The final race of the 1951 Formula One season would take place at the Pedralbes Circuit in Barcelona, Spain. The circuit had previously been used as the site of the non-championship Penya Rhin Grand Prix in 1946, 1948 and 1950. Luigi Villoresi had won the 1948 event whilst the previous year, Alberto Ascari started the Ferrari 375 success with a win at the event. The success of the previous year's Penya Rhin Grand Prix had impressed the CSI enough to allow it to play host to the Spanish Grand Prix for the 1951 world championship.
A year on from the Ferrari 375 debut, Alberto Ascari was hoping to take his first world championship in the 1951 finale. However he still sat two points adrift to Juan Manuel Fangio's 27 point total. Fangio, for the second year running was in for a chance at the world title at the last race. He had lost the 1950 title to teammate, Giuseppe Farina due to poor reliability throughout the season, however in 1951 Fangio was determined not to let the title slip through his grasp. The Ferrari's may have been drawn even, however Alfa Romeo's new leader always had a little extra to contend with.
For the season's last race, Alfa Romeo arrived with its traditional line-up of Juan Manuel Fangio, Giuseppe Farina, Felice Bonetto and Emmanuel de Graffenried. Ferrari too would field their usual line-up of Alberto Ascari, José Froilán González, Luigi Villoresi and Piero Taruffi. Peter Whitehead planned to enter his old Ferrari 125 as usual, however he instead withdrew from the event.
The BRM team had planned to enter the final race of the season with a lone car for Reg Parnell. However following their disastrous reliability at Monza which had prevented their cars from even starting, the team decided to withdraw from the event.
Amongst the Talbot-Lago privateers, Louis Rosier and Louis Chiron were once again participating for Ecurie Rosier. The other regular privateers for the French manufacturer included Yves Giraud-Cabantous, Philippe Étancelin, Johnny Claes and Georges Grignard.
Scuderia Milano were due to return with their modified Maserati's, the team employing two Spanish racers to keep the local crowd entertained, Francisco Godia-Sales and Juan Jover Sañés would be the Spanish representation on the field. Both drivers would be starting their first grand prix. Antonio Branca and Chico Landi were both due to enter as Maserati privateers, however they both withdrew their entry. In the last race of the season, Prince Bira of Siam would finally make his first world championship appearance of the season. After a failed first appearance for OSCA with Franco Rol in Monza, Prince Bira decided to enter the OSCA engined Maserati for the team for the final race of the season.
All the paddocks eyes lay keenly on the progress of Fangio and Ascari, the two championship rivals. Ascari had the advantage of racing and winning here the previous season whilst Fangio had never attended the circuit before. Ascari was consistently the quickest throughout practice, the Ferrari driver taking pole position ahead of the race. Fangio was left feeling concerned, he was second on the grid but two seconds adrift of Ascari's pole time. In third, the second Ferrari of González was a further two seconds adrift of Fangio. Farina was in third, eight tenths behind González's best time. Villoresi's Ferrari sat ahead of the Alfa Romeo of De Graffenried whilst the final works Ferrari's and Alfa Romeo's of Taruffi and Bonetto were seventh and eighth.
Bonetto had struggled throughout the session and was only two seconds faster than the Simca-Gordini's that led the midfield, Manzon sitting ahead of teammates Simon and Trintignant on the grid. Most of the Talbot-Lago contingent followed behind the Simca-Gordini's, Chiron led Étancelin, Giraud-Cabantous, Claes and Grignard on the grid. Rosier sat twentieth and last on the grid due to consistent mechanical troubles throughout practice.
The two local heroes of Francisco Godia-Sales and Juan Jover Sañés were eighteenth and nineteenth, Bira simply proved the failure of the Maserati-OSCA hybrid, his car only nineteenth on the grid, ahead of only the troubled Rosier.
An expectant crowd of 250 000 gathered to the exciting finale of the 1951 Formula One season. The big battle of the day would be once again between Alfa Romeo and Ferrari, and most importantly, Juan Manuel Fangio and Alberto Ascari for the world championship. It was a disappointment to see, one of the home favourites of Juan Jover Sañés retire his Maserati before the start. The car was encountering consistent engine troubles which forced the Spaniard to withdraw. Only 19 cars would therefore take the start due to the pre-race retirement of Sañés.
The race started well for Ferrari, Ascari immediately took the lead whilst González managed to move into second position. Fangio had a poor start and had dropped down to fourth, teammate Farina also having made it past him on the start line. However thereafter the race began to return to the favour of Fangio, on the second lap González spun, dropping behind Farina, Fangio, Bonetto and Villoresi. On the third lap, Fangio moved past his teammate Farina whilst on the fourth, race leader Ascari was passed by Fangio's Alfa Romeo. However this was not completely out of plan for Ferrari. The Ferrari 375 with its better fuel economy was expecting to go the whole race without stopping. The Alfa Romeo's whilst light on fuel were expected to make a pit-stop during the race.
