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1951 French Grand Prix

The third round of the 1951 Formula 1 World Championship took place on July 3 in France at the Reims-Gueux circuit and received the honorary title of the European Grand Prix. The length of the track was 7.81 km, while the drivers had to complete 77 laps. The track was shaped like a triangle and consisted mainly of long straight and fast turns, forcing the engines to work at maximum speeds and imposing the most stringent requirements for the reliability of cars.

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After the unrepresentative Belgian stage, the French Grand Prix pleased the audience with a variety of drivers and cars. In Alfa Romeo, the trio of main drivers was joined by the bronze prizewinner of the last championship, Luigi Fagioli, whom the team had kept in reserve. In Ferrari, the third driver Piero Taruffi suddenly fell ill and in his place the Commendatore invited the Argentine Jose-Froilan Gonzalez, for whom it was a real gift of fate. Another surprise was the participation of Englishman Reg Parnell, the driver of the BRM team, at the wheel of a private Ferrari 375, who could not wait for the release of his team and persuaded the main sponsor Tony Vanderwell to finance him a race in France. Another last year's Ferrari 125 was brought to the start by private driver Peter Whitehead.

The Enrico Plate team returned to the World Championship after one missed stage with a pair of drivers Tulo de Graffenried and Harry Schell. The Swiss, who joined Alfa Romeo in the first race of the season and missed the previous stage in Belgium, this time still went to the start as part of his main team. The American replaced Louis Chiron in the team, who preferred to perform at Talbot-Lago.

Equipe Gordini, the only remaining French factory team in Formula 1, missed the first two stages, and the national Grand Prix became a suitable place for the team's debut in the 1951 season. In addition to the three main drivers Manzon, Trintignant and Simon, the son of the head of the team Aldo Gordini came to the start of the French Grand Prix.

The French stage was also the first in the current season for the Scuderia Milano team. This team used, as last year, Maserati cars with a Milano engine, and its only driver was Fangio's protege, a young Argentine Onofre Marimon.


The fastest cars in France, as in the previous two stages, were Alfa Romeo. Juan Manuel Fangio won his third consecutive pole position, beating the reigning world champion and championship leader Farina by 1.7 seconds. The best of the Ferraris this time was Ascari, who showed the 3rd time, only 0.7 seconds behind Farina. Next came Villoresi, who lost even less to his young partner – 0.4 sec and by the same amount ahead of Sanesi on the third Alfa Romeo. Ferrari newcomer Gonzalez showed a good 6th time, managing to get ahead of veteran Fagioli. The best of the drivers who did not belong to the Alfa Romeo and Ferrari clans was Louis Chiron at Talbot-Lago, who showed 8th time, but lagged behind Fangio by as much as 18 seconds. The last places in the top ten went to Reg Parnell in a private Ferrari and Etancelin in Talbot-Lago. The best representative of Maserati was debutant Marimon, who became the 15th. Equipe Gordini failed on home soil, while the fastest driver of the team was, oddly enough, debutant Aldo Gordini, who became the 17th.

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Start. Fangio starts well and retains the lead, but Farina loses positions one by one due to wheel slip and eventually rolls back to 6th place. Ascari, who also made a good start, follows on Fangio's heels, and even before the end of the first lap he manages to pass the Argentine and become the leader of the race! Also, a trio of Gordini drivers starts perfectly, who move from the end of the peleton to its middle.

Position after the 1st lap: Ascari, Fangio, Villoresi, Sanesi, Gonzalez, Farina, Parnell, Trintignant, Fagioli, Simon.

Lap 2: Like last year, the French circuit does not spare the engines, and already on Lap 2, the engine on Whitehead's Ferrari stops for good. After him, Graffenried's car with a broken transmission pulls over to the side of the road. Trintignant is also experiencing engine problems and drives into the pits, dropping to last place. Meanwhile, Fagioli passes Parnell and becomes 7th, and Chaboud overtakes Schell and Gordini at once.

