under immense pressure, the BRM team had finally decided to launch their P15 car for the first time at a grand prix event. The car had competed in non-championship races, however the car had proven unreliable and had not yet rivalled the Alfa Romeo's and Ferrari's as it claimed it would. Nonetheless, the British public demanded that the BRM be presented at Silverstone to defend the home colours. Raymond Mays, team founder and Peter Berthon, the designer reluctantly complied although their previous testing had implied the BRM was not yet ready to compete. Reg Parnell, often regarded as the best British grand prix driver at the time would represent the team alongside Peter Walker, a renowned British sportscar racer.
Simca-Gordini was the third major works manufacturer to represent the grid. The young team was quickly acclimatizing itself to the midfield of Formula One. Its three main drivers Robert Manzon, Maurice Trintignant and André Simon would all represent the team's colours in Britain. There was a significantly reduced Talbot-Lago presence on the field, only the Ecurie Rosier team of Louis Rosier and Louis Chiron, plus the regular privateers of Philippe Étancelin and Johnny Claes would represent them on track.
The rest of the field was represented by the local British contingent. David Murray represented the Scuderia Ambrosiana team in a Maserati. Whilst also competing in the Maserati's privately was Philip Fotheringham-Parker and John James who would be starting his first race. Bob Gerard and Brian Shawe-Taylor brought their old ERA chassis to compete in the race. Duncan Hamilton would become the lone British driver to enter a French Talbot-Lago whilst Joe Kelly returned for the British Grand Prix racing the nimble little Alta chassis.
None of the Simca-Gordini's arrived for practice, their entries being withdrawn from the race. Likewise to not arrive at the circuit was Philippe Étancelin in his private Talbot-Lago. The British crowd were also dismayed to see that the BRM's had not yet decided to attend practice. Raymond Mays and Peter Berthon late to decide whether to commit to the grand prix.
The Ferrari's had proved to be ever improving, for the first time in the World Championship's history, the Alfa Romeo's would not be starting on pole position. Instead it was González, the stand in man at Ferrari for Taruffi, who went on to take pole position. González was proud to be a full second faster than his mentor, compatriot and friend, Juan Manuel Fangio in the Alfa Romeo.
Farina took the third place for Alfa Romeo whilst Ascari and Villoresi were left bewildered by González pace, sitting two seconds adrift of his time. Sanesi struggled in his Alfa Romeo, managing only sixth on the grid ahead of Bonetto starting his first race for the Alfa squad. Whitehead in his first race in a 375 could only manage a best of eighth, yet still remained the fastest British driver during qualifying.
Rosier was then ninth fastest in the Talbot-Lago whilst Gerard did an excellent job to put his old ERA into tenth position. Hamilton, the Britain in the Talbot-Lago sat in eleventh ahead of the second ERA of Shawe-Taylor. Chiron and Claes were still off the pace in their Talbot-Lago's to line up in thirteenth and fourteenth. The three Maserati's of Murray, Fotheringham-Parker and James were the next cars to line-up on the grid, whilst Kelly the slowest car in his little under powered Alta was last in the standings.
The race at Silverstone only attracted a meagre 50 000 crowd, this had been only a third of the attendance to the previous year's race. The lack of significance and the lack of British competitiveness had turned the British away from the sport in the past year. Britain's great publicly funded motorsport hope, the BRM project looked to have failed. The cars were not looking like they were going to compete in the most important British race of the season. However at the last minute, the BRM's of Parnell and Walker arrived at the circuit on Sunday morning. The team had desperately been trying to prepare the cars to the best so they would be at best performance at their home grand prix, even if this meant sacrificing the practice times. Naturally, the British organisers allowed the BRM's to take the race start, albeit they were forced to start from the very back of the grid.
Following the shared victory between Fangio and Fagioli in Reims, the Royal Automobile Club (RAC), the organisers for the British Grand Prix decreed that shared cars would be banned for the race in Silverstone. The race organisers feeling the French result had confused fans too much. The lead drivers would be forced to get only a single chance in the race ahead, they would not be able to depend on their teammates cars if their own failed.
The start of the race brought a surprise when Bonetto who started from seventh on the grid got a tremendous start in his first race for Alfa Romeo to take the lead of the race heading into the first corner. González, the pole-sitting Ferrari followed in second ahead of Farina, Ascari, Fangio and Villoresi. The BRM's had started their race well, the two cars of Parnell and Walker were quickly disposing of the cars at the back and moving their way up the midfield. In the early laps, Walker would have a major spin at Becketts, however the BRM driver would rejoin the track and continue his offensive.
Bonetto held onto the lead for the first lap, however González would quickly reclaim the lead on the second. Fangio then went on to overtake both Ascari and Farina on the same lap to move into third on lap four. After his magnificent start, Bonetto had begun to fall back down the field. He was first overtaken by Fangio and then Ascari and Farina followed their way past him. Bonetto fell to fifth and was now on the defensive to Villoresi's Ferrari.
