The Monza circuit would host the penultimate round of the world championship and would host the great showdown on home turf of the great Italian manufacturers, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari. In recent years Alfa Romeo have dominated grand prix racing, however over the course of 1951, the Ferrari's ran by the former Alfa Romeo racing leader, Enzo Ferrari, were quickly challenging Alfa Romeo's mantle as the top grand prix racing team. Nonetheless, in the recent non-championship race for the Bari Grand Prix, saw the Alfa Romeo championship leader, Juan Manuel Fangio, take victory after a double-win streak in the championship for Ferrari in Britain and Germany.
Alfa Romeo fielded four drivers for their home event. Fangio looked set to take his first title for Alfa Romeo whilst the reigning champion, Giuseppe Farina had still a faint hope of reclaiming his title distanced after an unreliable season. Felice Bonetto and Consalvo Sanesi were called in to occupy the third and fourth Alfa Romeo cars. There were rumours that the team's designer, Gioacchino Colombo was developing a Tipo 160 model to succeed the 159 ahead of 1952 to stay ahead in the development race.
In their efforts to beat Alfa Romeo on home turf, Ferrari had prepared more cars for both their works and privateer drivers than they had ever done before. For the first time, Ferrari's made the majority of the field with the team having seven cars in Monza. Ferrari had arrived with their usual four man line-up of Ascari, Luigi Villoresi, José Froilán González and Piero Taruffi. The team had also planned to enter young Gianni Marzotto, a Ferrari driver from their sportscar program, however the team withdrew his entry. Peter Whitehead, Ferrari's regular privateer was back competing in his old 125 model. Rudolf Fischer was back entering his Ferrari 212 sportscar whilst Chico Landi, Brazil's best driver had planned his first grand prix entry to start in a new privately owned 375 Ferrari model. Nonetheless for Monza, the Alfa Romeo drivers would receive the all-new updated 159M chassis, a move they hoped would end the threats to their authority.
BRM had managed to save their public face after their points finish at Silverstone, the team suffering disastrously slow development of their P15 challenger. Nonetheless, the British manufacturer would make their second world championship appearance at Monza. Reg Parnell, who had powered BRM to points on their race debut was again representing the squad alongside the team's test driver, Ken Richardson.
Simca-Gordini were becoming the leading French manufacturer in grand prix racing. The team as usual bringing their standard line-up of Robert Manzon, Maurice Trintignant and André Simon. The team were now consistently starting to break into the top ten finishers in the field, providing their cars actually made it to the finish.
The OSCA manufacturer would at long last make its debut at Monza. Following their departure from the Maserati factory in 1947, the surviving Maserati brothers of Bindo, Ettore and Ernesto had founded the OSCA company as rivals to Maserati. At the end of 1950, the team had employed many of the now disbanded works Maserati team personnel for their OSCA Formula One venture of 1951. The team had employed Prince Bira of Siam and Franco Rol, both former Maserati drivers to spearhead the project. Despite a victory for an OSCA engined Maserati piloted by Bira earlier in the season at the Goodwood Trophy, the project had been having little success. It was surprising to see Bira resign from the project, similarly to the way he had done with the BRM project earlier in the year on the verge of the team's debut. Franco Rol, participating in his first grand prix of the season would be the lone driver representing the OSCA squad on their debut.
Notably there was not a single Maserati taking the start of the Italian Grand Prix, the remaining cars consisting of the private Talbot-Lago entries. Louis Rosier and Louis Chiron represented Ecurie Rosier, whilst Claes, Levegh, Giraud-Cabantous and Swaters were the final representives of the Talbot-Lago marque.
The new Alfa Romeo 159M was working exceptionally well, the Alfa Romeo's were back on top following qualifying. Fangio took another pole position, eight tenths faster than teammate Farina's best time in second place. Ascari, the fastest Ferrari was frustrated to be two seconds off the pace to Fangio's best practice lap time. The team's third car of Sanesi, notably had a major mishap in a practice pit-stop. Sanesi was burned when fuel was spilled over him during the stop. The incident had ruled Sanesi out of the race due to the significance of the burns he received in practice. Sanesi uncomfortable with the dangers of racing cars, immediately announced his retirement. For Saturday practice, Alfa Romeo had appealed to Emmanuel de Graffenried who had previously driven for the team in Bremgarten. De Graffenried took Sanesi's car for the remainder of the weekend in which De Graffenried put his Alfa Romeo seventh on the grid, one place behind teammate Bonetto.
Ferrari seemed to be losing out to the qualifying pace of the Alfa Romeo's. Their lead driver, Ascari who sat third on the grid was still a second off the best time set by polesitter Fangio. Behind Ascari on the grid, the remaining works Ferrari's of González, Villoresi and Taruffi followed were fourth, fifth and sixth.
Reg Parnell was doing an excellent job to split the slowest Alfa Romeo's to put his BRM eighth on the grid. Richardson in the second BRM was also doing well in tenth position. Richardson, primarily a test driver and rarely a racer had performed well in his first grand prix qualifying. However, the race officials soon discovered that Richardson had not acquired the proper racing license to race in Formula One and was thereafter excluded from the grand prix. Raymond Mays threatened to withdraw his team from the race if Richardson was not reinstated, however it was to no avail. After failing to acquire the services of Leslie Johnson, the team then appealed to the semi-retired Hans Stuck, a successful 1930's Auto Union driver to take over the second car. Stuck who originally was attending the race as a spectator and hadn't raced in grand prix since 1939 accepted the challenge.
