Top 10 F1 Races of the 1950s

6d ago

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Part II of the series continues our deep dive into the history of Formula One, more specifically the 1950s at this point in time. Having just covered the ten best racers of the decade, we're now looking at the ten best GPs of the 50s. There were some truly staggering ones, from Fangio's greatest single-handed drive of all time at the Nurburgring in 1957 to the 1953 Monza GP where it was all decided on the final corner. Let's take a look at the top ten.

10. 1958 Argentine GP (Won By Stirling Moss)

The 1958 Argentina Grand Prix in Buenos Aires was the season opener for the ninth running of Formula One, with Stirling Moss beginning the new season by winning a third consecutive race on the run, setting himself up as a frontrunner for his first ever title. Driving a private Cooper-Climax, Moss recorded the second triumph for a British team in F1 after Vanwall, and it was the first win in F1 for a rear-engined car. As per usual, five-time World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio had dominated qualifying, settling a time 0.7 seconds faster than anyone, with Moss all the way down in seventh. However Fangio didn't have the best of starts, with BRMs Jean Behra taking the lead before Hawthorn's Ferrari leapfrogged him, but by lap ten, Fangio had retaken the lead. All was looking great until Lap 34, when Fangio stopped for tyres, allowing Moss's non-stopping Cooper to take the lead. Much to the surprise of his rivals, Moss continued to finish the eighty-lap race without pitting for fuel or tyres. It was a narrow win for Moss, wiht the charging Ferrari of Luigi Musso coming just 3.5 seconds in behind Moss, but Moss's tyre management was out of this world, beautifully manging his degredation, to the point where when he stopped in the pits to celebrate, the canvas on his tyres were showing.

9. 1952 Spa GP (Won By Alberto Ascari)

Twas the third race of the third season of Formula One, and the three Ferrari's of Ascari, Farina and Taruffi locked out the front row, Ascari, competing in his first race of the season, taking pole by a massive three seconds. Over 36 laps of a 8.8 mile Spa-Francorchamps circuit, dazed in heavy rain, Ascari and Farina duelled for the win in the three-hour long race. Jean Behra had given the trio of Ferrari's a scare early on, taking the early lead after the first lap, however fortunately for Enzo's racers he spun on the second lap. On Lap 14, Piero Taruffi also overtook Behra, setting up a possible first ever Ferrari 1-2-3, however just half a lap later, Taruffi spun, collecting the unfortunate Behra in his crash, fortunately without any major consequence for either driver. Ascari would go on to beat Farina with relative ease in the pouring conditions, with the GP setting Ascari off on a spree where he would be the only driver to win a F1 GP for twelve whole months. Madness.

8. 1958 Italian GP (Won By Tony Brooks)

Coming into the penultimate race of the season, Mike Hawthorn of Ferrari held a slender four point lead over Vanwall's Stirling Moss. Whatever happened in the next two races at Monza and Casablanca, the first British Champion would be crowned. Moss took pole, Brooks second, Hawthorn third, and despite a brief incursion from Phil Hill's Ferrari, the battle between Moss and Hawthorn resumed, battling for the victory, however on Lap 17, gearbox trouble meant that Moss had to retire. If Hawthorn could win, he would be world champion. The Ferrari's took command of the race with the combination of Hawthorn and his wingman Hill, but Tony Brooks, team-mate of Vanwall, was a prick up their backside. After a long first pit stop early on in the race, Brooks was making progress up the field like never seen before. After the Ferrari's pitted mid-race, all of a sudden it was a three-way fight for the win, with Brooks beautifully overtaking Hawthorn for the lead with ten laps to go. His stunning victory, his third of the season, meant that Vanwall won the constructors championship whilst keeping hopes of a Stirling Moss title alive.

7. 1959 USA GP (Won By Bruce McLaren)

Many know McLaren for being the name that created the greatest F1 team of all time barring Ferrari, others know him for his World Endurance Racing record, winning Le Mans, Sebring and Daytona in his time, but McLaren was a great F1 racer as well. At the season finale at Sebring (a track McLaren knew well from his enduring racing), Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks were all in the title fight. Stirling Moss took pole, and was dominating the race, but after just six laps in the lead, his gearbox broke once more in his Copper, and with Brooks outside of the top three, Brabham was set for victory - but could the Australian do it in style? He was doing a great job of controlling the race until the final lap, where his Cooper ran dry of fuel. The Australian elected to push his Cooper around the final quarter-lap of the race, finishing in fourth place, but team-mate Bruce McLaren shot past him, Brabham famously waving him on, followed by a fast-following Maurice Trintignant, also of Cooper. It was a tense final half of a lap, but McLaren held on to take his first GP win. In just his seventh Formula One race at the age of 22, McLaren became the youngest ever GP winner, a record that would not be beaten for another staggering 44 years, when Fernando Alonso won the 2003 Hungarian GP.

6. 1956 Italian GP (Won By Stirling Moss)

Heading into the season finale, Fangio was the strong favourite for his fourth title, holding an eight point lead over Maserati's Jean Behra and team-mate Peter Collins. Fangio took pole at Lancia-Ferrari's home race, but it was Eugentio Castellotti who put on a dazzling show for the Tifosi, leading the race for the first five laps before spinning out (see above). Now it was Stirling Moss who was leading - out of the championship fight - and after a shower of rain, Moss was set for what would have been only his second win of the season, but a fuel leak caused him to run dry, however in a staggering tale, Piotti, his Maserati team-mate, pushed his car into the pits, and he was on his way to victory once more. Fangio had to retire on Lap 19 due to a broken steering arm, and team-mate Luigi Musso refused to give up his car due to him having to already have done that this season in Argentina, costing him a lone-victory. So, here comes arguably the most unbelievable story in Formula One history: One Lap 36, holding second place, and fourteen laps away from claiming a title for the UK - which would be the first for the nation - Peter Collins pulled into the pits, handed his car over to team-mate Fangio, who would finish in second place and win his fourth title.

