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1953 French Grand Prix

The fourth round of the 1953 World Championship took place on July 5 in France on the track in Reims. In 1950-51, Reims already hosted the French stages of the World Championships, and then part of the route passed through the town of Gueux, but this year the route was modified, bypassing this town, and the prefix Gueux disappeared from the name of the circuit. At the same time, the length of the track increased to 8.347 km and now the drivers had to complete 60 laps.

Reims 1953.jpg

Meanwhile, the two strongest championship teams Ferrari and Maserati, who fought for victory at the previous stage in Belgium, were determined to continue the fight on the French circuit, which, like Spa-Francorchamp, had a very high-speed configuration. Scuderia Ferrari in France was represented by four permanent drivers Alberto Ascari, Nino Farina, Luigi Villoresi and Mike Hawthorn, while in Maserati Felice Bonetto returned to the main line-up and became a teammate of the three Argentines Juan Manuel Fangio, José Froilan Gonzalez and Onofre Marimon. At the same time, Marimon, having taken third place in Belgium in his debut race for the team, managed to make an excellent impression on the Maserati management and was hired until the end of the season. In addition to the factory team drivers, Louis Rosier and Baron Toulo de Graffenried again drove privately owned Ferrari 500 and Maserati A6GCM in France.

The only French team, Gordini, arrived at the home round with four cars, driven by three main drivers Maurice Trintignant, Jean Behra and Harry Schell, as well as temporary fourth driver Roberto Mieres, who had already raced for the team in the Netherlands and replaced American Fred Walker Jr. The HWM team, as in Belgium, was represented by three cars, but this time the teammate of Peter Collins and Lance Macklin was a local racer Yves Giraud-Cabantous, who had already raced for the team in France last year.

Meanwhile, the Cooper team, which suspended the participation in the World Championship after a disastrous debut in Argentine Grand Prix, returned in the French stage with a new car T24 Special and a new driver Stirling Moss, moving from the Connaught team. Unlike the previous Bristol-engined T23, the new model was fitted with an Alta engine, which allowed to lower the front part of the body and significantly improve the car's aerodynamics.


In addition to the only factory Cooper car, two more Coopers of the previous T23 model were brought to the start by private drivers Ken Wharton and Bob Gerard.

After the departure of Stirling Moss, the Siamese prince Bira became the new Connaught driver, joining Roy Salvadori. After one race with Maserati Belgian Johnny Claes also returned to the wheel of his private Connaught. In addition to factory team cars, there were also private OSCA cars in France, driven by the Frenchman Elio Bayol and the famous racing driver of the 1930s, Louis Chiron, who had not appeared in the world championships since 1951.


Qualifying for the French Grand Prix took place in a tense struggle between Ferrari and Maserati. The more powerful engines gave the Maserati the advantage on the straights, but the Ferraris were much more stable in the corners, and in the end it was the team from Maranello who took pole position, thanks to their leader Alberto Ascari. Second place on the starting field went to Maserati, but, as one might assume, it was not Fangio or Gonzalez, but Felice Bonetto who returned to the team! However, this was easily explained: the Italian, realizing that he was clearly inferior in speed to his teammates, asked Gonzalez to drive a fast lap instead of him, and Jose-Froilan not only showed the second time, losing only 0.3 seconds to Ascari, but also surpassed the time shown by himself in his own car! As a result, Gonzalez himself took only 5th place on the starting grid, losing to Villoresi and Fangio and followed by two more Ferraris of Farina and Hawthorn. Eighth place went to Marimon in the last factory Maserati ahead of Graffenried and Rosier, who also drove Italian cars.

Team Gordini, the undisputed leader of the second echelon, decided to skip qualifying this time to focus on the "12 Hours of Reims" sportcar race taking place here, and so all the team's drivers started from the last rows of the starting field. In the absence of Gordini, the fastest non-Ferrari or Maserati driver was Prince Bira, who managed a good time in his first qualifying for Connaught. His team mate Roy Salvadori, on the contrary, had problems with the car, and he showed only 19th result. The Cooper cars also looked good, finishing 12th through 14th, with Bob Gerard in a privately owned Cooper T23 beating Stirling Moss in a new factory Cooper T24. The HWM cars clearly lacked power on the long straights at Reims and finished only 16th, 17th and 18th on the grid. Elio Bayol managed to drive a little faster in OSCA and finished 15th, while Louis Chiron, in the same car, did not have time to take part in qualifying and was forced to start last.