Fangio was putting in another of his storming runs and had quickly taken the lead from his friend González on lap 10. Nonetheless, he failed to pull away as the younger Argentine stuck to Fangio's rear in his Ferrari. The battle for fifth meanwhile between Bonetto and Villoresi was beginning to intensify. On lap 15, Villoresi failed a manoeuvere on Bonetto at Copse and spun. By the time Villoresi rejoined, the final Alfa Romeo of Sanesi had taken sixth place.
Fangio was desperately pushing hard to maintain his lead, the Alfa Romeo clipping straw bales and marker drums as he fought to get the tightest line through every corner. González was nearly thrown off the chase when he went very deep into Stowe and ran off the circuit. However soon enough the Ferrari had caught Fangio and on lap 38 moved past and González took the lead of the race.
Fifty seconds behind this pair, Farina and Ascari were having an equally intense battle for third place. The Alfa Romeo's being outpaced by the Ferrari's for the first time in 1951. Ascari managing to set the fastest lap of the race in his pursuit of Farina, however the Italian champion was proving resolute in his defense. Bonetto was beginning to fade and both Sanesi and Villoresi had managed to make it past him. Now in eighth place, Parnell was sitting the best of the rest in his BRM, the local crowd enjoying the fact that he had managed to bring the new BRM into the top ten after starting at the back. Walker, too was looking to get a top ten finish, now recovering from his early race spin.
The early retirements of the race had seen the debutant Maserati of James retire on lap twenty three with radiator problems, Chiron then went out with brake problems and the Maserati's of Murray and Fotheringham-Parker retired on lap 45 and 46.
Half way through the race, the Alfa Romeo's were forced into the pits for fuel. Meanwhile the more fuel conservative Ferrari's were able to continue without delay. Following Fangio's pit-stop, González was left with a lead a full minute clear of Fangio. Ascari had also taken Farina's third spot when he had pitted. Sanesi's stop was more chaotic, a wheel was stuck to his car which had meant Bonetto and the BRM of Parnell were able to move ahead of him. Parnell was now remarkably only one position off the points placings, although he still sat several laps behind the leaders.
The Ferrari's were due in for their pit-stops approximately ten laps after the Alfa Romeo's. Ascari was the first Ferrari in, however during his pit-stop he broke his gearbox in the process. González during his own stop offered to give his car up, however Ascari refused allowing his younger teammate the opportunity to take Ferrari's first win.
González exited the pits, having lost only 23 seconds to Fangio who remained in second. In the final stages, Farina broke down with clutch failure allowing Villoresi to move into fourth position. Now up to fifth and looking to score points in its first race was the BRM of Parnell. However it was González, the man who had been on top all weekend who went on to take a dominant first race win for both himself and the Ferrari team. Enzo Ferrari had finally seen his team take the rostrum as a race winner in the Grand Prix World Championship. Fangio took second, the older Argentine proud of his young compatriot's success. Fangio had managed to increase his championship lead to six points following Farina's non-finish.
Farina still held second in the championship, however Villoresi who finished third in the race was only two points adrift. The race winner, González had risen to fourth in the standings following his British success. Ascari had fallen in the standings, his sportsmanship in failing to take González's car had meant he had fallen out of championship play.
After his blistering start, Bonetto led a quiet race to take fourth position ahead of an ecstatic Reg Parnell of BRM. At the car's home grand prix and debut race, the BRM had finished in the points. The team proving that even an underdeveloped model could still be competitive. The result putting success on what had been so far a troubling racing project.
|1||12||José Froilán González||Ferrari||90||2" 42' 18.2||1||8|
|2||2||Juan Manuel Fangio||Alfa Romeo||90||+ 51.0||2||6|
|3||10||Luigi Villoresi||Ferrari||88||+ 2 Laps||5||4|
|4||4||Felice Bonetto||Alfa Romeo||87||+ 3 Laps||7||3|
|5||6||Reg Parnell||BRM||85||+ 5 Laps||20||2|
|6||3||Consalvo Sanesi||Alfa Romeo||84||+ 6 Laps||6|
|7||7||Peter Walker||BRM||84||+ 6 Laps||19|
|8||9||Brian Shawe-Taylor||ERA||84||+ 6 Laps||12|
|9||14||Peter Whitehead||Ferrari||83||+ 7 Laps||8|
|10||22||Louis Rosier||Talbot-Lago-Talbot||83||+ 7 Laps||9|
|11||8||Bob Gerard||ERA||82||+ 8 Laps||10|
|12||18||Duncan Hamilton||Talbot-Lago-Talbot||81||+ 9 Laps||11|
|13||25||Johnny Claes||Talbot-Lago-Talbot||80||+ 10 Laps||14|
|Ret||1||Nino Farina||Alfa Romeo||75||Clutch||3||1|
|NC||5||Joe Kelly||Alta||75||Not Classified||18|
|Ret||17||Philip Fotheringham-Parker||Maserati||46||Oil Leak||16|
Standings after raceEdit
|1||Juan Manuel Fangio||21|
|4||José Froilán González||11|
Only the top five are displayed
|British Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Silverstone (1950 - Present), Aintree (1955 - 1962), Brands Hatch (1963 - 1986)|
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