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The very first World Drivers Championship



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2004 was the 55th year of the official Formula 1 World Championship organized by the FIA. This article is an attempt at imparting glimpses of the year that started the Formula 1 World Championship of today. And of the drivers, cars and races of that year, 55 years ago.

Formula 1 in 1950 meant the elite No 1 class of racing under the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile).The formula for 1950 was based on engine capacity only. And the engine capacity formula for 1950 was cars with engines upto 4500 cc (if normally-aspirated) or 1500 cc (if supercharged): only cars satisfying this formula could be entered for Formula 1 World Championship. That was the formula for the first Formula 1 World Championship of 1950. And this formula has evolved over the years as cars maximize the performance potential under the prevailing formula, to levels undreamt of, when the formula was formulated and ended up threatening safety or interest in the sport. Essentially, this formula based on engine capacity was formulated generally at two opposite ends - at one end for normally-aspirated engines and at the other end for supercharged and decades later, for turbocharged engines. Additional parameters of weight and number of cylinders would be introduced in the years to come. But if the engine capacity alone is considered, the formula has evolved as given in the below table:

Years   Normally-   Supercharged/   Ratio   No of
    Aspirated   Turbocharged       Years
1950-1951   4500 cc   1500 cc   3.0 : 1.0   2
1952-1953   2000 cc   500 cc   4.0 : 1.0   2
1954-1960   2500 cc   750 cc   5.0 : 1.5   7
1961-1965   1300 cc to 1500 cc   Not Allowed   Not Applicable   5
1966-1986   3000 cc   1500 cc   2.0 : 1.0   21
1987-   3500 cc   1500 cc   7.0 : 3.0   1
1988-   3000 cc   1500 cc   2.0 : 1.0   1
1989-   3000 cc   Not Allowed   Not Applicable   1
1990-1994   3500 cc   Not Allowed   Not Applicable   5
1995-2005   3000 cc   Not Allowed   Not Applicable   11
2006-   2400 cc   Not Allowed   Not Applicable   ?????

Background to the 1950 Formula:The championship, previous to the 1950 Formula 1 World Championship was the AIACR-organized European Drivers’ Championship between 1935 and 1939. AIACR was the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus, the organization that after World War II became the FIA. The formula announced as early as October 1932 for the 1935 European Championship was:

1. Maximum weight of cars to be 750 kgs, without driver, fuel, oil, water and tyres.

2. Minimum body-width of 85 cm at the driver’s seat.

By 1937, the third year of the Championships, Mercedes-Benz were using 5700 cc, supercharged engines and their German rivals, Auto Union, 6000 cc, supercharged engines without exceeding the weight stipulation.

Speeds were going over what was deemed a safe limit, and hence for 1938, a new formula was devised:

1. Maximum engine capacity of 4500 cc without superchargers and 3000 cc with superchargers;

2. Maximum weight: 850 kgs.

The German cars under the new formula were nearly as powerful as the ones of 1937, though both Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union had gone for 3000 cc, supercharged V-12 engines. The Germans had between 1935 and 1939 always favoured supercharged engines. Hence the ratio of 3:2 {4500 cc:3000 cc} in capacity stipulation between normally-aspirated engines and the supercharged ones, was still in their favour. After World War II, the Germans were no longer an immediate factor. And AIACR had become the FIA. The new formula announced was therefore 4500 cc normally-aspirated engines against 1500 cc engines, if supercharged. The new ratio of 3:1, was loaded in favour of normally-aspirated engines. This then was the formula for 1950, under which the first FIA Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship would take place. For a small idea of why non-Germans - both drivers and teams - felt disadvantaged during 1935-9, the following table is self-explanatory.

     AIACR-organised     Position of Best   Position of Best Country
 Year   European Champion     Non-German team   Non-German Driver  
1935   Rudolf Caracciola M.Benz   4th- T Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)   2nd-L Fagioli (M. Benz) Italy
1936   Bernd Rosemeyer Auto Union   3rd- T Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)   3rd-T Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo) Italy
1937   Rudolf Caracciola M.Benz   6th- R Sommer{Alfa Romeo}   3rd-C Kautz{M Benz} Switzerland
1938   Rudolf Caracciola M.Benz   8th- G Farina{Alfa Romeo}   4th-R Seaman{M Benz} England
1939   Herman Lang* M.Benz   7th- R Dreyfus (Maserati)   5th-T Nuvolari (Auto Union) Italy

* Note: There is a major dispute on whether Lang or H.P. Müller of Auto Union was the Champion, but that is discussed elsewhere on this site.

