27 – 1953 French GP


A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here).

It almost didn’t happen. Angered by its disqualification from the lead of the supporting 12-hour sports car race, which started at midnight, Ferrari threatened to take its ball home and boycott the GP. 

Given that it had won 10 on the bounce, however, and that its reigning champion Alberto Ascari had registered yet another pole, it realised that this would be cutting off its nose to spite its face.

Maserati, in contrast, was champing at the bit, having continued to narrow the performance gap to its Modenese neighbours. Its plan now was to upset Ascari’s preferred rhythm at the front by starting Froilán González on half-tanks. The ruse might have worked, too, but for a mid-race spurt by team leader Juan Fangio, who also dragged along the Ferraris of Ascari, Luigi Villoresi, Giuseppe Farina and Mike Hawthorn, plus the Maser of his protégé Onofré Marimón. It was into the middle of this frantic slipstreaming scrap that González plopped.

View this race on the Database

The Maserati held the edge in terms of acceleration, whereas the Ferrari was better on the brakes. This led to a high-speed game of cat-and-mouse that nobody expected the inexperienced Hawthorn to win. Yet the young Englishman, 24, more comfortable than Ascari in the hurly-burly, took the fight to Fangio, the pair of them passing and repassing. On lap 58 (of 60), they crossed the line in a dead heat, as did Ascari and González a few lengths behind.

Hawthorn braked desperately late for the final corner yet also managed a good exit, and although the battling Maseratis drew closer on the long straight run to the flag – Ascari had been dropped by three seconds – he held on to score a remarkable victory by a single second. PF

About 100 Greatest Grands Prix | From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…

This was a special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month.

It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache…

Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided.

Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for!

Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport.

You can download 100 Greatest Grands Prix in PDF form in the Motor Sport app.

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