However despite this, Ferrari began to fall off the pace. Before the race, the team had fitted new smaller diameter wheels. However the tyres on these smaller wheels were struggling to cope with the heavy loading that was being presented on the Pedralbes Circuit. The Ferrari's began to encounter severe tyre degradation, all their cars would be required to make a pit-stop. Taruffi pitted on lap 6, Villoresi on lap 8, Ascari on lap 9 and González on lap 14.
There were a few early retirements, Prince Bira's lone championship appearance in the season lasted a single lap before his Maserati-OSCA broke down. Chiron also retired with ignition troubles whilst Giraud-Cabantous also went out following an accident which saw him hit a stray dog. Grignard would then go out of the race on lap 23 with engine trouble.
At the front, Alfa Romeo were now well in control of the race with their four cars occupying the top four following the Ferrari pit-stops. Despite his mishaps, Ascari was determined to take the championship, he quickly made his way past De Graffenried and Bonetto to move into third place. However whilst chasing Fangio and Farina, Ascari slid off the circuit and into the sand. The car was undamaged, however a quick precautionary pit-stop saw him drop back behind Bonetto, De Graffenried, González and Villoresi. De Graffenried, would not maintain his position, steam had began to pour from his bonnet prompting a pit-stop. The Alfa Romeo had its water refuelled and he rejoined the circuit in eighth place.
The lead of the midfield would be contested between Manzon, Trintignant and Simon for ninth place. The three Simca-Gordini's were battling hard, however both Simon and Trintignant would retire with engine troubles. Manzon would then too encounter engine troubles, however the lone Simca-Gordini was determined to make it to the end.
Following the troubles of Ascari, González had since taken up the Ferrari charge, his car moving past Bonetto to move into third place. However the two leading Alfa Romeo's of Fangio and Farina, seemed to be in continued control of the race. On lap 29, Fangio came into the pits for his scheduled pit-stop for fuel. He rejoined the race in second, still ahead of González and remained in prime position to take the world title.
Taruffi had been having a terrible race for Ferrari, he was struggling in only eighth position and then on lap 30, his wheel dislocated from the car forcing him to retire from the race. Claes was the next driver to retire on lap 37, his car plowed straight through some straw barrels lining the circuit which forced him to pull into the pits to retire.
The Ferrari's continued to encounter troubles, Villoresi was driving slowly with an engine misfire whilst Ascari was forced to make a second pit-stop due to tyre troubles. His championship hopes were continuing to slip as his rival, Fangio, continued to dominate seemingly without problem. González was still charging and managed to move past Farina into second at the second round of Alfa Romeo pit stops.
It was small consolation for Ferrari, Fangio was dominating, he had set a new lap record for the circuit and would go on to win his third championship win of the season and his first world title, 54 seconds ahead of González. Farina, handing over the title of reigning world champion to Fangio was in third place, the only un-lapped runner remaining in the race. Ascari had fought his way up to fourth position, however it was not enough to be crowned world champion after a dismal race. Bonetto rounded out the top five ahead of De Graffenried who had battled water cooling problems throughout the race.
Rosier who had started last on the grid had done well to fight his way back up to seventh position in the race. Étancelin was eighth ahead of Manzon, who remarkably made it to the finish despite his engine problems. In last place, came the lone Maserati of Godia-Sales. The sole Spaniard was determined to see the finish of the race, his car needing multiple pit-stops for repairs putting him ten laps adrift of the leaders.
- Paco Godia's first Formula One Grand Prix event
- Georges Grignard's first Formula One Grand Prix event
Standings after raceEdit
|1||Juan Manuel Fangio||31|
|3||José Froilán González||24|
Only the top five are displayed
|Spanish Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Pedralbes (1951, 1954), Jarama & Montjuïc (1967 - 1975), Jarama (1976 - 1981), Jerez (1986 - 1990), Catalunya (1991 - Present)|
|Races||1951 • 1952–1953 • 1954 • 1955–1967 • 1968 • 1969 • 1970 • 1971 • 1972 • 1973 • 1974 • 1975 • 1976 • 1977 • 1978 • 1979 • 1980 • 1981 • 1982–1987 • 1986 • 1987 • 1988 • 1989 • 1990 • 1991 • 1992 • 1993 • 1994 • 1995 • 1996 • 1997 • 1998 • 1999 • 2000 • 2001 • 2002 • 2003 • 2004 • 2005 • 2006 • 2007 • 2008 • 2009 • 2010 • 2011 • 2012 • 2013 • 2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 2018|
|Non-Championship Races||1923 • 1924–1925 • 1926 • 1927 • 1928–1929 • 1930 • 1931–1932 • 1933 • 1934 • 1935 • 1936–1966 • 1967 • 1968–1979 • 1980|
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