The End of the Alfettas

Ferrari, Froilan Gonzalez, Silverstone

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 –



  1. Jim Sitz · · Reply

    “New Boy” Gonzalez was having his 2nd outing with the Ferrari Team. That opportunity occured
    when veteran Taruffi was told by him employer Gilera Motorcycles to a full time team manager.
    (he had raced his own private Norton in his youth of 1920s)

    It is my understanding that during the British Grand Prix, Ascari had retired, and then when Gonzalez made routine pit stop he fully expected to hand over his car to the Number 1 driver
    But, Ascari was seen to pat him on back and say something to effect of ” Carry on ”
    A great day indeed for Ferrari and their new driver.

    Jim Sitz


  2. Wonderful Klemantaski photograph of Gonzales at Silverstone in 1951. Three years later, he, The Pampas Bull, so called for his girth and the way he filled a race car cockpit, and drove like one, drew the attention of my father as being paired with Maurice Trintignant in a factory Ferrari 375 Plus (0396AM) to tackle the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 1954. Here in the States, John Edgar wanted to buy just such a Ferrari for the coming of La Carrera Panamericana V. How the car held up at Circuit de la Sarthe would be more than a fair indicator of how it might also survive the November 1954 five-day, nearly 2,000-mile highway race up the spine of Mexico. And John knew, through Luigi Chinetti, that the Le Mans Ferrari would be for sale, to a considered American, of course, after the 24 Hours. Of course, 0396 won Le Mans, earning Ferrari its very first overall win of the French classic for a Ferrari works team entry. And, of course, my father bought 0396, based on the merits of how well it ran Le Mans under the talented hands, feet and heads of Trintignant and José Frolian Gonzáles … just one noteworthy anecdote of so many associated with “the other” legendary Argentinian.


  3. Parker Hall · · Reply

    Thanks Peter: Saw the Alfa with Fangio at Laguna a “FEW” years ago and it was SOOOO loud.

    Best Wishes,

    Parker Hall


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