A New Victor at the 1953 Italian Grand Prix

In mid-September, 1953, the XXIV Gran Premio d’Italia symbolized the end of Ferrari’s two seasons of abject dominance. In fact, to my shock, at the end of the race, Enzo Ferrari announced that he was withdrawing his factory crew from racing.  The track setup and Grand Prix length remain unchanged from last year.

Ascari threw down a blistering pole position lap of 2:02.7, nearly three seconds faster than last year’s best qualifying time.  The race would not be do easy for Alberto Ascari and the Scuderia Ferrari squad. In fact, here’s the play-by-play on the first half of the race:

Ascari got the best start and held the lead for the first six laps. But, in these days, drafting at Monza mean that your challengers are never far behind. The hole bored into the air by the leader creates a tunnel of speed for the challenger. And so it occurred, Fangio overtook became the lap leader.  Ascarci would retake on the 10th, but could not maintain the lead like he did early in the race. Farina jumps over Ascari, but then Fangio pulls back into the lead, yet again.

For a period, it looked as though Ascari might be able to carry home a Scuderia victory as he held the lead for the next 10 laps.  Then Farina led a lap, then Fangio a couple more, and then back to Ascari for a few more laps. It’s gotta be the drafting causing this many lead changes. But for sure this is a battle being thrown down by the original F1 heavy hitters. Slug by slug the race continued to unfold like this until the final lap.

Approaching the final corner of the final lap, Fangio was trailing behind Ascari and Farina, Ferrari driver’s number one and two.  On that final corner, Ascari had all but wrapped up the victory–but he spin. Farina was so close to him, he was forced onto the grass. Fangio, like a true master on those old timey tires, threaded the needle between Ascari and farina, to head up the final straigh between the roaring Italian fans to take the maiden Maserati victory in the F1 championship. Farina got off the grass and managed to hold second, which he would’ve gotten if Ascari hadn’t spun. Villoresi would trail a lap down in third place.