1961 French Grand Prix (partially found footage of Formula One World Championship race; 1961)

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Giancarlo Baghetti edges out Dan Gurney to claim victory in his debut World Championship race.

Status: Partially Found

The 1961 French Grand Prix was the fourth race of the 1961 Formula One Season. Occurring on 2nd July at the Circuit de Reims, the race was ultimately won by Ferrari's Giancarlo Baghetti, in his debut World Championship event, after edging out Porsche's Dan Gurney on the final straight.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1961 French Grand Prix was the 11th running of the event in the Formula One calendar,[1] with the race lasting 52 laps.[2] The 40th French Grand Prix overall,[1] the race has been held at a variety of circuits, with the last one held at Reims occurring in 1966.[3] After the race was dropped from the schedule in 2009, it returned in 2018, where it has consistently been held at Circuit Paul Ricard.[3][1]

Heading into the race, the race organisers allowed all regulars to compete at the event, much unlike the prior Dutch and Belgian Grand Prix.[4][5] Ferrari entered its usual cars for Hill, Wolfgang von Trips and Richie Ginther, but it would also provide a car for the privateer Federazione Italiana Scuderie Automobilische (FISA) team.[4][5] FISA's driver would be Giancarlo Baghetti, who was making his World Championship debut.[6][7][4][5] Prior to this race, he had won non-championship Formula One events driving for Ferrari, including in Syracuse and Naples.[7][6][5] This actually meant he was undefeated at Formula One events heading into the race, making him a suitable replacement for Oliver Gendebien.[5][7][6] Porsche meanwhile were struggling with an underpowered and unreliable engine, in addition to seemingly abandoning their new chassis in favour of fielding the previous year's cars for Gurney, Jo Bonnier, and Carel Godin de Beaufort.[4]

In qualifying, while the Ferraris were initially lapping slowly for set-up purposes, with Baghetti learning the course, the drivers would soon emerge as the fastest throughout the sessions.[4][6][5] Hill achieved pole position with a time of 2:24.9.[4][6][5][2] Directly behind him was von Trips, with Ginther making it a Ferrari 1-3.[4][5][6][2] Lotus-Climax's Stirling Moss qualified fourth with a time of 2:27.6, despite being unhappy with his Lotus' handling in the corners.[4][5][2] The qualifying time was established when he harnessed the slipstream of von Trips for several laps, the German desperately trying to move away from the Brit that he accidentally prematurely exposed the Ferraris' potential, much to the dismay of his team.[4] Because of this, Ferrari were again deemed the pre-race favourites. Meanwhile, Gurney qualified fifth, while Baghetti would start 12th out of 26 competitors.[4][7][2]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1961 French Grand Prix commenced on 2nd July.[2] The Ferraris made a strong start, with only Moss capable of hanging with them in the early stages.[4][6][5][2] On lap 4, Ginther was chasing von Trips, but spun-off, enabling Moss to move into third.[4][5][7] As Ginther spun, Cooper-Climax's John Surtees took evasive action, which resulted in him damaging his rear suspension that forced his retirement.[4][2] Ginther began pursuing Moss, as Baghetti moved up to eighth.[4][7] Ginther passed Moss for third on lap 6, and as it was revealed based on the fastest lap information that Ferrari were not even maximising their cars' potential yet.[4][5] Thus, they began to move away from Moss overtime as they increased their average speed.[4] Hill however began to slow down from lap 8 onwards, not because of a mechanical issue, but due to team orders.[4] Enzo Ferrari had dictated that von Trips was to win before the race began, much to Hill's dismay.[4][5][7] Baghetti was now up to sixth and challenged Lotus-Climax's Innes Ireland for fifth.[4] He moved by after pushing Ireland onto the grass, and began to close-down on Moss due to superior braking.[4] On lap 13, Hill let von Trips pass him for the lead.[4][7][6][5][2]

Baghetti made it a Ferrari 1-4, as Moss dropped down following issues with his Lotus' brakes.[4][7] He now faced challenges from both Lotus-Climax's Jim Clark and Ireland, as von Trips and Hill were ordered to "slow down" by their team, so that Ginther could catch-up.[4][5][7] However, Ferrari's gameplan unravelled as von Trips retired following an engine failure, letting Hill move back into first.[4][7][2] He now led by 10 seconds to Ginther, as Baghetti defended third from the two Lotuses, the trio re-passing one another for the final podium spot.[4] But now, the Porsches were beginning to climb the order, with Gurney moving into third by lap 28, and Bonnier to fifth.[4][6] A four-horse race for third now emerged, with Ireland dropping out of contention as his engine lost power.[4][5] Despite his lack of World Championship experience, Baghetti remained resilient in the battle, re-overtaking the Porsches on lap 35.[4][6]

On lap 38, Hill stalled his engine after spinning on wet tar, before colliding with Moss as he tried to restart it.[4][6][7][5][2] The impact forced Moss to retire following suspension damage, while Hill pushed his car to restart, which should have subjected him to an instant disqualification per the new FIA regulations.[4] Ginther briefly led, but then discovered that his car was losing oil pressure.[4][6][5][7] He made a pit stop thinking that an oil change could occur, but was forced to leave when his team informed him that was now illegal under the new regulations.[4][6] Despite hoping that the situation would resolve itself, Ginther decided to retire on lap 41 to preserve the engine.[4][6][7][5][2] Baghetti therefore assumed the lead, but faced battles with the Porsches, while Hill re-joined the race in a distance ninth.[4][7][6][5][2] Gurney and Bonnier attempted to sandwich the Ferrari on multiple occasions, but Baghetti held strong and still led by lap 50.[4][6]

Bonnier was out of contention following engine issues soon afterwards, leaving Baghetti and Gurney duelling for the win.[4][6][7][5] Gurney overtook Baghetti a lap before the end, but the Italian refused to give up, and as they exited the hairpin onto the final straight, the Ferrari exited from the Porsche's slipstream and attempted an overtake.[4][6][7][5][2] The move proved successful, with Baghetti overtaking the American with just 300 yards to spare to claim victory in his debut race and eight points in the Drivers' Championship.[4][6][5][7][2] As he exited his car, he received major acclaim from the crowd and his pit crew for achieving the win and for his performance throughout the event.[6][4] This would be his sole success in the World Championship, as he never even reached the podium again for the rest of his career.[6][7] Clark and Ireland finished third and fourth respectively, Cooper-Climax's Bruce McLaren took fifth, while BRM's Graham Hill finished sixth.[4][5][2]

Availability[edit | edit source]

The race was reportedly televised partially live by several outlets, including France's ORTF and the BBC.[8][9] According to Issue 1,964 of Radio Times, the BBC broadcast 35 minutes of the race start, and 35 minutes of the closing stages, for a total of 70 minutes of coverage.[9][8] The television broadcasts have yet to resurface, but footage of the race from sources such as a British documentary is publicly available.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Videos[edit | edit source]

Colour footage of the race from a British documentary.
Colour footage of the race.

Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]