Lap 3: Ascari is in the lead and Fangio can't get close to him. It looks like Alfa Romeo will have to give up the top step of the podium for the first time in the history of the World Championship! For debutant Onofre Marimon, the Grand Prix ends already on the 3rd lap: one of the engine pistons burned out. Behind Etancelin overtakes Giraud-Cabantous, and Claes – Mairess and Gordini.

Lap 4: Farina overtakes Gonzalez and takes 4th place.


Sanesi has problems with ignition, he drives into the pits and rolls back to the end of the peleton.


Manzon, who was in 10th place, drops out of the race with a burnt-out engine. Rosier makes a mistake and he is passed by Chiron, Etancelin and Giraud-Cabantous. Claes overtakes Schell.

Lap 5: Etancelin passes Chiron, and Rosier – Giraud-Cabantous. Claes and Schell continue to fight, and this time the American pulls ahead.

Lap 6: Mairesse passes Gordini.

Lap 7: Engine on Simon's Simca-Gordini explodes and the Frenchman is forced to get off. Thus, already at the beginning of the race, all Gordini cars have reliability problems, and they will not be able to repeat last year's success. Rosier, after his mistake, continues to win back positions and now passes Louis Chiron. The fight between Claes and Schell continues, and now the Belgian comes forward.

Lap 8: Rosier overtakes Etancelin and takes 8th place.

Lap 9: Ascari has trouble with gears shifting and he misses Fangio! It seems that Alfa Romeo will not concede the precedence to anyone this time either. Farina overtakes Villoresi on the same lap and takes 3rd place.

Lap 10: Now Fangio has problems: the ignition fails on the Alfa Romeo engine, and the Argentine lets Farina through into the lead! Ascari continues to struggle with the gearbox and drops to 5th place. Behind them, Chiron passes Etancelin, rising to 9th place.

Position after 10 laps: Farina, Villoresi, Fangio, Gonzalez, Ascari, Fagioli, Parnell, Rosier, Chiron, Etancelin.

Lap 11: Fangio drives into the pits to check the ignition and, after the stop, drives back to the track in 5th place. The gearbox on Ascari's Ferrari breaks down completely, the Italian drives into the pits and drops out of the race.

Lap 12: Trintignant leaves the race with a failed engine.

Lap 13: Giraud-Cabantous passes Etancelin and rises to 9th place.

Lap 14: Still unresolved ignition problems force Fangio to enter the pits again and leave the race.

Lap 16: Fagioli bypasses Gonzalez and becomes 3rd.

Lap 19: Schell's engine overheats, he drives into the pits to cool it down and loses two positions.

Position after 20 laps: Farina, Villoresi, Fagioli, Gonzalez, Parnell, Rosier, Chiron, Giraud-Cabantous, Etancelin, Chaboud.

Lap 21: Villoresi makes a mistake and misses Fagioli and Gonzalez.

Lap 22: Gonzalez attacks Fagioli and passes him, coming out in 2nd place.


Lap 25: Fagioli pulls into a scheduled pit stop. In the boxes, he is informed that he must give his car to Fangio who will continue the fight. The Italian is furious with this decision, but is forced to comply, and the Argentine rushes back to the track, leaving pits in 4th place behind Villoresi. Luigi stays in the pits and waits for Fangio's old car to be repaired. The repair takes more than 20 minutes and the Italian returns to the track last, 9 laps from the leader.

Meanwhile, Chiron overtakes Rosier, and Schell finally goes down due to overheating of the engine.

Lap 27: Race leader Farina also enters the scheduled pit stop and, having an advantage of more than a minute over Gonzalez, after leaving the pits, retains the lead in the race.

Lap 28: Aldo Gordini pulls into the pits due to engine problems, it's a retirement.

Lap 29: Rosier overtakes Chiron and regains 6th place.

Position after 30 laps: Farina, Gonzalez, Villoresi, Fangio, Parnell, Rosier, Chiron, Giraud-Cabantous, Etancelin, Chaboud.

Lap 32: Fangio shows the fastest lap in the race with a time of 2'27.8.

Lap 34: Villoresi drives into the pits for refueling and goes to the track 4th, missing Fangio.