Some facts about the 1950 World Championship: First of all, this World Championship was only for drivers, and not between teams. The first Constructors’/Manufacturers’ Championship would start from the 1958 Formula 1 season only. From 1958, two titles would be awarded every year- one for the Drivers’ World Champion and the other for the World Champion F1 team. There were seven designated races, which would form the basis of this World Championship - six races held in mainland Europe - and the third race, the Indy 500, held as usual at its oval home in Indianapolis in the USA. The Indy 500 was essentially a separate race with history going back to 1911, having no similarities with the rest of the races of the Formula 1 Championship. This compromise, of a race run to different regulations, included in the Formula 1 World Championship, would last for eleven years until its removal in 1961. There was not one common entrant between the Indy 500 and the rest of the Formula 1 races in 1950. There would be a few attempts by select Formula 1 drivers at winning the Indy 500 in the years to follow, but success would come only after the race was removed from the Formula 1 race calendar.

The points’ system for the first Championship gave eight points for the winner of a race, with 6-4-3-2 points for drivers placed second to fifth. There was no points for drivers finishing sixth onwards in a race. An additional point was given to the driver recording the fastest lap during the race. Since time in F1 in 1950 was measured only to a tenth of a second, in case of more than one driver recording identical fastest laps, they would share the point. This system of awarding points continued till 1960, when the point for the fastest lap was removed, and instead the sixth-placed driver given a point. Then from 1961, each race winner started to get nine points, and this lasted until the end of the 1990 season. From 1991, the winner started getting ten points and this continued until the end of the 2002 season. From 2003, there was a major change with the winner continuing to get the ten points, but drivers placed second to eighth, at a race getting 8-6-5-4-3-2-1 points respectively.

In 1950, the practice of two drivers taking turns in the same car to complete the race distance was accepted, and in case of such sharing, both drivers would get only half the points their finishing entitled them to. The practice of sharing would become a finely-honed system, in the initial years, with Italian teams in particular, ordering the third driver in their teams to cruise steadily during the race until called to surrender their cars to the leading drivers, in case of car failures. The practice of sharing the same car during a race was disallowed from the start of the 1958 F1 season.

In 1950, for each driver, the points scored in their best four races during the year, would alone be counted in determining the World Champion at the end of the year.

The Cars and Drivers of 1950

Forty-six Drivers took part in the First World Championship. They were an ageing bunch - average age of 39 years and 6 months! But they were the survivors of a World War that had taken away seven years - 1939-1945 - from their racing careers.

Of the forty-six, only six drivers took part in all the six races (excluding the Indy 500), two drivers in five races, four drivers in four races, and 5 drivers in three races. Thirteen drivers took part only in two races of the World Championship and sixteen drivers in only one race. They were the cream of surviving racing talent available in 1950, after the lost years of the World War, taking part in an unheralded World Championship - not even in their wildest dreams, could they have imagined the status of the championship today.

There were thirteen drivers each from Italy and Great Britain, twelve from France, four only from mainland Europe (with racing banned in Germany after the War until 1950), and another four from outside Europe - two from Argentina, one from the USA and the last a Thai Prince, based in England. The four oldest drivers were born before 1900 - Frenchman Philipe Etancelin in a Lago-Talbot, the Italian Luigi Fagioli nicknamed The Abruzzi Robber for his mean looks, driving for Alfa Romeo, another Italian Clemente Biondetti, who would use a Jaguar engine in his Ferrari 166 in the last round at Monza, and the Le Vieux Renard, meaning ‘The Old Fox’, Louis Chiron, driving a Maserati. The three youngest drivers were the only ones born after 1920 - Argentinian Froilan Gonzalez, the baby of the field, aged twenty-eight though, also driving a Maserati, colourful American Harry Schell, born and brought up in France by his multi-millionaire mother, Lucy O’Reilly Schell, and amateur Englishman, Geoff Crossley, driving his made to order Alta GP2, only the second racing car ever made by Alta.

The cars used in the 1950 World Championship and where they fitted into the 1950 Formula is as under:

1500 cc Supercharged: Alfa Romeo 158, Ferrari 125, Simca-Gordini T15, Maserati 4CLT/48, Maserati 4CL, ERA Types ‘A’ to ‘E’, and Alta GP;
4500 cc Normally Aspirated: Lago Talbot T26C, Ferrari 375, and the 2000 cc Ferrari 166.

