The 1951 British Grand Prix took place at Silverstone on July 14. It became one of the most important grand prix races of the decade because it was the first time that a Ferrari had soundly defeated the all-conquering Alfa Romeos which had ruled grand prix racing ever since the war. The F1 engine formula then offered a choice of 1.5 liters supercharged or 4.5 liters normally aspirated. Alfa Romeo had developed their prewar supercharged Tipo 158 into the Tipo 159, a 400 hp monster that was without equal. Their team included Giuseppe Farina, the 1950 World Champion, coming star Juan Manuel Fangio who would succeed Farina as World Champion, Alfa Romeo test driver Consalvo Sanesi and journeyman Felice Bonetto. Ferrari chose the other engine path, correctly figuring that given equal power the normally aspirated route would provide better fuel economy, thus possibly avoiding one of the pit stops for refueling. Ferrari’s lineup included Alberto Ascari, Argentinean Froilán González. a close friend of Fangio, and prewar Maserati driver Luigi Villoresi.
These drivers filled the first two rows of the grid with González on pole by a full second. Bonetto led lap 1, but soon González was in the lead, followed by Fangio who passed him on lap 10. Fangio then led for many laps, but González was always close behind. After the pit stops near half distance, González was really flying and retook the lead, holding it to the end. Fangio by then was 51 seconds back with the rest of the field at least two laps down. The photograph above is a famous one of González “crossed up” in a full power drift at about 140 mph through Silverstone’s sweeping Abbey Curve. His performance, driving like this lap after lap, captivated the crowd and became a staple of Ferrari lore which is still celebrated today.
Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com