top of page

1953 Argentine Grand Prix

The first round of the 1953 World Championship took place on 18 January in Argentina at the new circuit in Buenos Aires, becoming the first ever World Championship Grand Prix to be held in South America. The implementation of the Grand Prix became possible thanks to the efforts of the President of Argentina, Juan Peron, who loved motorsport and initiated the construction of a new circuit. The track was built in 1951 and was unique in that it had a whole set of configurations created with the help of numerous branches. In 1952, the Juan Perón Trophy race was held in the №4 configuration, while the 1953 Argentine Grand Prix saw the first use of the №2 configuration, which was 3.91 km long.


The favorite for the first Grand Prix of the season was, of course, Scuderia Ferrari, which crushed all rivals last year by winning every World Championship Grand Prix. In Argentina, the team was represented by four main drivers: 1952 world champion Alberto Ascari, 1950 world champion Nino Farina, regular team driver Luigi Villoresi, and team rookie Mike Hawthorn, who all got at their disposal Ferrari 500 cars that dominated last season.

However, all the attention of the public was riveted to another Italian team, Maserati, which was represented by Argentine national hero Juan Manuel Fangio and his friend and protégé Jose-Froilan Gonzalez.

In addition to the two Argentines, the Modena team also included the Italian Felice Bonetto, and another well-known Argentine driver Oscar Galvez, who was Fangio's longtime rival in road racing, but never competed abroad.

The Gordini team was represented by the unchanging trio of French racers Manzon-Behra-Trintignant, who competed in last year's Gordini T16 cars. In addition, the team invited local drivers Carlos Menditeguy and Pablo Birger for this one race, the latter getting an outdated Simca-Gordini T15 chassis.

Cooper was the last team to take part in the Argentine Grand Prix, which was their debut in the World Championship as a factory team. Last year, Cooper cars performed well in the hands of private drivers, especially Mike Hawthorn, so this season the team decided to drive under its own name, represented by Alan Brown, John Barber and guest local driver Adolfo Schwelm-Cruz.


The first qualifying of the season took place in rainy conditions and showed Ferrari still outperforming their rivals, allowing Alberto Ascari to claim another pole position with a time of 1'55.4. However, Maserati confirmed its form from the last race of last season, and Fangio managed to take second place on the starting field, just 0.7 seconds back, even with two spins and transmission problems. Third, behind Ascari a little more than a second, was Villoresi, who was ahead by 0.6 seconds of another Ferrari of Farina. José-Froilan Gonzalez set a good 5th time in the second Maserati, but he was already three seconds short of pole position, while Ferrari rookie Hawthorne lost to all his teammates in his first qualification for Ferrari and took 6th place. They were followed by the two Gordini of Trintignant and Manzon, who were ahead of local hero Galvez in another Maserati. The top ten was closed by another Argentine Carlos Menditeguy, who managed to get ahead of his teammate Jean Behra, who took only 11th place. For Cooper, the first qualification turned out to be a complete failure, as the team's cars were the slowest on the track. However, the main loser of the qualification was Bonetto, who, due to problems with the transmission, took the penultimate place on the starting field.



On the day of the race, Argentine President Juan Peron, who was actively involved in the Grand Prix and dreamed of making this day unforgettable, announced that entry for all spectators would be free, which led to a massive influx of the public. According to preliminary estimates, from 300 to 400 thousand people came to watch the race, who settled down in all corners of the track, even in the most dangerous places. This caused serious concern on the part of the drivers, but the organizers of the Grand Prix, under the watchful eye of the president, simply brushed aside the racers and did not listen to their opinion.


Start. Ascari gets off to a good start and takes the lead in the race. Even better starts Villoresi, who tries to immediately overtake Ascari in the first turn, but makes a mistake and leaves the track, rolling back to 6th place. Gonzalez also starts well and goes to 2nd place, ahead of Fangio, but the best start is once again managed by Bonetto, who like a rocket rushes past his rivals and breaks from penultimate place to 4th! Mike Hawthorn, on the contrary, fails the start and ends up only in 13th place.