5. 1957 British GP (Won By Stirling Moss/Tony Brooks)

Rather fittingly, at the 1957 British GP, now being held at Aintree, Vanwall became the first British car to win a championship race, being driven by a British driver as well. Moss lead easily from pole, but after twenty-two laps, his engine gave up on him, so on Lap 26, he took over in Tony Brooks car, who was still injured from a freaky accident at the 1957 24 Hours Of Le Mans. Moss battled through the pack, catching race leader Jean Behra, but he was still fifty-seconds behind Behra at the half-race distance holding second place, however another twenty laps of breathtaking racing from Moss brought him into contention with twenty laps to go, but then, as if it was a miracle, the clutch of Behra's Maserati blew, the debris puncturing the tyre of Hawthorn's Lancia-Ferrari, who was closely following Moss through the pack. Out of nowhere, Moss came back from dead last to claim his and Vanwall's first win of the season.

4. 1951 German GP (Won By Alberto Ascari)

The 1951 German GP was the first post-WW2 GP to be held in Germany, at none other than the Nurburgring. Twenty laps of the 14.1 mile long circuit, pole position being taken by Ascari of Ferrari, taking nine minutes and fifty-five seconds to complete, Ferrari taking a 1-2, Alfa Romeo 3-4. The race was simply an epic duel between Fangio of Alfa and Ascari of Ferrari, Fangio aware that an extra fuel stop due to his fuel-guzzling Alfa likely. After two laps, Fangio held a seven second lead, but by lap five, Ascari had reeled him in, and overtook him on Lap 5. Fangio then pitted on Lap 7, and retook the lead on lap eleven following Ascari's one and only pit-stop, and held a fifteen second lead, however Ascari's consistent pace meant that all the Italian had to do was hold steady, and after Fangio's inevitable second stop, Ascari had won the intoxicating battle to put himself into championship contention late on in the season.

3. 1953 Italian GP (Won By Juan Manuel Fangio)

Heading into the season finale at Monza, Ascari was already Ferrari's double world champion, but the Italian wanted to put on a show for the Tifosi. For the seventh time that season, Ascari and Fangio locked out the front row, Ascari on pole. The race was a slipstreaming Monza classic, with up to six different Italian cars; Ferrari's and Maserati's, disputing for the lead, with twenty-four lead changes being recorded, a record at the time, but Ascari took relative control on Lap 53, holding the lead until the penultimate lap of the GP on Lap 79. On the final lap, and on the famous final corner of Monza - the Paribolica - Ascari and Fangio were side-by-side leading a five-car gaggle when suddenly Ascari spun on oil. Fangio with his cat-like reflexes dodged the strickened Ferrari on the inside, winning the home race for Maserati, claiming their first ever win in Formula One, followed home by less than a second by Ferrari's Farina.

2. 1957 German GP (Won By Juan Manuel Fangio)

Many F1 Historians argue that this was the single greatest drive by a driver in the sport's seventy year history. After the British GP where Stirling Moss and Vanwall dominated, the British outfit's car did not suit the bumpy Nurburgring, with Maserati and Lancia-Ferrari locking out the top four positions in qualifying, Fangio on pole. The plan was simple for Fangio - he was fuelled light, hoping that his track position would lead him to building a lead over his rivals, the Lancia-Ferrari's, who infamously that season could go full races without pitting for tyres or fuel, however he spent the first two laps behind Hawthorn, costing him dearly. After he overtook the Lancia driver, he pulled away with ease, but a slow pit stop on lap twelve meant that his thirty second lead had become a fifty second deficit to Collins and Hawthorn, the defending champion coming out in third place. As he steadily reeled in the Lancia duo, who were embroiled in their own battle for the win (the team hadn't taken any wins in the season), Fangio exhibited what is widely regarded as his greatest ever drive of his career. On Lap 19 of 22, he stole a whopping eleven seconds from the duo, shredding the lap record. To put this into perspective, this was seven seconds faster than Fangio's pole lap from qualifying. On the penultimate lap of the race, he overtook Collins on the North Curve and Hawthorn at Breidscheid to win by approximately three seconds, sealing his fifth and final world championship in style. This turned out to be Fangio's final race win, who would only compete in another four F1 races before retiring, and it was truly his greatest.

1. 1953 French GP (Won By Mike Hawthorn)

Qualifying was unusually close for the 1950s, he top six cars - three Ferraris, three Maseratis - being separated by just 1.2 seconds, Ascari taking pole, setting things up nicely for the race on Sunday. Widely regarded as the greatest GP of the twentieth century, José Frolián González of Maserati on a low-fuel set-up took the lead for the first 29 laps of the 60 lap race. Thereafter Fangio of Maserati and Hawthorn of Ferrari played out one of the greatest duels in motorsport history, repassing each other for the lead repeatedly, approximately sixteen times in the final thirty laps. In the end, Hawthorn managed to hold onto the lead for the final three laps of the race, becoming the first British racer to take an F1 championship race win. There was little to choose between him and Fangio, but Hawthorn's Ferrari had a quicker exit out of slow-speed corners, helping him hold onto the lead on the final lap, finishing one second ahead of Fangio. González was just 1.4 seconds behind Hawthorn, who had caught the duo up in the dying moments of the race, whilst Ascari was fourth, a further three seconds down.

So what do you think? Which of these ten was the greatest race of the 1950s? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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