1953 British Grand Prix (partially found footage of Formula One race; 1953)

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1953britishgrandprix1.jpg

Alberto Ascari taking the chequered flag.

Status: Partially Found

The 1953 British Grand Prix was the sixth round of the 1953 Formula One World Championship. Held on 18th July at the Silverstone Circuit, the 90-lap race would be won by Ferrari's Alberto Ascari, who had also qualified on pole. The race made television history, as it became the first Formula One race to be televised live.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1953 British Grand Prix was the fourth time that the British Grand Prix was held. Prior to the event, defending champion Alberto Ascari was leading the standings on 28 points, ahead of Mike Hawthorn, who had scored 14 points.[1] The race, like others held in 1952 and 1953, would actually be run under Formula 2 regulations, to encourage a larger competitor field to attend events following the withdrawal of Alfa Romeo after the 1951 World Championship.[2]

The event would experience exposure than most Formula One races back then, as the BBC was interested in televising it. Prior to the Second World War, the BBC had broadcast many sports for the first time, including football, cricket, and rugby.[3] While Formula One did not exist until 1950, the BBC had a history of televising motor racing stretching back to 1937, when it televised an International Imperial Trophy race on 9th October.[4]

BBC cameras were therefore situated at Silverstone,[5] and commentary was provided by Raymond Baxter, a fighter pilot and prominent television and radio presenter.[6] Baxter would also be present for the Thursday practice session, in a television broadcast that explained some of terminology and workings of motor racing, as well as introduce the audience to some of the racing personalities and cars that made motor racing unique.[7] The actual race would be broadcast on Saturday, and would be expected to last from 11:30 to 2:30, complying with the international agreement where the Grand Prix must last three hours.[8] The BBC would dedicate its Television Service to broadcasting the race for the entire expected duration plus a fifteen minute overlap, with the broadcast being expected to end by 14:45.

According to issue 1,548 of Radio Times, multiple other events would also be held on Saturday, including 500cc., sports car and Formula Libre events. This explains further listings in the issue, including the 500cc. race expected to be held from 10-11, the sports car race from 15:30-15:45, and other events from 16:00-16:15 and 16:35-17:00. Further, a BBC recording would be broadcast showcasing highlights of the Silverstone races from 22:35-23:05.[9][10] Despite the historic nature of the broadcast, the BBC would only occasionally broadcast Formula One races in the 1950s and 1960s, with regular coverage generally occurring from 1979 onwards.[11]

The Race[edit | edit source]

Qualifying occurred on the 16th, in a session affected by rain. Ascari qualified on pole for Ferrari with a time of 1:48.0, a full second ahead of Maserati's José Froilán González, and 1.2 seconds ahead of Ferrari's Hawthorn. Former champions Juan Manuel Fangio and Nino Farina rounded out the top five, driving for Maserati and Ferrari respectively.[12]

In the race itself, Fangio made a good start, taking the lead at the first corner. However, his Maserati then drifted wide, allowing Ascari to overtake him. Ascari led Fangio, Gonzalez and Ferrari's Luigi Villoresi, with Hawthorn last having spun backwards at the Woodcote Corner and having survived a high-speed gyration that could have resulted in career-ending injuries if a crash occurred. The only damage however would be a slight fuel leak on his Ferrari. Ascari broke the lap record shortly after with a time of 1:51, only for Gonzalez to set an equal time on the next lap. Therefore, Ascari drove even faster to extend the gap between himself and the Maserati, with the fastest lap of the race at 1:50. Because both achieved fastest laps, Ascari and Gonzalez would both be awarded an additional half-point each, in addition to any points they would earn in their current positions.

The top four would for a long while consist Ascari, Fangio, Villoresi and Gonzalez, Gonzalez having lost a place because he was instructed to enter the pits due to a concern his Maserati was leaking oil. He nevertheless continued. As expected, Ferrari and Maserati would occupy most of the top places, while many of the other entries began to falter. Ascari was comfortably ahead by lap 25, and would only continue to dominate the race. Villoresi would retire on lap 65 because of a broken rear axle. The grid would then consist of Ascari, Fangio, Gonzalez, Farnia, and Hawthorn, who had managed to recover following his early spin.

