• 1952

Ascari and Ferrari completely dominate

Alberto Ascari crosses the line to win the Belgian Grand Prix, the first of six successive wins in the season © Getty Images
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Season's results | Drivers' Championship

Ferrari responded to the Formula Two rule changes by dominating the season. Alberto Ascari won every race he entered and became world champion. An injured Fangio could only watch these events from the sidelines.

Despite the change of regulations, Ferrari entered 1952 as the major force. The marque had already been highly successful in Formula Two, and had a first-class driver squad. Ascari, Villoresi and Piero Taruffi were joined by Farina - on the market after Alfa's withdrawal. The main opposition should have come from reigning champion Fangio, who had switched from Alfa Romeo to Maserati to drive the new A6GCM. However, he was forced to miss the entire season after breaking his neck in a crash during a non-championship race at Monza.

The rule change achieved its aim of attracting a variety of cars to take on the red machines. From France came the Gordinis of Jean Behra and Robert Manzon, while in Britain there was a host of projects under way, including the Cooper-Bristol, Connaught, HWM, Alta, Frazer Nash and ERA. The most successful of these would prove to be the Cooper-Bristol, an underpowered but superb-handling machine. Its brilliant young driver was the flamboyant Englishman, Mike Hawthorn, who was the find of the year.

The championship began with the Swiss Grand Prix, notable for the absence of Ascari, who was busy with Ferrari commitments at Indianapolis. Taruffi scored an easy win, well ahead of local Ferrari privateer Rudi Fischer. The Gordini showed promise, with Behra taking third. That place was held by Moss in the HWM, but his car was withdrawn after two of its sister entries suffered hub failures.

Ascari returned at Spa, and scored his first win of the new Formula Two era in soaking conditions, ahead of team-mate Farina. Manzon gave Gordini another third, but all eyes were on Hawthorn, making his champ-ionship debut. He ran third and, after a fuel leak delayed him, finished a fine fourth. It was the highest place to date for a British car, and the first sign of great things to come from John Cooper's small company. Behra's Gordini beat the Ferraris at Reims but, sadly in this particular year, it was a non-championship race.

The French Grand Prix moved to Rouen a week later, and Ascari, Farina and Taruffi finished one-two-three, with Manzon fourth. At Silverstone Ascari and Taruffi were one-two, but Hawthorn was the darling of the crowd, finishing third. Dennis Poore also impressed with his Connaught, leading Hawthorn until a long fuel stop, before coming fourth.

The German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring was a complete Ferrari whitewash, with Ascari heading Farina, Fischer and Taruffi. Ascari had to work hard for his win: a late pit stop for oil dropped him to second and forced him to catch and repass Farina. The new Dutch event at Zandvoort saw Ascari heading home Farina and Villoresi, with Hawthorn again leading the challenge in a gallant fourth with his Cooper-Bristol.

Ascari had clinched the title before the finale at Monza, where he scored his sixth win from six starts.

Reproduced from The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Formula One published by Carlton Books

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