Before the French Grand Prix, the sportcar race "12 Hours of Reims" took place, because of which the Grand Prix itself almost lost its main intrigue. Ferrari participating in both competitions was disqualified from the sportcar race due to some infractions, which infuriated Enzo Ferrari and he ordered racing team manager Nello Ugolini to withdraw from the Grand Prix. However, after long disputes with the organizers, Enzo nevertheless gave the go-ahead for the team to participate in the race, and the Ferrari drivers still went to the start, met with thunderous applause from the audience.

Meanwhile, the Maserati drivers have chosen a different strategy for the race. Gonzalez decided to start in a light car and try to build enough gap to keep him in the lead after a single refueling. The rest of the Maserati drivers decided to do without refueling, preferring a direct fight with rivals on the track.


Start. Gonzalez, in a light car, takes off the fastest and immediately takes the lead in the race! The rest of the Ferrari and Maserati drivers have switched places a bit, but continue to occupy the top eight positions. An excellent start is made by Trintignant, who makes his way to 12th place from the end of the starting field, and Salvadori, who takes place directly behind the Frenchman. Wharton and Giraud-Cabantous, in contrast, fail the start and roll back to the very end of the back of the field.
Position after lap 1: Gonzalez, Ascari, Villoresi, Bonetto, Hawthorn, Fangio, Marimon, Farina, Graffenried, Bira.
Lap 2: Gonzalez is flying around the track, trying to get the most out of his light car and starting to pull away from his pursuers! Meanwhile, Bonetto manages to pass Villoresi and reach 3rd place, and Trintignant overtakes Prince Bira, thus already getting into the top ten! His teammates Schell, Behra and Mieres also win back one position, overtaking Bayol, while the first two change places. Meanwhile, Louis Rosier, who was in 11th place, makes a mistake and misses nine opponents at once. The HWM drivers look as unconvincing in the race as they did in qualifying and start losing ground, with Macklin missing Gerard and Collins letting through Chiron.
Lap 3: Bonetto spins in the Thillois corner and drops to 10th all at once! Villoresi, who was behind him, manages to get ahead of Ascari in the fight for second place, and Farina, in another Ferrari, manages to overtake Fangio and Marimon's two Maseratis at once on this lap! Now all four Ferraris are following each other, losing only to Gonzalez, who continues to break away from them. Meanwhile, Trintignant wins back one more position, overtaking Graffenried, and is already 8th!


His teammates also do not sit idly by and pass Gerard and Macklin, while Schell misses both of his teammates. Meanwhile, Salvadori has already been forced to stop the race due to ignition problems.
Lap 4: Hawthorn attacks Ascari and goes to 3rd place! Behind, Mieres overtakes Behra and Moss and becomes 12th, while Bayol and Chiron also win back two positions. Collins continues to lose ground and now misses Wharton.


Lap 5: Ascari passes both of his teammates Villoresi and Hawthorn on the same lap and regains 2nd place!


Meanwhile, Behra overtakes Moss for 12th place, while his teammates Mieres and Schell are eliminated at the same time: the Argentine due to a broken rear axle, and the American due to an engine failure. Behind, Macklin loses two positions, missing Chiron and Rosier.
Lap 6: Hawthorn and Villoresi put up an amazing fight for 3rd and the Englishman manages to take the lead!


Behind Bayol let Chiron and Rosier through.
Lap 7: Hawthorn and Villoresi's fight continues, and now Luigi is in the lead! Meanwhile, Chiron and Rosier continue to fight their way up and are now leaving Moss behind.
Lap 8: Hawthorn attacks Villoresi and takes 3rd place again!
Lap 9: Ascari didn't manage to break away from a pair of teammates fighting each other, and now Hawthorn passes him again!


Behind, Macklin drops out of the race with a failed clutch.
Lap 10: Rosier and Chiron, having won back positions for several laps by overtaking rivals, begin to fight each other, and the Frenchman takes the lead.
Position after 10 laps: Gonzalez, Hawthorn, Ascari, Villoresi, Farina, Fangio, Marimon, Trintignant, Graffenried, Bonetto. Gonzalez continues to drive the fastest around the track and is now ahead of his pursuers by 7 seconds.


