F1 circuits history part 2: 1951-3

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Juan Manuel Fangio, Zandvoort, 1955The second part of the guide to F1 circuits includes the infamous Nurburgring Nordschleife, and the home of the Dutch Grand Prix.

It also includes the circuit at Buenos Aires where hundreds of thousands flocked to watch arguably the world championship’s first great – Juan Manuel Fangio.

Nurburgring Nordschleife, Germany*

The enormous Nurburgring (pictured above a few years ago) has undergone several changes since it was first used in 1950 but the basic outline of the 14-mile monster remains the same.

From the long main straight the circuit turns right away from the modern track. The track takes in famous and daunting corners such as Flugplatz, Adenauer Forst and Karussell – all of which you can see in this video lap of the Nurburgring from 1975.

Used until 1976, the Nordschleife claimed the lives of many including Onofre Marimon (1954), Peter Collins (1958), Carel Godin de Beaufort (1964), John Taylor (1966) and Gerhard Mitter (1969).

*West Germany at the time.

Pedralbes, Spain

Pedralbes in Spain was used in 1951 and 1954. At the time the country was under the rule of General Franco and the main straight was named after the dictator.

Rouen-les-Essarts, France

Another French circuit on public roads, Rouen was long regarded as one of the classic Grand Prix venues. From the start line the cars plunged downhill through a series of rapid bends before reaching the Nouveau Monde hairpin (its famous cobble stones are no longer there), then winding their way back up the hill to the start once more.

Zandvoort, The Netherlands

Zandvoort was the only circuit in the Netherlands to hold a Grand Prix and remained in use in a virtually unchanged form from 1952 until 1985. Since then the circuit has been reduced in size and a holiday resort now sits where part of the track used to run, making it difficult to trace its former outline.

It was designed by John Hugenholz, the same man who created Suzuka Circuit in Japan.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Like Spain, Argentina was a dictatorship in the early 1950s when it held its first Grand Prix. The circuit was originally named El Autodromo 17 de Octobre, the date of President Juan Domingo Peron’s accession to power. The first race in 1953 was called the Gran Premio de la Republica Argentina.

Crowd control at that inaugural event was terrible. Over 350,000 people attended to cheer on Juan Manuel Fangio and many sat at the very edge of the circuit, some even encroaching onto the track.

On lap 32 the inevitable happened. Giuseppe Farina, the 1950 world champion, swerved to avoid a small boy who had run onto the circuit, and ploughed into the crowd, killing at least 10 and injuring 30 more.

Alberto Ascari won on that tragic day, but Fangio returned to score a stunning win in the wet the next year, and triumphed again in 1955 during one of the hottest races ever recorded. Various different versions of the track were used until 1998, some of which will be covered later in this series.

Reims

The original Reims circuit was re-configured in 1953 to omit the run through Gueux, adding a new hairpin at Muizon (north-west) but retaining the Thillois hairpin (east).

The new sweeping curve approaching Muizon claimed the life of Luigi Musso in 1958. The same year Mike Hawthorn claimed the only victory of his championship season at the circuit, and three years later Giancarlo Baghetti became the only driver to win his debut race at the track.