The 1961 French Grand Prix was the fourth round of the 1961 FIA Formula One World Championship, held on the Reims-Gueux Grand Prix circuit in north-east France. Staged on the 2nd of July, the XLVII Grand Prix de l'ACF would be notable for the large number of privateers, as well as the semi-works effort of the eventual race winner.
Indeed, Giancarlo Baghetti made history by becoming only the third driver (after Nino Farina and Johnnie Parsons) to win on his debut race, using a FISA entered Ferrari 156, supported by the Ferrari team. Dan Gurney and Jim Clark would complete the podium after a series of problems for the three scarlet cars of Phil Hill, Wolfgang von Trips and Richie Ginther who all failed to score.
The race would also go down as an epic in F1 history through the manner of Baghetti's victory, in a race which saw the dominant Ferrari 156 finally succumb to technical issues. Hill had initially led the race, before a brief lead for von Trips was ended with a engine failure before the halfway mark. Hill then spun, taking a whack from Stirling Moss in the process, to put him out of contention, with Ginther taking the lead. Yet, even Ferrari's lead driver would suffer in the heat, a sudden loss of oil dumping him out of the race, leaving Baghetti as the tifosi's only hope.
And there would be drama right through to the line too, as Baghetti snatched victory from Gurney just a couple of hundred yards from the line, a tenth of a second ultimately splitting them as they flashed past the pits. Earlier in the race, the Italian had been part of a brawl for fourth that had seen himself, Gurney, Jo Bonnier, Clark, Innes Ireland, Graham Hill, Tony Brooks, Moss and Bruce McLaren demonstrate why they were the best in the world at motor racing, before the heat of the French summer began to take its toll on the previously unstoppable scarlet cars.
Two weeks had passed since the Belgian Grand Prix and the entry list would feature a majority of those competitors, with Ferrari bringing an additional 156 for a fourth driver. Olivier Gendebien returned to his Equipe Nationale Belge team, but they opted not to attend the French Grand Prix, with the tifosi deciding to call upon Giancarlo Baghetti to fill their vacant seat. His car, however, would be entered on behalf of Federazione Italiana Scuderie Automobilische and painted in their colours meaning he would be considered as a privateer entry by the organisers.
Elsewhere, Team Lotus released an updated version of the Lotus 18, featuring many development parts that were being used on the Lotus 21 run by their two factory drivers Innes Ireland and Jim Clark, whom would be augmented by a third car driven by Willy Mairesse. Stirling Moss was one of those to have his 18 updated, while the entries of UDT Laystall Racing Team, featuring Lucien Bianchi in a third car, were also ready before the start of the race.
The Championship battle was now in Ferrari's favour on both counts, the Italian manufacturer seeing Phil Hill lead Wolfgang von Trips by a single point ahead of the French Grand Prix. Their third driver Richie Ginther was to be found in fourth, level on points with Moss, and seven behind the leading Hill, while Team Lotus' Clark completed the top five. Five other drivers had scored in 1961, with Gendebien, Dan Gurney, John Surtees and the two Cooper Car Company drivers Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren rounding out the scorers.
The Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers awarded eight points to the race winning team, meaning Ferrari held at least a whole race advantage over Team Lotus before the start of the fourth race of the season. They led the British firm by ten points, with those two manufacturers the only ones to have had cars on the podium in 1961. Porsche, meanwhile, were at the bottom of the point scorers, having been outscored by Cooper-Climax at the previous round as they rounded out the four point scoring manufacturers.
The full entry list for the 1961 French Grand Prix is outlined below:
The joint practice and qualifying sessions began as early as Wednesday evening, with high temperatures persisting at the start of the first action at 18:00. Every single day would see issues with the track surface, melting caused by the high temperatures meaning the surface began to break up more and more as the race day approached. The continuing damage meant that Saturday was left as a free day without any on-track action to allow the track surface to recover, meaning the results for qualifying were declared a day early.
There were no shocks to be found in qualifying, despite the high temperatures as the three Ferrari factory drivers of Phil Hill, Wolfgang von Trips and Richie Ginther swept to the front row with relative ease. Hill was a second and a half quicker than his two team mates, while Stirling Moss was almost three seconds back as the best of the rest in fourth. Jim Clark led the Team Lotus challenge from fifth, four seconds off of Hill's pace, while Graham Hill led the BRM-Climax duo from sixth.