Lap 11: Villoresi, following Hawthorn, also attacks Ascari and passes him! Meanwhile, Bonetto, who has lost a lot of ground due to early spin, finally manages to catch up with Graffenried and get ahead of him.


Behind Moss continues to lose ground and misses Bayol.
Lap 12: Ascari counterattacks Villoresi and takes 3rd place again!
Lap 13: Villoresi does not give up and again ahead of the world champion! The struggle between Chiron and Rosier also continues, and this time the Monegasque manages to get ahead of the Frenchman.


Lap 14: Ascari again goes on the attack and passes Villoresi and then Hawthorn, who also failed to create a sufficient gap!


Behind, Moss loses another position to Gerard, and Trintignant is forced into the pits with a broken transmission.
Lap 15: Villoresi is clearly not going to give in to his teammates, he overtakes first Hawthorn, then Ascari and goes to 2nd place!


Meanwhile, a problem with a wheel bearing forces Wharton into the pits, and the Englishman drops to last place, leaving the race three laps later.
Lap 16: Ascari and Hawthorn pass Villoresi one after the other, and Luigi drops back to 4th!
Lap 17: Villoresi doesn't give up and beats Hawthorn again!
Lap 19: Hawthorn counterattacks and passes Villoresi again! Behind, Bayol retires from the race with a failed engine.
Lap 20: Hawthorn is attacking Ascari and now is in 2nd place!
Position after 20 laps: Gonzalez, Hawthorn, Ascari, Villoresi, Farina, Fangio, Marimon, Bonetto, Graffenried, Bira. Gonzalez manages to create an 20-second lead over Ferraris, but this is still clearly not enough to remain in the lead after the pit stop.


Lap 21: Ascari counterattacks Hawthorn and takes the lead!


Lap 22: Ascari and Hawthorn's fight continues, and Mike is ahead of the world champion again! Meanwhile, Prince Bira makes a small mistake and is passed by Behra and Chiron.
Lap 23: Ascari attacks Hawthorn again and takes 2nd place! Moreover, the Englishman also misses Villoresi! Meanwhile, Fangio, who has been waiting behind Ferrari for the entire first third of the race, suddenly attacks Farina and takes 5th place!
Lap 24: Hawthorn does not give up and counterattacks Villoresi, taking 3rd place. Right behind this pair, the struggle of the two former world champions continues, and now Ferrari takes the lead.
Lap 25: It looks like Fangio is really tired of spending the whole race behind the Ferraris: the Argentinian goes on the attack and one by one passes Farina, Villoresi and Hawthorn, and comes out in 3rd place!


At the same time, Ferraris also continue to fight, and Farina manages to get ahead of Villoresi!
Lap 26: The fight between Ferraris continues and now Villoresi and Farina pass Hawthorn!
Lap 27: Villoresi seems to have worn too much tires in the fight with his teammates, and Luigi begins to lose pace, as a result of which he concedes not only Farina and Hawthorn, but even Marimon, who was driving at some distance from the Ferraris.
Lap 28: Hawthorn, already down to 5th place, goes on the attack again and passes Farina. Also behind is a fight between Chiron and Prince Bira, which results in the Siamese prince taking the lead.


Meanwhile, the clutch starts slipping on Moss' Cooper, and the Englishman misses Collins' HWM.
Lap 29: Fangio manages to get ahead of Ascari for second place, with two Maseratis now leading the race!


Meanwhile, Collins pulls in to refuel and drops into last place, while Prince Bira drops out of the race with a broken differential.
Lap 30: Midway through and Gonzalez pulls in to refuel with a half-minute lead over his rivals. However, the Argentine's stop lasts 40 seconds and thus he misses the whole group of competing Ferraris and Maseratis and enters the track in 6th place! Now his teammate Fangio becomes the new leader, and Hawthorn again takes second place, who manages to get ahead of Ascari! Behind Gerard manages to overtake Rosier and the Englishman comes out in 12th place.