Position after lap 1: Ascari, Gonzalez, Fangio, Bonetto, Farina, Villoresi, Menditeguy, Manzon, Trintignant, Brown.
Lap 2: Ascari starts to break away from second Gonzalez, and Italian teammate Farina attacks and passes Bonetto, taking 4th place.


Lap 3: Fangio passes Gonzalez to 2nd while Villoresi drives into the pits to check the car and falls back to 13th. On the same lap, Galvez overtakes Behra and Brown and goes to 9th place, while Brown is also overtaken by Hawthorn.
Lap 4: Hawthorn, after a bad start, starts to break through to the top, overtaking Galvez and Behra. Caught behind the Englishman Villoresi also does not sit idly by and passes Brown.
Lap 5: Ascari is the fastest and already 7 seconds ahead of second-placed Fangio.


Meanwhile, Villoresi overtakes Behra and moves up another position.
Lap 6: Bonetto misses two Gordini of Menditeguy and Manzon and falls to 7th place. Trintignant has trouble with his Gordini and the Frenchman makes a long pit stop, dropping to last place. Behind Birger passes Barber.
Lap 8: Manzon attacks his temporary partner Menditeguy and goes to 5th place.


Villoresi also continues to break through, leaving Galvez behind this time.
Lap 9: Hawthorn wins back one more position, overtaking Bonetto, and is already 7th.
Lap 10: Farina, who has been driving behind Gonzalez for a long time, goes on the attack and passes the Argentine, taking 3rd place. Behind Villoresi overtakes Bonetto and gets behind Hawthorn, and now two Ferraris, breaking through from the back rows, follow each other.
Position after 10 laps: Ascari, Fangio, Farina, Gonzalez, Manzon, Menditeguy, Hawthorn, Villoresi, Bonetto, Galvez.
Lap 11: Hawthorn and Villoresi pass Menditeguy one after the other, and the Argentine drops to 8th. Behind, Brown makes a mistake and Schwelm-Cruz and Birger pass him at once, and Trintignant wins back one position, overtaking Barber.
Lap 13: Villoresi clearly does not intend to stay behind Hawthorn, he goes on the attack on the Englishman and passes him! Thus, Gi-Gi is already in 6th place.


Lap 16: Trintignant wins another position, leaving Brown behind.
Lap 19: Birger passes Schwelm-Cruz and becomes 12th.
Lap 20: Galvez and Bonetto fight each other on two Maseratis and the Argentine takes the lead.
Lap 21: The first retirement of the race shows that the fears of the drivers were not in vain: Schwelm-Cruz's Cooper loses a wheel that flies straight into the ranks of the spectators, miraculously without hitting anyone.


Meanwhile, some spectators, in search of a better view, completely forget about the danger and start running across the track right in front of the speeding cars!
Lap 22: Birger retires with a broken differential.
Lap 24: The fight between Galvez and Bonetto continues, and now the Italian is ahead.


Lap 25: Galvez attacks "Pirate" again and passes him.


Meanwhile, Menditeguy is forced to retire due to gearbox problems.
Lap 26: A piece of paper flying from the stands sticks to the radiator grill of Gonzalez's Maserati, and the engine in the Argentine's car starts to overheat. José-Froilan makes a short stop in the pits to eliminate interference, but Manzon manages to rush past, who comes out on 4th place. On the same lap, Barber passes Brown.
Suddenly, the audience in the stands burst into applause. What is it, did Fangio take the lead? No, this is one of the spectators who ran out onto the track, tore off his shirt and waves it in front of Hawthorn's passing car, posing as a matador! The Englishman manages to get away from the collision, but this show leaves the audience in complete delight!
Lap 28: Barber overtakes Trintignant and moves up another position.
Position after 30 laps: Ascari, Fangio, Farina, Manzon, Gonzalez, Villoresi, Hawthorn, Galvez, Bonetto, Behra.
Lap 32: Desperate antics of the spectators eventually end in tragedy. At the Curva Nor Este corner, a boy once again runs across the track right in front of Farina's car. The Italian pulls the car sharply to the side, trying to drive around an unexpected obstacle, but loses control of the car, and the Ferrari flies off the track right into the midst of spectators! Ten people die on the spot, about forty more are injured, and panic begins. A terrified boy runs from the scene of the accident to the other side of the track, but immediately gets under the wheels of Alan Brown's Cooper. In the center of all this chaos, Farina hardly gets out of the wrecked Ferrari, silently looks around the bodies lying on the ground, shakes his head and goes to the pits, limping . Ambulances begin to arrive at the scene of the accident.