Dan Gurney would start from ninth as the best placed Porsche driver, outpaced by the under powered Cooper-Climax contingent led by John Surtees in seventh. Ferrari planned to have Giancarlo Baghetti to run as much as possible over the practice/quali sessions, with the Italian getting more and more familiar with the circuit and the car to the point where he set the twelfth fastest time, while the loaned Team Lotus entry in the hands of Willy Mairesse would start twentieth. Maurice Trintignant, meanwhile, would be the only representative of the French nation on the grid, starting down in twenty third.
The full qualifying results for the 1961 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
|2||20||Wolfgang von Trips||Ferrari||2:26.4||+1.5s|
|17||14||Carel Godin de Beaufort||Porsche||2:31.8||+6.9s|
|26||34||Giorgio Scarlatti||De Tomaso-OSCA||2:47.1||+22.2s|
|3||Wolfgang von Trips|
|18||Carel Godin de Beaufort|
Temperatures on Sunday morning were cooler than they had been all week but remained incredibly hot, with Formula Junior taking to the track for two races before the start of the Grand Prix to test whether the tarmac would survive sustained running without deteriorating. Two trouble free races for the Junior category and the F1 cars were ready to take to the track, although numerous modifications were made to the cars, ranging from extra vents, to the removal of side panels as Team Lotus had opted to do. The drivers too were forced to take action, many including Stirling Moss emerging from the pits in soaked overalls to the delight of the French crowd, all with the aim of keeping cool during the two hour race set to start at 15:00 local time.
The Scuderia were untroubled at the start, the trio of scarlet cars on the front row departing as one with Moss tucked right behind Richie Ginther in fourth. The opening lap would see Wolfgang von Trips and Ginther swap places before the end of the lap as Phil Hill created a small gap to the field, the rest of the 26 car field running nose-to-tail in the American's wake. Behind Moss ran John Surtees as the best of the Cooper-Climax drivers, with the Team Lotus duo of Jim Clark and Innes Ireland in close attendance. BRM-Climax saw their two cars running together too, Graham Hill ahead of Tony Brooks, with the three silver Porsches next in line.
The second lap saw the field begin to be stretched by the three Ferraris at the front, with Hill now leading von Trips and Ginther, the latter unable to shake the ever present Moss just behind. Without the slipstream effect, Surtees was under intense pressure from Clark as they battled for fifth, with a slight gap behind due to a double move by the BRMs on Ireland. Giancarlo Baghetti, meanwhile, was busy carving his way through the field with his Ferrari grunt, moving into the top ten with a stunning move on Bruce McLaren which saw the two make the slightest amount of contact. By the end of lap three Surtees was in charge of a cloud of privateer machinery in fifth, with Ireland taking Brooks in the tight pack, while Baghetti slipped past Dan Gurney and Jo Bonnier in the speeding pack.
There was suddenly turmoil for the scarlet cars at the front of the field as Moss took advantage of a slide from Ginther to snatch third place off of the American. In his attempts to keep pace with his team mates, Ginther attempted to control his slide as the cars thundered through Thillois, but momentum turned his slide into a spin in a heartbeat. The next man on the scene was Surtees, and the Brit had to throw his Cooper onto the grass verge on the side of the circuit in avoidance, breaking his suspension on the earth bank that lined the edge of the track. Ginther was back at full pace before Clark and co. made it to the incident, with Surtees limping home to retire his bent Cooper at the end of the lap.
Moss would continue to fend off a resurgent Ginther into lap five as Clark now led the mass brawl over fifth, defending heavily from team mate Ireland, who himself was under pressure from Graham Hill and Baghetti, as well as the two Porsches split by McLaren. By lap six, however, the race seemed to be settled as Ginther slung his Ferrari past Moss and gapped the Brit with his two colleagues ahead. Rumours of a decision by Ferrari that Hill was not to win the race had circulated, with speculation that the relentless pace of the American in the early stages was an attempt to ensure that the world knew that surrendering the lead would be the result of team orders. He managed to pull clear and set the fastest lap on three consecutive laps, before slowing to allow von Trips and Ginther to rejoin him after the ten lap mark.