The Alfetta drivers: The ALFA company Anonima Lombardo Fabbrica Automobili - founded by Ugo Stella in 1909 - was taken over by Guiseppe Romeo in 1915, to give the company its Alfa Romeo name. In 1938, the Alfa Romeo 158 – known as the Alfetta - was designed with a 1479 cc supercharged 8-cylinder in-line engine. It was designed for the voiturette class racing - the grade below the Grand Prix class, then, before World War II. It made a winning debut at the Coppa Ciano at Livorno, Italy on 7th August 1938 – a 145 km voiturette race - and continued with a win in the voiturette category of the Italian Grand Prix, held at Monza. After that came the Tripoli Grand Prix Race of May 1939. Six Alfettas were entered, since the race that year was running only for voiturette category cars. Unknown to Alfa Romeo, the German giant, Daimler Benz AG, had designed two 1.5 litre-engined W165 Mercedes Benz cars just for this race. The Alfettas were soundly beaten in the 394.2 km race, with the W165s romping home first and second and the leading Alfa nearly eight minutes behind. From then on, with no more appearances for the W165, the Alfettas were the class in the field, winning all the four races they entered until World War II put an end to racing in May 1940. During the war the Alfettas were hidden, some say in a cheese factory, in Northern Italy.

After the War, when racing resumed, the Alfettas had a setback in the first race they entered - the St Cloud Grand Prix in Paris, on 9th June, 1946 - but thereafter until the end of 1948, they put together an unbroken run of eleven race victories in the eleven races entered. The seven months between June 1948 and January 1949 were traumatic for the Alfa Romeo racing team, since they lost three of their leading drivers during that period. Achille Varzi was killed in practice at the rain-soaked Swiss Grand Prix Race on 30th June, 1948, Count Felice Trossi retired with the cancer that would kill him eventually in May 1949, and their No 1 driver, post-war, Jean-Pierre Wimille was killed racing at the Buenos Aires Grand Prix in January 1949.

Alfa Romeo took a break from racing in 1949, leaving the field open for others to make their mark, an opportunity seized by among others a certain Argentinian, Juan Manuel Fangio, racing in his first full year in Europe, and already thirty-eight years old. He had been one of the pall-bearers for Wimille, and with wins in five European races in 1949 - relatively the smaller ones - earned himself a call-up from Alfa Romeo to become one of their drivers for the first-ever World Drivers’ Championship being organized by the FIA. The other drivers recalled for 1950 were both Italian veterans - Giuseppe "Nino" Farina and Luigi Fagioli.

Fagioli had been the biggest name in Italian racing behind legendary Tazio Nuvolari in the 1930s, winning his first race in the year 1930 and then been on the driving team of all-conquering Mercedes Benz for 1934 and 1935 before ‘retiring’ in 1939, troubled by rheumatism. Farina on the other hand, had been the lead Alfa Romeo driver before the war, but this was a period when most of the Grand Prix racing was monopolized by the German teams of Mercedes Benz and Auto Union. After the War in 1946, Farina broke away from Alfa Romeo, over ‘others’ being given the No 1 status within the team. So with the team finalized for 1950, the Alfettas were back to racing and winning at San Remo on April 16th, 1950 with Fangio, thus coming up to the new World Championship with an unbroken twelve-race winning streak.

Fangio, Farina and Fagioli would drive for the Alfa Romeo factory team in all the six European races. Just for the first race at Silverstone, they would use Reg Parnell, a local British driver. And for the last race at Monza, they would bolster their team with two additional drivers- Piero Taruffi and Consalvo Sanesi- so that the lead trio, battling for the World Title would have spare cars, on hand if they required them during the race. So the drivers using the Alfettas were all drivers for the Factory Team, except for a guest star - Reg Parnell.

Alfa Romeo 158s     Birthdate   Death   Races
Giuseppe Farina Italy   30 10 1906   30 06 1966   All 6 races
Luigi Fagioli Italy   09 06 1898   20 06 1952   All 6 races
Juan Manuel Fangio Argentina   24 06 1911   17 07 1995   All 6 races
Piero Taruffi Italy   12 10 1906   12 01 1988   only race 7
Consalvo Sanesi Italy   28 03 1911   28 07 1998   only race 7
Reg Parnell GB   02 07 1911   07 01 1964   only race 1

The Ferrari drivers: Scuderia Ferrari was first set-up on December 1st, 1929, with the prancing horse emblem, but began taking care of all racing on behalf of Alfa Romeo from 1933. So, most of the racing done by Alfa Romeo during the thirties, was done by Scuderia Ferrari on Alfa Romeo’s behalf using Alfa Romeo racing cars and drivers. This also means that Enzo Ferrari had a hand in the creation and success of the Alfetta in 1938.