Lap 37: Gonzalez also makes a pit stop, and Ferrari repeats Alfa Romeo's strategy, releasing Ascari instead, who leaves the pits in 3rd place, behind Fangio. Gonzalez had an impressive debut race for Ferrari and was very sad about such a completion.


In the middle of the peleton, another engine cannot withstand the heat of the race, and this time Etancelin retires.

Lap 39: Claes overtakes Chaboud.

Position after 40 laps: Farina, Fangio, Ascari, Villoresi, Parnell, Rosier, Chiron, Giraud-Cabantous, Claes, Chaboud.

Lap 41: Chiron passes Rosier and rises to 6th place.

Lap 43: Chaboud overtakes Claes.

Lap 44: Fangio is on the second scheduled pit stop, and he lets Ascari go ahead. Rosier is out of the race due to a broken rear axle.

Lap 45: A lap before the second scheduled pit stop, the front left tire explodes on Farina's car! The Italian masterfully catches the car and then has to drive slowly to the pits. Annoyed by this incident, Farina loses concentration, drives past the Alfa Romeo garage and stops 80 meters away from it. The team's mechanics have to push the Italian's car back, and as a result, Farina loses 2 minutes in the pits and goes on the track only 3rd, behind Ascari and Fangio. Ferrari is leading the race again!

Lap 51: The leading Ascari starts having problems with the brakes, and he drives into the pits to change the wheels. Fangio becomes the leader of the race, and he picks up the pace as he faces another pit stop.

Lap 55: Claes, who had a good race, goes off the road and crashes into a house located next to the track. Fortunately, he comes out of this accident unharmed.

Position after 60 laps: Fangio, Ascari, Farina, Villoresi, Parnell, Chiron, Giraud-Cabantous, Chaboud, Mairesse.

Lap 62: Fangio, having created a sufficient gap from Ascari, makes the last pit stop and remains the leader of the race!

Lap 64: There are ignition interruptions on Farina's Alfa Romeo, and the Italian loses speed.


At the end of the lap, Farina drives into the pits for a check and the last refueling and drops to 4th place, letting through Villoresi.

Lap 70: Parnell catches up and easily passes Farina, who has completely lost speed, and becomes 4th.

Last lap: Fangio crosses the finish line first, wins the French Grand Prix and becomes the leader of the championship again! Fagioli shares the victory with him, whose car the Argentine took during the race. The second comes Ascari, who remains practically without brakes by the end of the race, and he also shares his success with Gonzalez, who lent him his car. Villoresi takes 3rd place and gets on the podium for the second time in a row, but in this race he did not shine with speed and lost to the winner for more than 3 laps. The 4th place is taken by Parnell, who spent the race in his private Ferrari calmly and confidently. Farina, on whom almost all possible troubles have fallen in this race, becomes only 5th and gets the last two points. Also, it is impossible not to note the perseverance of Sanesi, who had to push his stalled car as much as 1.5 km to the finish line and deservedly received stormy applause from the audience for this.

Fangio wins the 1951 French Grand Prix

P.S. After the race, Fagioli and Gonzalez, who sacrificed their cars in favor of their teammates, had a different fate. The Italian, who has always opposed the role of second driver, openly expressed his dissatisfaction, despite the fact that thanks to Fangio he won his first victory in Formula 1. Realizing that the best times as a driver had passed for him, Fagioli decided after this race that he had had enough of Grand Prix and announced his decision to leave Formula 1, never going to the start of the Grand Prix again.

But for the young Gonzalez, everything was just beginning. The Argentine, who got a chance to compete for Ferrari, tried his best and had a great time at his first Grand Prix in a scarlet car, rising to 2nd place during the race. But when the order to give up the car to Ascari sounded in the boxes, Jose Froilan's heart sank. Even after climbing the podium with Ascari, Gonzalez was not particularly happy, being sure that his career at Ferrari was over. But in the end, everything happened exactly the opposite. The Commendatore was greatly impressed by the performance of Jose Froilan and offered him a place in his team until the end of the season, which served as the basis for the future success of the Argentine.

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Interesting facts:

- Luigi Fagioli's first victory and last Grand Prix;

- Jose Froilan Gonzalez's first podium.

Driver standings

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Alternative GP results

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