Having slipped away from the Ferraris, Moss was slowly being drawn in by the ongoing brawl for fifth place, Ireland now heading Graham Hill with Baghetti also climbing to the back of the point scoring positions. The order was constantly shuffling, and a misjudged move by Baghetti forced Ireland off the track at Muizon, dropping him to the back of the group on lap ten. Yet, the Brit was not to be deterred, and within a lap was sitting on the back of the Italian plotting his revenge, with Clark splitting the two in the group still featuring Graham Hill, the two Porsches and McLaren.
A switch at the front saw von Trips waved past by Phil Hill, who slotted neatly into the wake of his team mate as a clear demonstration that his manoeuvre had been the result of team orders. This move almost passed unseen, however, as the charging mass of machinery squabbling over fifth place drew right onto the back of a struggling Moss, Baghetti, Clark and Ireland past the Brit before the end of lap thirteen. Moss' troubles were found with a spongy brake peddle, although his driving style that dripped with skill saw him keep in the middle of the pack now duelling for fourth. Up ahead, meanwhile, the two leading Ferraris were under orders to ease their pace, both slowing to allow Ginther to catch back up after his troubles earlier in the race.
There would be more drama for the scarlet cars, as the first chink in the seemingly impenetrable Ferrari 156's armour was found by von Trips on lap 20. Water was found pouring from his exhaust as the German limped into the pits, the first engine failure for the 156, a startling development given that Hill and von Trips had not been pushing for at least ten laps. Baghetti was hence promoted to third, but he had to contend with both Team Lotus cars who were swapping positions almost every lap to attack the older spec 156 ahead. Bonnier and McLaren, meanwhile, had made their way past Moss, who was seriously struggling with his brakes, ultimately falling from the group after pitting for repairs, a new brake line being fitted in just four laps.
At the halfway mark the Team Lotus machines had finally had their revenge on Baghetti, Ireland and Clark forcing their way past moments after each other as Phil Hill led Ginther by twenty seconds. The latter had made a second mistake to double the gap at the front of the field just before the halfway point, before the two Porsches made their move to climb to the lead of the third placed pack, Gurney taking Baghetti, Clark and Ireland in a short sequence of moves. Bonnier followed his American team mate through past the two Lotuses, with Ireland beginning to slip ever so slightly back from the group with damage to his engine, caused by a stone from his earlier rally-cross attempt.
Baghetti suddenly hit the lead of the group on lap 29, third place now in his grip after taking Bonnier, who had moments earlier pushed his way past Gurney and Clark, the latter two also now reversed. He would exchange more passes with the two silver cars over the following laps, Bonnier and Gurney both making their way past the Ferrari down the main straight, before being pounced upon in the narrow hairpins by the youngster. Clark lost time after taking a stone to the head, fortunate that his goggles were able to take the small stone's impact at the cost of the fixing across his nose. At over 100 miles an hour Clark deftly swapped to his spare pair hanging around his neck, but even this limited delay saw him slip too far behind the Porsches and Baghetti, and without the slipstream effect he was left in a lonely sixth ahead of his limping team mate.
Out front, Hill remained seemingly untouchable as he pounded around the circuit at a consistent pace of 2:38.0, paced around twenty seconds back by Ginther. That was until lap 38, when Ginther swung past the pits in the lead, before a heavily damaged 18/21 swung into the pits, Moss signalling to the Ferrari crew with some glee that his American rival was out of the race. Hill, as it happened, had spun on the damaged tarmac at the Thillois hairpin before being clouted by Moss as the Brit tried to take avoiding action from the recovering Ferrari. The impact stalled the Ferrari's engine, and despite his best efforts, Hill was left to watch as Ginther, and then temporary team mate Baghetti with two silver Porsches swept by. Moss, meanwhile, would be out with broken suspension from the collision, although his car would later be revealed to have been suffering with a damaged water pipe after the race.
A few laps later and Ginther was having dramas, a sudden loss of oil pressure forcing him into the pits, although new rules prevented Ferrari from topping up his car meaning he was sent back out to try to fend off the oncoming brawl between Baghetti and the two Porsches. Then, on lap 42, with Hill back in the running two laps down, Ginther stopped out on the circuit, leaving the young Italian, flanked by two silver machines, to cross the line in the lead of the race. Baghetti was under intense pressure, both Gurney and Bonnier sweeping past before succumbing to the superiour braking of the 156 in the hands of the Italian. With just two laps to go Gurney and Baghetti crossed the line together with Bonnier almost touching their exhausts, a fateful position for the second Porsche a lap later.
