It All Came Down to Tires
So, the final race of the season was a street circuit. The 1951 Spanish Grand Prix was set on the Pedralbes circuit on a hot late October day in Barcelona, Spain. The XI Gran Premio de España was a 70 lap race taking place over a total length of 274.721 miles. Essentially, it boils down to which Pirelli‘s to pick–the 16 inch or 18 inch diameter. I really think it’s sort of hilarious, or at least interesting, that 60 years later, we’re still arguing over which Pirelli’s are best. Anyway, from what I gather, Ascari takes the lead for the first three laps. But…his, and all of the Ferrari’s, tires started to degrade. The tread tore itself from the tires shredding Ferrari’s chances of winning. By the third lap, Ascari loses it. From here, Fangio–in his slightly-more-reliable Alfa Romeo–had the correct tires and took over the lead. Now, Ascari’s slowing was but a harbinger of how bad this race was about to get for Ferrari. Damn, the wrong Pirelli’s is all it was. It’s weird, it happened sixty years ago, but you can almost feel the defeat of the young Ferrari squad when they what followed: Paruffi pits for tires on lap 6; on lap 7, Villoresi’s tires are gone and he comes in; on 9 it is Ascari; and González somehow gets his to last until 9 laps. At 6-9 laps per tire, over a 70 lap race, the Ferrari’s were destroyed. Alfa Romeo carried the day. But part of me is really happy that Ferrari can’t trace it’s dominance all the way back to the roots of the F1 Championship.
But, this wasn’t the biggest surprise of the day.
October 1951: Alfa Romeo Retires from Racing
Even more shocking, Alfa Romeo quits the sport. So, the obvious question, right, “you win two straight championships, why leave?” As is always the reason in motor racing, it was a matter of money. Enzo Ferrari, remember-a former employee of Alfa Romeo-had developed one hell of a program in a short time. And, from what I understand, Alfa Romeo had quasi-state-owned status at that time. That left a tiny budget for racing. So, whether the public was aware of this before this point, I am not sure. As a side note, it is frustrating, as someone new to this kind of ‘research’ (I use the time very lightly), to not have every detail of these events at my fingertips. It’s just ludicrous that I can’t have Bob Varsha spoon-feeding me the drama. And, I say that tongue-in-cheek. I’ve only been exposed to Formula 1 since I was twenty or so. Anyway, in the last eight seasons, the Speed crew was all I knew. I’m looking forward to 2013, but I’m afraid it just won’t be the same. Speaking of which, thank you Mr. Marsha. You will be missed.
But, I digress, a lot…
So, Alfa Romeo leaves because of budget reasons. Apparently, they were on a shoestring budget and were carried along. I guess, they had just made the car of the future when they rolled out the original chassis back in the thirties. My only point back there, is I am not sure whether it was public knowledge that Alfa Romeo had a tiny budget. If you think about it, whether Enzo Ferrari knew that he could outspend Alfa Romeo out of the sport, could paint him in a much more aggressive light. And, at this point, I’m stuck with another question, without a clear answer. I guess, what I am facing know, frequently, is a desire to track down every detail about every race.
When I do that, try and track down every detail, the result is a boring recitation of facts that takes a lot of time to come up with. Inherently, the project becomes unmanageable when I pursue that. So, I’m stuck with just accepting that Alfa Romeo left due to budgetary reasons. One of these days, I’ll need to sit down and read an Enzo biography to get the full story of him in the early days of Scuderia Ferrari.
And so, there it is...the completion of the 1951 Formula 1 Championship Season.
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