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Alberto Ascari's Victory Smile: Italian Grand Prix, 1951

This is another wonderful Klemantaski photograph, catching the smiling expression of Alberto Ascari in his Ferrari 375/F1 as he overtakes the Alfa Romeo 159 of Juan Manuel Fangio on the entry to Porfido at the end of Monza's back straight during the Italian Grand Prix on September 16, 1951. The Italian Grand Prix was always an important one for Italian teams and this year was no exception with four 375s entered by Scuderia Ferrari and four 159s from Alfa Romeo. BRM also showed up with two cars but neither made it to the start.

Alfa Romeo had been very strong at the start of the season for the first three races, but then the huge victory of Froilán González with the Ferrari 375 at Silverstone began a renaissance for the Scuderia from Maranello with Ascari winning two races and closing the points gap to Fangio. The differences were primarily two. Ferrari was fast developing a more powerful engine, now out to 4.5 liters, in a new car with respectable fuel consumption while the Alfa's basic design now dated back to the late 1930s and getting more power required more supercharging which in turn required more fuel.

At Monza the Alfa 159s started by Fangio, Nino Farina and Emanuel de Graffenried all experienced engine failures and although Farina took over the 159 started by Felice Bonetto, he could do no better than third, a lap down. Once Fangio's challenge faded when he had to pit for tires on lap 14, Ascari sailed on to win from his teammate González by 44.6 seconds. Luigi Villoresi and Piero Taruffi with the other two Ferraris finished fourth and fifth.

Even though Monza was a relative disaster for Alfa Romeo, the tables would be turned at the final Grand Prix in Barcelona where Ferrari would make a poor choice of a smaller 16 inch wheel size which resulted in tire failures on the rough Pedralbes street circuit. Spain was the last race of the 1.5/4.5 liter formula. For 1952 the World Championship races would use 2 liter F2 engines and Ferrari with Ascari leading the team would be totally dominant.

Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection –

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