The 1951 Formula One season was the fifth season of FIA Formula One motor racing. It featured the 1951 World Championship of Drivers, which commenced on 27 May 1951 and ended on 28 October after eight races. The season also included 14 races that were open to Formula One cars but did not count towards the championship standings.
Ferrari's newer, unsupercharged 4.5 litre cars offered a real challenge to the Alfas, which were nearing the end of their development potential. The Ferraris were able to capitalize on the inefficiency of the Alfa's very thirsty engines, particularly at Silverstone. Although Alfas won four races, with Fangio taking the championship, Ferrari's three victories spelled the end for the Alfas. BRM made their only championship appearance with the V16 at Silverstone, and the old, slow Talbots were increasingly outclassed.
Points were given to top 5 finishers (8, 6, 4, 3, 2). 1 point was given for fastest lap. Only the best four of eight scores counted towards the world championship. Points for shared drives were divided equally between the drivers, regardless of who had driven more laps.
The Formula One Championship season started in Switzerland at the very dangerous and tree-lined Bremgarten public road circuit near Bern around the time the Monaco Grand Prix would have been held, but that historic race was not held this year. Alfa Romeo, the dominant team in 1950 with its supercharged 159 Alfetta, took the first 5 places on the grid, with the exception of 3rd, which was taken by Luigi Villoresi in a Ferrari. Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio was on pole position, with his Italian teammate Giuseppe "Nino" Farina alongside him. The race started while it was raining, and with its overhanging trees lining the road, this circuit was even more dangerous in the wet. But Fangio made no mistake and won the race from Piero Taruffi in a Ferrari and Farina, whose decision to run the race without changing tires proved to be the wrong decision.
The Indianapolis 500 in the United States was run 3 days after the Swiss Grand Prix on a Wednesday, and was the only non-European championship round and the only round not run to FIA Grand Prix regulations. Lee Wallard won this demanding race in his Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser.
The next Grand Prix was in Belgium at the very fast and spectacular 8.7 mi (14.1 km) Spa-Francorchamps circuit. With Fangio and Farina once again 1–2 with the Ferraris of Villoresi and Alberto Ascari taking 3rd and 4th, the Alfas and Ferraris dueled around this circuit, with only 13 entries – small grids in all kinds of motorsports in Europe were commonplace at Spa, because of the fear most drivers had of the circuit. Farina won by 3 minutes over Ascari and Villoresi, with Fangio finishing 4 laps down in 9th after one of his Alfa's wheels jammed on its hub.
The French Grand Prix at the very fast 4.8 mile Reims-Gueux circuit deep in northern French champagne country played the host for an exciting race. Fangio, on pole again, was beaten off the line by 3rd placed qualifier Ascari, with 2nd placed qualifier Farina making a terrible start and dropping to 12th. On this public road circuit, made up entirely of straights, slight kinks and slow, angular corners saw Ascari retire his car with a broken gearbox and Fangio nursing a sick car. Farina pushed very hard and eventually took the lead. Argentine Jose Froilan Gonzalez was 2nd in a Ferrari, and 53-year old pre-war great Luigi Fagioli in an Alfa was 3rd. Gonzalez was chasing Farina very hard; but Farina's car developed magneto problems and had to fall back, which put Gonzalez in the lead, with Fagioli in 2nd. However, during both the leader's pitstops, as was commonplace in Grand Prix racing up until 1957 – Gonzalez handed his car over to Ascari, and Fagioli exchanged his healthy car with Fangio's mechanically unhealthy car, so Ascari and Fangio were back in 1st and 2nd where they had been before. But Fangio took advantage of Ascari's brake problems on his Ferrari to win a race that holds the record for farthest racing distance ever completed for a Grand Prix, 373 mi (610 km). Fagioli, furious over having to swap cars with Fangio, quit Grand Prix racing on the spot, and the veteran Italian would die after crashing during a sportscar race at Monaco in 1952.
The British Grand Prix at the Silverstone airfield circuit in England played host to Round 5 of the Formula One Championship, and this race was to make history. The Alfa Romeos, with their powerful 420 hp supercharged 1.5L engines were fast, but had horrendous fuel consumption: 1.5 miles per gallon (thanks to the rather simple pre-World War II engine design) meaning that Fangio and Farina had to stop twice to refuel, whereas Gonzalez, in the more fuel efficient 4.5L naturally aspirated V12 Ferrari went on to win, with Fangio second. This was the first time Enzo Ferrari had won a Grand Prix with a car of his own company's construction, and this team went on to be the most successful team in Formula One history.
