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F1 World Cup 1952 and 1953: When Formula 2 became Formula 1

Formula 1 World Cup 1952 & 1953
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A lfa Romeo had withdrawn. The lights went out at Talbot-Lago. Gordini parted with engine supplier Simca. Maserati only had the aged 4CLT /48 from 1948 on offer. The B.R.M. project was dying. Only Ferrari still had a competitive Formula 1 car. Mercedes quietly prepared a Formula 1 outing based on the 1939 W165. The project was supposed to die before it was even born.

In view of the dark clouds that were gathering on the horizon, the organizers got together and gave preference to the better-filled Formula 2 races. The French Association was busy lobbying for the small category. The FIA ​​reacted and turned Formula 2 into a Formula 1 World Championship. Mercedes had no car for this category.

Formula 2 was launched in 1948. For the second class: two-liter naturally aspirated engines without supercharging or 500 cubic centimeters with a compressor. The engine output fell from 400 to 180 hp and the lap times increased by seven to twelve seconds. Compressor engines died out because of the unfavorable factor. They were too expensive and too complex for the automotive industry.

Ferrari's master maker

Even in 1952 there were still races with Formula 1 cars. Seven in number: Valentino Park, Goodwood, Djurgard Park, Albi, Dundrod, Boreham, Skarpnack. None of them had World Cup status. Ferrari was the best car in Formula 2. The Tipo 500 from Aurelio Lampredi was the measure of all things. The four-cylinder in-line engine with two overhead camshafts and double ignition was characterized by its particular elasticity. The maximum output of 180 hp was distributed over such a wide speed range that Ferrari could drive the four-speed gearbox with a single gear ratio. At the debut of the car, the Gran Premio di Siracusa in 1952, four Ferrari 500s took the first four places.

Daniel Reinhard
Ferrari 500: the fastest Formula 2 car in Formula 1.

With a wheelbase of 2,160 mm and a curb weight of 560 kilograms, Ferrari's Formula 2 was an agile and light car. It took Maserati until 1953 to oppose the trendsetter. The many private Ferrari drivers had to be content with a speed limit, which resulted in less power than the factory engines. Only Juan-Manuel Fangio ended the winning streak of the Ferrari 500 at the end of the 1953 season with his victory in a Maserati A6SSG at the Italian GP. Alberto Ascari dominated both seasons with a total of 11 wins, nine of them in a row. Ascari even competed in Indianapolis in 1952, but retired after 41 laps.

Fangio's worst accident

Fangio's 1952 season ended on June 8th. She hadn't even started properly. The champion had to skip the starting shot in Bern because the new Maserati A6GCM was not yet ready to race. The world champion passed the time with other races. On June 7th he took part in a B.R.M. participated in one of the few remaining races of the old Formula 1 class in Dundrod. Prince Bira had promised Fangio a chance to fly a private jet to Monza, where the new Maserati was to make its debut. Since the prince left prematurely, he set off without Fangio. The Argentine went on a scheduled flight accompanied by Raymond Sommer, but got stuck in Paris due to bad weather. From there, he drove to Milan via Lyon.

Completely tired from the nightly drive, he started the race. Fangio recalled: “I arrived in Monza at two in the afternoon, at two-thirty I was at the start, and at three I was in the hospital.” On the second lap he went off the track at the second Lesmo bend and touched first a balustrade inside, then a bale of straw outside. Fangio was thrown out of his Maserati after two rollovers and came to rest next to the road. Vertebral fractures in the neck area matted him for the rest of the year. For three months he wore a corset from his navel to his neck.

Mike Hawthorn is followed by a Ferrari in his Cooper Bristol.

So the world title fell into the hands of Ascari almost without a fight. Team-mates Piero Taruffi, Nino Farina and Luigi Villoresi were no opponents for the man with the blue helmet. Taruffi still won the season opener in Switzerland. Farina was the champion of second places, on average even had the better starting positions.

The English come

Maserati only got going at the end of the season. Star designer Gioacchino Colombo increased the power from 160 to 180 hp. After Fangio's failure, the Maserati force relied on Froilan Gonzalez and Felice Bonetto. The Gordinis scored points every now and then. Jean Behra, Maurice Trintignant and Robert Manzon formed a French national team. Prince Bira completed the musketeers.

In addition to the well-known greats, several English Formula 2 teams also appeared. Small craft shops with a tight budget, but a lot of enthusiasm. Mike Hawthorn's star went up in a Cooper Bristol. With 10 championship points, he was the driving discovery of the season and earned a cockpit at Ferrari for 1953. With Connaught a new racing team entered. Frazer-Nash, H.W.M., Alta, Aston and E.R.A. had seen their best days. For the two German representatives of Veritas and A.F.M. only the extra role was reserved.

Maserati woke up too late

It wasn't until 1953 that the Ferrari monotony came back to life. Fangio was fit again, and Maserati's new designer Giaocchino Colombo had further developed the A6GCM into the A6SSG. To limit the time lost during pit stops, the tanks have been enlarged. A new engine delivered 200 instead of 180 hp and was on par with the also further developed Ferrari R4, but inhaled nine liters more of a special mixture of benzene, alcohol and acetone over 100 kilometers. The rigid axle of the Maserati was inferior to the De Dion construction of the Ferrari on winding routes. There was a tie on the fast slopes.

Because the two-liter formula came to an end at the end of the year, Ferrari chief designer Aurelio Lampredi decided not to redesign. The Ferrari 500 became the Ferrari 553 with side tanks. Nevertheless, Maranello only had to hand over one race to the competition. The better stability was the decisive factor. Ferrari recorded 13 retirements in 46 starts. Maserati did not finish 19 times in 40 participations.

World Champion Alberto Ascari did not win all races anymore. Nino Farina joined the ranks of the winners at the German GP after a two-year and two-month break. Ferrari newcomer Mike Hawthorn justified his call to Maranello with a success inReims. It was the first victory of an Englishman in a Formula 1 World Championship round.

Big slipstream duels

The slipstream battles on the two high-speed tracks in Reims and Monza were the highlights of the 1953 season. In Reims, Hawthorn, Fangio, Gonzalez and Ascari were within 4.8 seconds after 12 changes in leadership and 501 kilometers. The lead changed 18 times in Monza. The Italian GP was decided in favor of Fangio in the last corner of the last lap.

Gordini crashed with the new T16 /20 six-cylinder. After breaking up with Simca, the cash register was chronically empty. The team financed itself with an entry fee. Sometimes the blue cars competed in several races on one weekend. The reliability suffered as a result. In 18 of 28 starts, the Gordini did not see the checkered flag. At the end of the season, Maurice Trintignant had a miserable four points. The new 2.5 liter formula was just around the corner. In 1954, 2.5-liter engines without landing or 750 cubic centimeter engines with superchargers were permitted again. This is how Formula 1 earned its name again.

auto motor und sport is celebrating the 1,000th. Formula 1 races this season with a large series in 100 parts. In the daily countdown we provide you with an exciting story and interesting video features from the history of the premier class. You can find all previous articles on our >> Overview page for the big anniversary Grand Prix.


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