Position after 30 laps: Fangio, Hawthorn, Ascari, Farina, Marimon, Gonzalez, Villoresi, Bonetto, Graffenried, Behra.
Lap 32: Hawthorn attacks Fangio for the 1st place and takes the lead for the first time in his short career! Behind Rosier counterattacks Gerard and regains position.
Lap 34: Gonzalez catches up with a tight group of Ferraris and Maseratis and immediately jumps into action! Marimon is the first to yield under his onslaught.


Lap 35: Fangio counterattacks Hawthorn and regains the lead!


Behind them there is also a tight fight between the two world champions Farina and Ascari, which results in Nino taking the lead but starting to fall behind the pair of leaders.
Lap 36: Ascari also loses to Gonzalez and Marimon and falls to 6th place! Behind Moss continues to lose ground and releases Claes forward.
Lap 37: The struggle between the two leaders continues, and Hawthorn again takes the lead!


Behind Ascari again begins to win back positions, overtaking Marimon.
Lap 38: Gonzalez and Ascari pass Farina one by one, and now Nino is only 5th!
Lap 39: Fangio attacks Hawthorn again and outruns him! Behind, Moss finally retires from the race with a broken clutch.
Lap 40: Farina goes on the attack again and passes both Gonzalez and Ascari at once! Behind Behra makes a small mistake and misses Chiron and Rosier.
Position after 40 laps: Fangio, Hawthorn, Farina, Gonzalez, Ascari, Marimon, Villoresi, Bonetto, Graffenried, Chiron.
Lap 41: Gonzalez and Ascari move Farina back to 5th!
Lap 42: Hawthorn is on the attack and leads the race again!


Meanwhile, a stone thrown from under the wheels of a Ferrari pierces the radiator on Marimon's Maserati, and the Argentine turns into the pits for repairs, having lost any opportunity to compete for points. On the same lap, there are problems with Chiron's car, and the Monegasque, having lost pace, leaves the race a lap later.
Lap 43: Bonetto, who was in 7th place, is out of the race due to engine problems.
Lap 44: Behra passes Rosier for 8th place.
Lap 45: Fangio attacks Hawthorn again and takes the lead!


Lap 46: Ascari attacks Gonzalez for 3rd place and beats him!
Lap 48: Hawthorn is not going to give up first place and overtakes Fangio again!


Behind, Marimon wins back one position, overtaking Gerard.
Lap 49: Fangio counterattacks Hawthorn and takes the lead again!
Position after 50 laps: Fangio, Hawthorn, Ascari, Gonzalez, Farina, Villoresi, Graffenried, Behra, Rosier, Marimon.
Lap 53: On Behra's Gordini, the engine loses power and the Frenchman misses Rosier.
Lap 54: Hawthorn attacks the Argentine world champion again and takes the lead!
Lap 55: Fangio counterattacks the young Briton again and regains the lead! Behind the two leaders, Gonzalez re-activates in the fight against Ascari and goes to 3rd place!


Also, Marimon wins back one more position, having overtaken Behra's Gordini.
Lap 57: With three laps to go, Hawthorn is back on the attack and taking the lead!
Lap 58: Ascari again outstrips Gonzalez and regains 3rd place!
Lap 59: Fangio and Hawthorn start the penultimate lap, crossing the finish line side by side!


Meanwhile, the fight between Gozalez and Ascari continues, and the Argentine comes out ahead again!
Last lap: Hawthorn leads the last lap with Fangio breathing down his back. Despite the constant pressure from the Argentine champion, Hawthorn does not give him the slightest chance to overtake, closing all possible loopholes. Busy fighting with each other, the leaders let Gonzalez close to them, who manages to slightly break away from Ascari. And then three scarlet cars come out of the last turn, start to accelerate and Hawthorn is the first to cross the finish line! Fangio and Gonzalez are only a second behind the Englishman, and the audience, who have been restless for the past half hour, burst into applause, hailing one of the most incredible finishes in the history of the Grand Prix and the first victory of the British in World Championship races! Fourth after three seconds, Ascari finishes, who this time had to give way to his young teammate. Farina gets the last two points for fifth place, but the Italian world champion didn't look very convincing in this race and finished only a minute behind the leaders.


P.S. Subsequently, this race was dubbed the Race of the Century, because of its spectacle and uncompromising struggle between the leading drivers for every of 60 laps.


Interesting facts:

- Mike Hawthorn's first win;
- Alberto Ascari's 10th pole position .

Driver standings


Alternative GP results

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