Meanwhile, the race continues, no matter what. After Farina's accident, Manzon takes third place. His teammate Trintignan manages to get ahead of Barber, and Felice Bonetto drives into the pits in a smoke-shrouded Maserati. The mechanics change the spark plugs in the engine, but the Italian loses almost three laps on this.
Lap 33: Despite changing the spark plugs, Bonetto is still out of the race, but this time due to a transmission failure.
Lap 37: Crowd favorite Juan Manuel Fangio pulls over with broken transmission! The Argentine was in second place, but he was still waiting for a pit stop, to which he never reached. Thus Manzon takes the second place! Meanwhile, Fangio's teammate Gonzalez stops in the pits for refueling on the same lap, losing three positions. Behind Trintignant passes Brown.
Lap 40: Galvez is also in the pits and he misses Gonzales for 5th.
Position after 40 laps: Ascari, Manzon, Villoresi, Hawthorn, Gonzalez, Galvez, Behra, Trintignant, Brown, Barber.
Lap 44: Manzon has badly worn rear tires and the Frenchman drives into the pits to change wheels. Thus, Robert gives up 2nd place to Villoresi and returns to the track in 6th place.
Lap 51: Trintignant pulls into the pits and passes the car to Harry Schell.
Lap 55: Gonzalez catches up with Hawthorn in a light car and passes him to 3rd! However, the Englishman does not seem to be going to give in so easily.
Lap 61: After several laps of pursuit, Hawthorn manages to find a loophole in the Gonzalez defense and takes the lead again!
Lap 63: Gonzalez's Maserati tanks are nearly empty, allowing the Argentinian to attack Hawthorn again and pass him!


On the same lap, Villoresi enters the pits to change wheels, and thus José-Froilan is already in second place! However, the Argentine will soon wait for another refueling.
Lap 65: Ascari also enters the pits to change wheels, but his advantage is so great that he doesn't even lose the lead!


Lap 68: Manzon again, like last year in Germany, loses one of the wheels! Fortunately, the Frenchman manages to avoid the accident again, but the race is over for him. Having reached the pits, the Frenchman silently gets out of the car and goes to the garage.


Lap 74: Gonzalez pulls in for a second refueling and drops to 3rd behind Villoresi.
Last lap: Ascari, having spent the whole race all alone, wins another magnificent victory and already at the first Grand Prix he becomes the leader of the championship! Moreover, by leading from start to finish and showing the best lap, Alberto receives the Grand Slam, already the third in his career! Second place goes to Villoresi, who had to work hard in this race, breaking through from the back rows. The best of the Argentines, Gonzalez, takes the last place on the podium and receives a standing ovation from the audience in his home Grand Prix. Hawthorn, in his first race for Ferrari, manages to finish in 4th place despite a disastrous start. The last place in the points goes to another Argentine Galvez, for whom this Grand Prix was his debut. However, all these achievements, of course, fade against the background of the death of eleven spectators, for whom this day was the last in their lives.


Interesting facts:

- Alberto Ascari's third Grand Slam;

- debut and first points of Oscar Galvez;

- Cooper team's debut.  

Driver standings


Alternative GP results

bottom of page