There are some days in racing history that are bound to be remembered. The day when Alberto Ascari won Ferrari their first F1 championship is one of them. The legendary Italian driver in the Ferrari 500 F2 set the still unbeaten record of 6 victories out of 8 races in the 1952 calendar, mathematically winning the title with two races left.

Photography: Jiří Žemlička, Roberto Motta, Formula 1

Ascari’s incredible career consists of a number of records: apart from being a two-time World Champion (the last Italian driver to do so), he holds the record for the number of consecutive fastest laps (7, between the 1952 and 1953 seasons). Universally recognised as a well-rounded driver, his driving style was amazingly precise and his understanding of the car is legendary. He was prone to impose a very high, raw pace at the very beginning of the races and excel in holding it until the chequered flag. His tragic death in the Curva del Vialone, now famously turned into a chicane and renamed Variante Ascari, has been mourned as one of the most saddening events in racing and has been remembered for the eerie similarities with that of his father, also a racing driver.

Let’s try to sum up a very exciting championship and honour Alberto’s memory, which will forever be preserved by Ferrari and F1 fans in general.

18th of May 1952: Swiss Grand Prix

Track: Bremgarten

Pole position: Giuseppe Farina (Ferrari)
Winner: Piero Taruffi (Ferrari)

The 1952 season opens with more than one notable change since the previous editions: Alfa Romeo has officially retired from the competition, Fangio is not going to take part in the title fight because of his terrible injury in Monza, F2 rules are being used to make the competition more interesting, Ascari skips Race 1 to prepare for the 500 Miles. Nonetheless, Ferrari goes in for a double success, with Nino Farina’s pole and domination for the first 16 laps followed by Piero Taruffi’s first and only F1 win.

30th of May 1952: Indianapolis 500

Track: Indianapolis

Pole position: Fred Agabashian (Kuzma-Offenhauser)
Winner: Troy Ruttman (Kuzma-Offenhauser)

As usual since its enrollment in the F1 calendar, the race is disputed over the distance of 200 laps, for a total of 804,600 km. The 1952 Indianapolis race is remembered for the victory of Troy Ruttman, who holds the record for being the youngest winner of the race, aged 22. Another peculiarity is the presence of an Italian driver on board an Italian car: contrary to the practice according to which Formula 1 teams deserted the Indy race, given the difficulty in making cars suitable for racing there and sending them overseas, Alberto Ascari takes part with a specially designed Ferrari. The effort gains considerable attention, but Ascari spins out (wheel hub failure) and finishes 31st. It is the only World Championship race in 1952 that Ascari enters and does not win.

22nd of June 1952: Belgian Grand Prix

Track: Spa-Francorchamps

Pole position: Alberto Ascari (Ferrari)
Winner: Alberto Ascari (Ferrari)

Maserati is not yet ready with their new and highly anticipated car and its leader, Juan-Manuel Fangio, is definitely out of the game. Free practice ends with Alberto Ascari in pole position on his Ferrari, followed by his teammates Nino Farina and Piero Taruffi. Jean Behra and Robert Manzon are in the second row on their Gordini while Paul Frère (HWM), Ken Wharton (Frazer-Nash) and Mike Hawthorn (Cooper-Bristol) are in the third row. The race starts in the rain and Taruffi is the protagonist of a very bad start, ending up in the middle of the group, while Behra makes a great start and goes ahead of Ascari and Farina. Moss is among the head of the race too but his ERA suffers a failure and he is out. Ascari and Farina easily overcome Behra while Taruffi battles and recovers until overtaking on the French on the first lap. Ascari effortlessly goes on to take the win.

6th of July 1952: French Grand Prix

Track: Rouen Les Essarts

Pole position: Alberto Ascari (Ferrari)
Winner: Alberto Ascari (Ferrari)

The World Championship returns to Rouen for the fourth race of the season. The previous weekend Jean Behra on Gordini had defeated the Ferrari in the Grand Prix of La Marne (not valid for the World title) and expectations were high. Ferrari had made progress with some modifications to the engine and brought three cars for Alberto Ascari, Nino Farina and Piero Taruffi. Gordini has Behra, Robert Manzon (with a sore arm) and Prince Bira competing while the HWM races with Lance Macklin, Peter Collins and Yves Giraud-Cabantous.