Behind the BRM's were the little Simca-Gordini cars. The team throughout the course of the season had established themselves ahead of Talbot-Lago, Simon, Trintignant and Manzon were eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth. Giraud-Cabantous and Rosier were the quickest Talbot-Lago cars. Chico Landi was a disappointment, he could only a manage sixteenth despite piloting a Ferrari 375.
Chiron was seventeenth ahead of former teammate, Franco Rol, who could only manage eighteenth on the grid with the new OSCA 4500G. Whitehead's Ferrari 125 was beginning to show its age with the Brit only managing nineteenth. Levegh, Claes and Swaters were the final cars to round out the grid.
Prior to the start of the race, BRM were encountering more problems. Both the cars of their stand-in driver, Hans Stuck and their lead driver, Reg Parnell had developed gearbox problems in the morning before the race. It was an ironic turn of events, due to gearbox problems, the BRM team would be forced to withdraw both its entries from the race. Only a day earlier, team manager, Raymond Mays was threatening to withdraw both his cars following the denial of Richardson's race entry. Despite a good showing in qualifying, the BRM's would once again be hampered by their poor reliability.
The crowd instead turned its attention to the battle for dominance among the Italian giants, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari on home turf. The start saw Alfa Romeo take the early advantage, Fangio getting a clean get-away ahead of Farina's second Alfa Romeo. Ascari's Ferrari did not make the best of starts, dropping behind teammate González going into the first corner. However, it was immediately evident that Ascari had the pace. By the end of the third lap, Ascari had taken the lead after steadily progressing past González, Farina and Fangio ahead of him.
Chico Landi in the private Ferrari 375 had an unsuccessful debut, his car failing to complete a single lap. A lap later and both Whitehead's old 125 Ferrari and the fourth Alfa Romeo of De Graffenried had also retired. Claes was also an early retirement on lap four with an oil pump failure.
On lap five, Farina began to drop back due to an engine misfire. After dropping to last place, Farina decided to come into the pits for repairs on lap eight. However the mechanics found a terminal oil system problem, forcing the world champion out of the race.
Ascari was left leading whilst Fangio, once again being surrounded by Ferrari's gave chase in second place. He retook the lead, however on lap 13 he developed a puncture which forced him to drop behind Ascari, González, Villoresi and Bonetto. Fangio pulled into the pits for new wheels as did Taruffi's Ferrari. Taruffi had also been unfortunate to receive a puncture at the same time as Fangio, the Ferrari's tyre had disintegrated to the point there was barely any rubber left on the wheel rim when he returned to the pits.
Fangio had rejoined the race in fifth place, this quickly became fourth however as Villoresi also began to encounter tyre troubles and headed for the pits. Fangio, now pushing hard had made his way past Bonetto's Alfa Romeo, now being able to give chase to the leading Ferrari's of Ascari and González who had now opened a big lead in the race.
The high-speed circuit continued to dwindle the field, cars continually dropped out with mechanical trouble. The Talbot-Lago's of Claes, Swaters, Levegh and Chiron were all out of the race before the tenth lap. Manzon and Trintignant's Simca-Gordini's retired at the same time on lap 29 with engine troubles.
Fangio was brought into the pits for a fuel stop on lap 27, his progress on retaking the lead being temporarily halted. Two laps later, Bonetto was also into the pits for fuel. Bonetto exited the car to allow Farina, one of the lead drivers to rejoin the race. Farina rejoined the race in fourth place, behind Fangio and the Ferrari's of Ascari and González. Villoresi meanwhile was unlucky to sustain a second puncture, forcing him into the pits for a second time.
A few laps after the Alfa Romeo's, the lead Ferrari's of Ascari and González made their pit-stops. Luckily for them, their stops went without drama and rejoined the track ahead of Fangio who was charging once again. However Fangio's charge would be halted when he began to suffer an engine misfire. On lap 39, the misfire became terminal and the lead Alfa Romeo was forced to retire.
This meant that Farina who was driving Bonetto's car became Alfa Romeo's last hope in the race. On lap 40, Farina was 40 seconds behind González in second place. However after only fifteen laps, Farina after a frantic charge had closed to within seven seconds of González. Farina was then hampered during his second pit-stop when a wheel failed to attach correctly. However despite this mishap, Farina charged out of the pits and continued to give chase to González and Ascari ahead of him.
However on lap 70, only ten laps from the end, Farina's cut unexpectedly suffered an engine cut whilst exiting the Parabolica. He coasted into the pits where the mechanics quickly discovered a cracked fuel tank. The mechanics filled his cars fuel tank, hoping the car would not lose that much fuel to make it to the finish. Farina returned to the track, however his brilliant charge on the Ferrari's was brought to an end.
Ascari meanwhile was cruising out front, by the finish he had extended the gap to González by 24.6 seconds, taking a comfortable second victory of the season. The Ferrari's would therefore prove triumphant on home turf, the Alfa Romeo's had been defeated, only the share car of Farina and Bonetto managed to limp home in third place. The final Ferrari's of Villoresi and Taruffi rounded out the points following their own race troubles.
Simon brought his Simca-Gordini home in sixth, the little Simca-Gordini squad had once again defeated their established Talbot-Lago rivals. Rosier and Giraud-Cabantous were the sole Talbot-Lago's to make it to the finish in seventh and eighth place. The final classfied finisher was the OSCA of Franco Rol. Rol had completed the OSCA's first race, 13 laps adrift of the leaders. It had been an unsuccessful debut for the team's Formula One project which had encountered troubles all year.
- Nino Farina (50 laps) and Felice Bonetto (29 laps) shared a car.
- Nino Farina earned an additional point for setting the fastest lap.
Standings after raceEdit
|1||Juan Manuel Fangio||27|
|3||José Froilán González||21|
Only the top five are displayed
|Italian Grand Prix|
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