F1 circuits history part 2: 1951-3

Posted on

| Written by

The 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.


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.

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

8 comments on “F1 circuits history part 2: 1951-3”

  1. Fantastic work Keith, I’m really looking forward to this series. I’m such an F1 circuit geek…

  2. Glad you’re enjoying it! It’ll be running for about two weeks in total, but of course there will be other stuff going on the site as well.

    Am keeping an eye out for anything on the launch of the new Ferrari at the moment but I have a house to paint today so I might not be able to blog it until later…

  3. Great to see features on the history of the sport. I think the scale and fast nature of the historic circuits will come as a shock to the Schumacher generation who have grown up with the Tilke-dromes.(drones?)

    Shame we can’t get some longer faster circuits today instead of the standard 2.5 mile tracks full of second and third gear chicanes.

    Bring back Suzuka at least. How can it be progress to go from Hugenholz to Tilke?

  4. Yes, thanks loads for these images and the info, such a nostalgic bit of history. Very creative work on your part.

    PS: Just saw the pictures of the new Ferrari….with all the cutouts and paste-ons, winglets and end-plates………makes me a bit lonesome for a Lotus 25, or even better….a good 1958 Vanwall, oh well. hjR

  5. And the thing is, with these giant run off areas buitl around contemporany circuits, some “longer faster” tracks would be perfectly possible…

  6. Did someone say VANWALL ???
    I’ve got a friend !!!

  7. Lucky I just found this excellent website by chance after searching for BIRA F1 world championship history,following seeing one of his White Mouse Team Maserati 250F F1 cars in the Thai/Siam colours of Light blue/light yellow at the Silverstone classic. Then checking the F1 Nurburgring,Spa,Reims & Pedrables races of 1954 led me to Here ,its great to share a common interest of the greatest sports own history,I started watching Motor racing at Crystal Palace and Brands Hatch in the early 60’s with Dad, been involved with racing ever since.In 1995 I found the Pedrables circuit ,Barcelona. One or two clues were garages still had original 50s posters on the walls. I also found the 1970s ,Montuich Park circuit high on the hills by thje Olympic stadium there at Barcelona,worth a look,just see how narrow those roads are, and hilly,what a challenge to drive there in an F1 car of that period.
    Last year I went to Spa for the GP,still great although only half its original length of 8 miles,we found the original parts near Stavelot and the Masta straight,all still there.Following Spa we went to Nurburg.
    The Nurburgring was great to drive although my wife was a bit sick after 4 laps but will go again ,but maybe just 1 lap !we finally went to Reims on the way back through France,most of the track can be driven still and they keep the pits and Grandstand in good condition,its got an atmosphere,they should use that circuit.Brakes on,its difficult to stop talkin racing!Keep up the good work,regards, Steve.

  8. Vanwall – good to see I have some friends also – have a collection of pics of the 57 and 58 cars sent to me from Vandervell Products and they they take pride of place on one of my study walls.

Comments are closed.