West Germany had been banned from international sports competition until 1951, so the German Grand Prix was able to be a Grand Prix championship round for the first time since 1939. And the venue was the same as it had been in 1939 – that venue was the dauntingly challenging, dangerous and twisty 14.2 mile (22.8 km) Nürburgring Nordschleife. Ascari took pole position in front of his teammate Gonzalez, and Alfa drivers Fangio and Farina. At the start, Farina took the lead, but the Alfas started to develop overheating problems, and Farina soon retired. In addition to engine problems, the gearbox in Fangio's Alfa lost 1st and 2nd of 4 gears, and after trading the lead with Fangio during pitstops, Ascari took the lead and won his first championship Formula One Grand Prix.
Italy was next, and the Monza Autodrome near Milan played host to the seventh round of the Formula One Grand Prix championship. Fangio in an Alfa took pole position again, but he retired his car, which had engine problems; Farina, who had taken Felice Bonetto's Alfa had a leaking fuel tank and had to come in twice for fuel, which dropped him down the order far enough for him only to get as far as third. Fellow local hero and Milan native Ascari won again in his Ferrari – which kept his championship hopes alive catch the leader Fangio to win it in the last championship Grand Prix in Spain.
The first ever Formula One Spanish Grand Prix, held at the Pedralbes street circuit in Barcelona took place 7 weeks after the Italian round. The Ferrari and Alfa Romeo teams each ran four cars with Ferrari fielding Ascari, Gigi Villoresi, Froilan Gonzalez and Piero Taruffi and Alfa Romeo running Fangio, Giuseppe Farina, Felice Bonetto and Baron Emanuel de Graffenried. Ascari was fastest in practice and shared the front row of the 4–3–4 grid with Fangio, Gonzalez and Farina. Behind them were Villoresi, de Graffenried and Taruffi. Ascari led from the start with Gonzalez chasing but by the end of the first lap Gonzalez had dropped to fifth behind Farina, Fangio and Bonetto. Fangio quickly passed Farina and took the lead from Ascari on the fourth lap. As Fangio sailed away to victory Ferrari's challenge fell apart along with its tires – the team having opted to use smaller wheels than normal. By the time the team had sorted out the problem Ascari was two laps behind. Fangio duly won the race and his first of five championships with Gonzalez finishing second and Farina third.
|Rnd||Race||Circuit||Date||Pole position||Fastest lap||Winning driver||Constructor||Tyre||Report|
|1||Swiss Grand Prix||Bremgarten||27 May||Juan Manuel Fangio||Juan Manuel Fangio||Juan Manuel Fangio||Alfa Romeo||P||Report|
|2||Indianapolis 500||Indianapolis||30 May||Duke Nalon||Lee Wallard||Lee Wallard||Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser||Report|
|3||Belgian Grand Prix||Spa-Francorchamps||17 June||Juan Manuel Fangio||Juan Manuel Fangio||Giuseppe Farina||Alfa Romeo||P||Report|
|4||French Grand Prix||Reims-Gueux||1 July||Juan Manuel Fangio||Juan Manuel Fangio|| Juan Manuel Fangio
|5||British Grand Prix||Silverstone||14 July||José Froilán González||Giuseppe Farina||José Froilán González||Ferrari||P||Report|
|6||German Grand Prix||Nürburgring||29 July||Alberto Ascari||Juan Manuel Fangio||Alberto Ascari||Ferrari||P||Report|
|7||Italian Grand Prix||Monza||16 September||Juan Manuel Fangio||Giuseppe Farina||Alberto Ascari||Ferrari||P||Report|
|8||Spanish Grand Prix||Pedralbes||28 October||Alberto Ascari||Juan Manuel Fangio||Juan Manuel Fangio||Alfa Romeo||P||Report|
|Ecurie Belge||Talbot-Lago||T26C||Talbot 23CV 4.5 L6||D||Johnny Claes||1, 3–8|
|Philippe Étancelin||Talbot-Lago||T26C||Talbot 23CV 4.5 L6||D||Philippe Étancelin||1, 3–4, 6, 8|