As mentioned earlier, the heat in France in 1961 was intense, and the furious battle over the previous 50 laps was taking its toll on the cars. Heat would pour off the back of the red and silver machines in front of Bonnier, and just a lap and a half from the end his Porsche engine finally screamed in protest having boiled its coolant and oil just a few miles from the end of the race. That promoted Clark into third with Ireland in his wake, as Gurney and Baghetti continued a furious duel for victory, the American going all out to best the débuting Italian.
Baghetti led across the line as the two thundered onto the final lap, with the American drawing closer and closer to the back of the Ferrari down the main straight, before suddenly darting out of the scarlet car's wake to take the inside line through Thillois. Gurney now led from the Italian as the cars slithered through the rest of the circuit, although their dice was far from over as they swung onto the main straight for the final time. Gurney's Porsche still led, but it was punching a neat hole in the air for Baghetti, and just 300 yards from the line, Baghetti swung out of the wake of the Porsche to draw alongside and past before his momentum ran out. Gurney was just beginning to get back on level terms with the Italian as the pair flashed across the line, the timing metres stating that just a tenth of a second had decided the race. And, stunningly, it was Baghetti whom had won to become the first driver since Nino Farina to win their début race in Europe, a roaring crowd greeting the youngster as he made his way to the podium a few minutes later with Gurney and Clark in close attendance.
The full results for the 1961 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
|8||42||Roy Salvadori||Cooper-Climax||51||+1 lap||15|
|9||16||Phil Hill||Ferrari||50||+2 laps||1|
|10||30||Henry Taylor||Lotus-Climax||49||+3 laps||25|
|11||46||Michael May||Lotus-Climax||48||+4 laps||22|
|12||36||Masten Gregory||Cooper-Climax||43||+9 laps||16|
|13||32||Maurice Trintignant||Cooper-Maserati||42||+10 laps||23|
|14||38||Ian Burgess||Lotus-Climax||42||+10 laps||24|
|15||18||Richie Ginther||Ferrari||40||Oil pressure||3|
|Ret||26||Stirling Moss||Lotus-Climax||31||Water pipe||4|
|Ret||48||Willy Mairesse||Lotus-Climax||27||Fuel injection||20|
|Ret||14||Carel Godin de Beaufort||Porsche||23||Engine||17|
|Ret||20||Wolfgang von Trips||Ferrari||18||Engine||2|
|Ret||34||Giorgio Scarlatti||De Tomaso-OSCA||15||Engine||26|
|Ret||2||Jack Brabham||Cooper-Climax||14||Oil pressure||14|
- Début for Giancarlo Baghetti and Bernard Collomb in a World Championship race.
- First and only win for Baghetti.
- Also Baghetti's first and only podium.
- Porsche claimed their first podium.
- Tenth podium for Team Lotus.
With the top four in the Championship all failing to score, Phil Hill remained at the top of the standings a point ahead of Wolfgang von Trips, while Stirling Moss and Richie Ginther stayed in third and fourth level on twelve points. Giancarlo Baghetti, however, had rocketed up into the top five with victory, going level on points with Dan Gurney but judged ahead because of his win. Graham Hill, meanwhile, had added his name to the scorers, tagging onto the bottom of the scorers pile.
Ferrari extended their lead in the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers, now fourteen points in arrears as the season reached the halfway mark. Lotus-Climax were their closest competitors, but seemed more likely to be in a battle for second with Porsche after their first podium courtesy of Gurney. Cooper-Climax were left in fourth, three points behind the German marque, while BRM-Climax were finally on the board after Graham Hill's sixth place finish
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: FRENCH GP, 1961', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr098.html, (Accessed 30/04/2016)
- 'The 47th French Grand Prix', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, August 1961), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/august-1961/28/47th-french-grand-prix, (Accessed 30/04/2016)
- 'France 1961: Race Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1961/france/engages.aspx, (Accessed 30/04/2016)
- 'France 1961: Qualifying', statsf1.com, (StatsF1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1961/france/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 27/04/2016)
- 'France 1961: Race Results', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1961/france/classement.aspx, (Accessed 01/05/2016)
|V T E||French Grand Prix|
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