In the final half hour of the race, heavy rain and hail affected proceedings, taking more competitors out of the race. Ascari remained unaffected though, and won the race after 90 laps, a full minute ahead of Fangio. Farnia would at some point overtake Gonzalez for third, holding out for the final podium spot, with both drivers being two laps down from Ascari. Hawthorn finished in the-then final points-paying position of fifth, a further lap down from the winner.[13][14] As a result of his victory, Ascari extended his lead in the championship to 17.5 points ahead of Hawthorn. González overtook Villoresi to third in the standings with 13.5 compared to Villoresi's 13, while Fangio moved up to fifth, also on 13 points, with four races still to go.[15]

Availability[edit | edit source]

Unlike many other BBC sports television firsts, televised footage of the 1953 British Grand Prix could have been recorded, as methods to directly record live television was possible following the Second World War.[16] While it is unlikely the whole race was recorded, the telerecording listed by Radio Times suggested at least some of the race, including the other Silverstone events, were captured and re-broadcast. However, as of the present day, this telerecording has never resurfaced, and has likely become a victim of wiping, a common practice by the BBC back then so that it could re-use its tapes.[17] The televised footage is therefore presumed to be lost. Nevertheless, a one-minute British Pathé newsreel of the race remains publicly accessible.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Videos[edit | edit source]

Footage of the race from British Pathé.


Images[edit | edit source]

See Also (Early BBC Television Media)[edit | edit source]

See Also (BBC Wiped Programs Media)[edit | edit source]

See Also (Early Sports Television Media)[edit | edit source]

See Also (Formula One Media)[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. STATS F1 providing the championship standings heading into the 1953 British Grand Prix. Retrieved 13 Oct '21
  2. Topgear-Autoguide detailing how the 1952 and 1953 World Championships were held under Formula 2 regulations. Retrieved 13 Oct '21
  3. SW Londoner listing some of the sports the BBC televised for the first time live prior to the Second World War. Retrieved 13 Oct '21
  4. Issue 731 of Radio Times listing the International Imperial Trophy race, the first motor race to be televised live. Retrieved 13 Oct '21
  5. Motorsport Magazine noting BBC cameras were present at Silverstone, capturing footage for the television broadcast. Retrieved 13 Oct '21
  6. Speed Read F1: The Technology, Rules, History and Concepts Key to the Sport crediting Raymond Baxter as the commentator for the race. Retrieved 13 Oct '21
  7. Issue 1,548 of Radio Times, listing the Thursday broadcast as Background to Sport: Motor Racing. Retrieved 13 Oct '21
  8. Issue 1,548 of Radio Times, detailing the expected race time start and end, as well as providing a Silverstone Special column from Raymond Baxter. Retrieved 13 Oct '21
  9. BBC Genome archive of Radio Times issues listing the races that would be broadcast on the 18th, including the 1953 British Grand Prix. Retrieved 13 Oct '21
  10. Issue 1,548 of Radio Times listing all of the races BBC Television Service was expected to broadcast on the 18th. Retrieved 13 Oct '21
  11. Motorsport Broadcasting noting the BBC did not provide regular coverage of Formula One until 1979. Retrieved 13 Oct '21
  12. STATS F1 listing qualifying results for the race. Retrieved 13 Oct '21
  13. August 1953 issue of Motorsport Magazine, providing a detailed report of the race. Retrieved 13 Oct '21
  14. STATS F1 listing the race results. Retrieved 13 Oct '21
  15. STATS F1 listing the championship standings following the race. Retrieved 13 Oct '21
  16. Web Archive article discussing how telerecording became possible following the Second World War. Retrieved 13 Oct '21
  17. Mental Floss detailing the extent of wiping, which likely affected any recorded footage of the 1953 British Grand Prix. Retrieved 13 Oct '21