SportF1The 1951 F1 Spanish GP that crowned Fangio for...

The 1951 F1 Spanish GP that crowned Fangio for the first time

With predecessors such as Guadarrama, Terramar and Lasarte – in the latter one could admire the great European machines of the 1930s – Barcelona hosted the first Grand Prix of the newly baptized Formula 1. Already in 1950, the year of its creation, it entered in the great circus, but as a second division test.

It was a great prize, but it did not score for the world championship, something that did happen in 1951. Not in vain, Barcelona, through the Penya Rhin , had organized many races in Montjuic , at the request of Rudolf Caracciola, allowing Spanish fans enjoy the hands of many of the best pilots of the first half of the 20th century.

The Spanish Civil War , first, and World War II , later, lethargic the competition in Spain and Europe, and only after more than five years were the national competitions reestablished. A key figure in this was Joaquín Molins . As president of the Penya Rhin, he began to organize races in 1946. The GP Penya Rhin could have had the category of the Spanish GP, but it was not. Even the 1950 test was not considered as such. Yes, it would be the 1951 edition, which would be the thirteenth.

The layout consisted of part of Avenida del Generalísimo Franco, Carretera de Esplugas and Avenida de la Victoria, plus a section of Paseo de Manuel Girona and Calle Numancia, for more than six kilometers and six curves.

Set for October 28, the Spanish GP was the eighth and last event on the 1951 calendar, and three drivers came to play for the title. Alberto Ascari and his Ferrari as leader; Juan Manuel Fangio, with his Alfa Romeo two points behind; and José Froilán González, with Ferrari as well, eight points behind Ascari. The one with the fewest options was González, who had to win, set the fastest lap and wait until his rivals practically didn’t finish.

Matter of size… of F1 tires

Pirelli made available to the teams some tires for 18-inch wheels that Alfa Romeo adopted. Not so Ferrari, who decided to continue with the 16. In qualifying, Alberto Ascari gave no one a chance with a very fast 375. Juan Manuel Fangio placed second, ahead of González’s other Ferrari and the still defending champion, Nino Farina .

Despite the speed of the Ferrari, the Maranello team’s tactic was not to push too hard and take advantage of the ‘thirst’ of the Alfa Romeos: the Portello team had to stop more often to refuel. In total, 19 cars took the start.

Alberto Ascari led the race in the first few laps, but in the fourth, Fangio took the lead. The Argentine did not suspect that he was not going to leave that position in the rest of the race. Although more pit stops were expected from Alfa Romeo, it was not the refueling that decided the test, it was the size of the tires.

On lap six, Piero Taruffi and his Ferrari pitted. His car had lost a tread. It was not given much importance, but when on the following lap the problem was reproduced in Luigi Villoresi’s car, unease took over the Ferrari box. On the eighth lap it was Ascari who arrived with the tires destroyed. When González was also forced to stop at 14, the cause became clear.

The smaller Ferrari wheels rotated more times on the Barcelona asphalt, which, together with the gravel in some areas, punished the tires harshly. The more turns of the wheel, being smaller, the more wear. The Alfa Romeos, with the new larger tires and with high pressures recommended by Pirelli, behaved exceptionally.

One option remained for Ferrari. González’s very regular pace while taking care of his tires took him to second position with 15 laps to go. But Fangio , who had a very calm race, increased his speed by one point to avoid problems and win. With this he got the first of his five world titles. He was accompanied on the podium by his compatriot González, the only Ferrari on the leader’s lap, and Nino Farina.

There were two Spanish drivers entered with Scuderia Milano and their Maseratis . Paco Godía , who finished 10th, and Juan Jover, who was unable to start due to serious engine problems.

It took three years, until 1954, for F1 to return to Pedralbes, where the Mercedes ‘silver arrows’ were seen again. The Le Mans accident in 1955 caused the closure of the circuit and the suspension of the Spanish GP at the end of that year. Alfa Romeo and Fangio won that race because they had bigger tires…

Results of the 1951 Spanish GP of Formula 1 where Fangio was crowned

Pos Dorsal Pilot Builder laps Weather
1 22 Flag of Argentina.svg Juan Manuel Fangio Alfa Romeo 70 2:46:54.10
2 6 Flag of Argentina.svg Jose Froilan Gonzalez Ferrari 70 +54.28
3 20 Italia Nino Farina Alfa Romeo 70 +1: 45.54
4 2 Italia Alberto Ascari Ferrari 68 +2 vueltas
5 24 Italia Felice Bonetto Alfa Romeo 68 +2 vueltas
6 26 Suíza Toulo de Graffenried Alfa Romeo 66 +4 laps
7 28 Francia louis roser Talbot-Lake-Talbot 64 +6 laps
8 34 Francia Philip Etancelin Talbot-Lake-Talbot 63 +7 turns
9 14 Francia Robert Manson Simca-Gordini 63 +7 laps
10 44 España Paco Godia Maserati 60 +10 laps

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