The 1953 Belgian GP: By the Numbers

Analysis of 1953 Belgian GP

Can Greatness Be Expressed Numerically?

Yes, to some extent, I believe greatness, in the context of Formula 1, can be expressed numerically; however, numbers have their limits.  The 1953 Belgian GP remained as a 36 lap race over a grueling, high-speed 8.7 mile track.  Now, let’s walk through the Grand Prix weekend.  By the close of the qualifying process, Juan-Manuel Fangio had thrown down the gantlet with a time of 4:30.0.  This would not have been a track record, but only because the 1951 regulations had permitted much larger engines.  But, this would have been a record under the Formula 2 regulations.  His average pace, over the entire lap, was just shy of 117 miles per hour.  This is shocking for a 2.0 liter/.5 liter supercharged engine limit.  Reports suggest that this performance was above and well-beyond what was expected–the lap of a true master, to be sure.

Here’s the important part, Fangio is commanding the new Maserati F1 Chassis.  This single lap must’ve cracked through the Belgian air like a shot directly at Ferrari.  Maserati was not messing about and had signaled to Ferrari that this season would not be like last year.

Fast forward to the race.  González follows up Fangio’s right-handed power-punch with a quick left-handed jab.  On the second lap, he lapped the track in 4:34.0, a time nobody would touch for the entirety of the race.   Unfortunately, reliability became the issue of the day.  Ferrari’s Alberto Ascari won the race with Luigi Villoresi, also in a Ferrari, coming in second.

By the Numbers: Pace/Time

I was going to run through these numbers.  Unfortunately, after I graphed it, I noticed a glaring flaw in the data.  1953 cannot be compared to 1952 because it was a wet race, but only for part of the weekend.  1953 cannot be compared to 1950 and 1951 because those were under different engines.  So, I present you with a neat graph showing the average lap speeds over the last few years.

Various Paces Expressed in Mph.

Various Paces at Spa-Francorchamps Expressed as Pace, Over Time, in Mph.