The official Maserati team does not appear but brings a car to be tested by Philippe Étancelin. Ascari is easily the quickest with Farina and Taruffi behind him. Behra and Manzon share the second row, while Maurice Trintignant is in the third row with an old Simca-Gordini. Bira and Collins behind him. The race as we thought, is a bargain only for the Reds with Ascari in front of Farina throughout the GP. After a brief fight with the Gordini, Taruffi arrives third. Manzon manages to finish fourth while Behra is wrong and is forced to return to the pit to repair the car. This leaves Trintignant in fifth position, 5 laps from Ascari but a lap in front of Collins. The Ferrari team thus obtains a first historic hat-trick, consisting of three Italian drivers all on the Ferrari 500.

19th of July 1952: British Grand Prix

Track: Silverstone

Pole position: Giuseppe Farina (Ferrari)
Winner: Alberto Ascari (Ferrari)

The race is dominated by the Ferraris with Ascari and Farina in the lead. Taruffi starts off badly and has to contend with Connaught and Cooper-Bristol. He soon reaches sixth position in front of Dennis Pooree’s Connaught. Flour has problems and must often return to the pits to repair the car, arriving only sixth.
When Poore stops for fuel, Hawthorn snatches P3 keeping it until the checkered flag. While the British celebrate Hawthorn, Ascari wins.
The race ends with the first one-two of the Maranello team at the British GP,  with Ascari first and Taruffi second.

3rd of August 1952: German Grand Prix

Track: Nürburgring

Pole position: Alberto Ascari (Ferrari)
Winner: Alberto Ascari (Ferrari)

Maserati finally presents their highly anticipated one-seater, the A6GCM, driven by Felice Bonetto. Ferrari is once again fastest in qualifying, with Ascari and Farina snatching the front row, and the second row saw Taruffi and the private (but Ferrari-powered) contender Fischer. Bonetto’s Maserati makes the third row. An otherwise dull race is highlighted by an issue to Ascari’s car just two laps to the chequered flag. An oil malfunction means he has to run to the pits, emerging 10 seconds behind Farina. He catches the teammate just ten miles before home. Piero Taruffi is running in third behind his teammates, but loses the position to Rudi Fischer towards the end of the race when he encounters problems due to his suspension breaking. Fischer’s podium and Taruffi’s fourth place-finish ensure a Ferrari poker, yet another record being broken and the mathematical Championship win for Ascari.

17th of August 1952: Dutch Grand Prix

Track: Zandvoort

Pole position: Alberto Ascari (Ferrari)
Winner: Alberto Ascari (Ferrari)

Luigi Villores joins the Ferrari lineup again, after the 1951 season, to replace Piero Taruffi, alongside regulars Nino Farina and Alberto Ascari. At this point, races are pretty uneventful, the Ferrari domination being more than consolidated. Ascari takes pole, followed by Farina. Hawthorn, starting in the first row too, fights with the Ferraris for five laps before inevitably falling behind. In this race, Ascari breaks Fangio’s record of most World Championship race wins in the same season.

7th of September 1952: Italian Grand Prix

Track: Monza

Pole position: Alberto Ascari (Ferrari)
Winner: Alberto Ascari (Ferrari)

Monza only allows 24 cars to start the race, meaning that 11 out of the 35 drivers who entered the race don’t go past qualifying. The weekend starts with Ascari’s third consecutive pole and a Ferrari front-row lockup with Villoresi and Farina. Five Ferraris enter their home race, an unprecedented record. José Froilán González, who scored Ferrari’s first F1 race victory just a year before and is now racing for Maserati, takes first place at the start of the race, ahead of Ascari in second.

The Argentine remains in the lead for the first 36 laps of the race, until a slow pit stop makes it possibile for Ascari and Villoresi to overtake him going P1 and P2. Ascari holds the lead for the remainder of the race. González eventually catches up Villoresi and passes him, getting P2 in his only Championship race of the season. Villoresi completes the podium, immediately followed by Farina. In the last Championship race, Ferrari monopolises the first three positions of the final Drivers’ Standings.

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