|Yves Giraud-Cabantous||Talbot-Lago||T26C||Talbot 23CV 4.5 L6||D||Yves Giraud-Cabantous||1, 3–4, 6–8|
|Guy Mairesse||1, 4|
|Ecurie Rosier||Talbot-Lago||T26C||Talbot 23CV 4.5 L6||D||Louis Rosier||1, 3–8|
|HW Motors||HWM-Alta||51||Alta F2 2.0 L4||D||George Abecassis||1|
|Scuderia Ferrari||Ferrari||375||Ferrari 375 4.5 V12||P
|Luigi Villoresi||1, 3–8|
|Alberto Ascari||1, 3–8|
|Piero Taruffi||1, 3, 6–8|
|José Froilán González||4–8|
|Alfa Romeo SpA||Alfa Romeo||159||Alfa Romeo 158 1.5 L8s||P||Giuseppe Farina||1, 3–8|
|Juan Manuel Fangio||1, 3–8|
|Toulo de Graffenried||1, 7–8|
|Consalvo Sanesi||1, 3–5|
|Enrico Platé||Maserati||4CLT/48||Maserati 4CLT 1.5 L4s||P||Louis Chiron||1|
|Harry Schell||1, 4|
|Toulo de Graffenried||4, 6|
|Ecurie Espadon||Ferrari||212||Ferrari 212 2.6 V12||P||Rudi Fischer||1, 6–7|
|José Froilán González||Talbot-Lago||T26C||Talbot 23CV 4.5 L6||D||José Froilán González||1|
|Scuderia Espadon Meteor||Veritas||Meteor||Veritas 2.0 L6||P||Peter Hirt||1|
|Ecurie Belgique||Talbot-Lago||T26C||Talbot 23CV 4.5 L6||D||André Pilette||3|
|Pierre Levegh||Talbot-Lago||T26C||Talbot 23CV 4.5 L6||D||Pierre Levegh||3, 6–7|
|Graham Whitehead||Ferrari||125||Ferrari 125 1.5 V12s||D||Peter Whitehead||4|
|GA Vandervell||Ferrari||375 tw||Ferrari 375 4.5 V12||P||Reg Parnell||4|
|Gordini 15C 1.5 L4s||E||Robert Manzon||4, 6–8|
|Maurice Trintignant||4, 6–8|
|André Simon||4, 6–8|
|Eugène Chaboud||Talbot-Lago||T26C||Talbot 23CV 4.5 L6||D||Eugène Chaboud||4|
|Milano 1.5 L4s
Maserati 4CLT 1.5 L4s
|Joe Kelly||Alta||GP||Alta 1.5 L4s||D||Joe Kelly||5|
|BRM Ltd||BRM||P15||BRM P15 1.5 V16s||D||Reg Parnell||5, 7|
|Bob Gerard||ERA||B||ERA 1.5 L6s||D||Bob Gerard||5|
|Brian Shawe-Taylor||ERA||B||ERA 1.5 L6s||D||Brian Shawe-Taylor||5|
|Scuderia Ambrosiana||Maserati||4CLT/48||Maserati 4CLT 1.5 L4s||D||David Murray||5–6|
|John James||Maserati||4CLT/48||Maserati 4CLT 1.5 L4s||D||John James||5|
|Philip Fotheringham-Parker||Maserati||4CL||Maserati 4CLT 1.5 L4s||D||Philip Fotheringham-Parker||5|
|Duncan Hamilton||Talbot-Lago||T26C||Talbot 23CV 4.5 L6||D||Duncan Hamilton||5–6|
|Antonio Branca||Maserati||4CLT/48||Maserati 4CLT 1.5 L4s||P||Toni Branca||6|
|Francisco Landi||Ferrari||375||Ferrari 375 4.5 V12||P||Chico Landi||7|
|Peter Whitehead||Ferrari||125||Ferrari 125 1.5 V12s||D||Peter Whitehead||1, 7|
|OSCA Automobili||OSCA||4500G||OSCA 4500 4.5 V12||P||Franco Rol||7|
|Prince Bira||Maserati-OSCA||4CLT/48||OSCA 4500 4.5 V12||P||B. Bira||8|
|Georges Grignard||Talbot-Lago||T26C||Talbot 23CV 4.5 L6||D||Georges Grignard||8|
Other Formula One races, which did not count towards the World Championship, also held in 1951.
|Race Name||Circuit||Date||Winning driver||Constructor||Report|
|I Gran Premio di Siracusa||Syracuse||11 March||Luigi Villoresi||Ferrari||Report|
|XII Pau Grand Prix||Pau||26 March||Luigi Villoresi||Ferrari||Report|
|III Richmond Trophy||Goodwood||26 March||B. Bira||Maserati||Report|
|VI Gran Premio di Sanremo||Ospedaletti||22 April||Alberto Ascari||Ferrari||Report|
|I Grand Prix de Bordeaux||Bordeaux||29 April||Louis Rosier||Talbot-Lago||Report|
|III BRDC International Trophy||Silverstone||5 May||Reg Parnell||Ferrari||Report|
|V Grand Prix de Paris||Bois de Boulogne||20 May||Giuseppe Farina||Maserati||Report|
|V Ulster Trophy||Dundrod||2 June||Giuseppe Farina||Alfa Romeo||Report|
|I Scottish Grand Prix||Winfield||21 July||Philip Fotheringham-Parker||Maserati||Report|
|II Grote Prijs van Nederland||Zandvoort||22 July||Louis Rosier||Talbot-Lago||Report|
|XIII Grand Prix de l'Albigeois||Albi||5 August||Maurice Trintignant||Simca-Gordini||Report|
|XX Circuito di Pescara||Pescara||15 August||José Froilán González||Ferrari||Report|
|V Gran Premio di Bari||Bari||2 September||Juan Manuel Fangio||Alfa Romeo||Report|
|IV Goodwood Trophy||Goodwood||29 September||Giuseppe Farina||Alfa Romeo||Report|