At the end of 1939, Enzo Ferrari was ‘fired’ by Alfa Romeo. Enzo then set up his own manufacturing facilities to make racing cars in 1940. The first model produced was the Vettura 815, a two-seater with a 1.5-litre straight-eight engine. Only two cars were ever produced. After the War in 1947, the Ferrari 125 came into being. The Ferrari 125 with a 1.5 litre V-12, supercharged engine was the model used by Ferrari in 1949 (in the absence of the Alfetta, as 1949 was the year that Alfa Romeo were taking a break from racing) with telling effect, with wins for Ascari at the Swiss Grand Prix, the International Trophy at Silverstone and the Italian Grand Prix (also the designated European Grand Prix of 1949) as well as a win for Luigi Villoresi at the Zandvoort Grand Prix.

Both these drivers, Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi, would spearhead the Ferrari challenge in the first World Championship. Alberto Ascari was the son of a famous racing driver, Antonio Ascari, who was the star driver for Alfa Romeo in the 1920s, and who met his death at the French Grand Prix of 1925, held at Montlhery. Alberto was a post-war racing driver unlike Luigi Villoresi, his mentor and close friend. Luigi Villoresi had been racing Maseratis before and after the War, and had been opposed to Enzo Ferrari ever since Emilio Villoresi, his elder brother, was killed on 20 June 1939 while testing the Alfetta at Monza. Luigi Villoresi had started racing for Ferrari only in 1949, partly through the conduit of Alberto Ascari.

A third driver, in a Ferrari 125, was Englishman, Peter Whitehead, but this was a private car and not part of the factory team. Ferrari would also use one-time motorcycle great Dorino Serafini in the last race at Monza, where the Ferraris with their 375 would make a bid to stop the Alfetta juggernaut. Besides, with Villoresi injured in a non-championship race at Geneva, Serafini was taken on as a replacement.

Raymond Sommer, known as Coeur de Lion or Lion-Heart, would drive a Ferrari 125 at Monaco, the 2-litre Ferrari 166 at Bremgarten and then Lago-Talbots at the last three races. Sommer, born in a pioneering aviation family in France, would drive 20 out of the 24 hours at the 1932 Le Mans race as his partner Luigi Chinetti was unwell and win the race. Next year, he would repeat the win with Tazio Nuvolari, as a part of the Maserati team. And 1950 would be his last year in racing, as he was to die just a week after the last race at Monza, when the steering failed on a borrowed Cooper at Cadours in a non-championship race.

Alberto Ascari Italy   13 07 1918   26 05 1955 125 at MC (r2) and CH (r4), 275 at B (r5), and 375 at Monza
Luigi Villoresi Italy   16 05 1909   01 08 1997 Ferrari 125 at races 2,4 and 5 only
Dorino Serafini Italy   22 07 1909   05 07 2000 Ferrari 375 at Monza (r7) only
Peter Whitehead UK   12 11 1914   21 09 1958 private Ferrari 125 at races 6 and 7 only
Raymond Sommer France   31 08 1906   10 09 1950 125 at MC (r2) and the 166 at CH (r4)

The Maserati drivers: The Officine Alfieri Maserati was founded in 1912 by the four Maserati brothers - Alfieri,Bindo,,Ernesto and Ettore. In 1926,they designed their first racing car – the Tipo or Type 26. Alfieri passed away in March 1932 with kidney problems. By 1937, their company had been taken over by Adolfo Orsi. Orsi shifted the factory to his native Modena, but the surviving brothers were given technical control for the next ten years. In 1939, the 4CL with a 1491 cc 4-cylinder supercharged engine was launched for voiturette racing. In 1948 the 4CL was modified to the 4CLT/48, with structural changes in the chassis and the suspension. On 27th June,1948, Alberto Ascari (he was driving Maseratis till the end of 1948 and only in the beginning of 1949 did Enzo Ferrari take him onto his team) won the first race at the San Remo Grand Prix in the new car, leading many to call the Type CLT/48 the San Remo.

Among the fourteen drivers shown as driving Maseratis, nine were on the San Remo, another two were on the 1950- modified 4CLT/50 and three were on the 1939 model, the 4CL. In addition, Englishman Reg Parnell drove the Alfetta at the first race, and then switched to a private San Remo for the race at Reims.

The most accomplished driver in a Maserati, and the only one driving the works entry, was Monaco’s Louis Chiron, nicknamed Le Vieux Renard meaning the ‘Old Fox’. Chiron, whose French father was the Maitre d’hotel at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, started racing in 1923 with a 1.5-litre Bugatti. In 1926, Chiron obtained sponsorship from Freddy Hoffman, the heir to Swiss Hoffman La Roche pharmaceutical empire, enabling Chiron to buy the very first, 2.3-litre supercharged Bugatti T35 from the Bugatti factory. 1928 was one of his best years, when he won seven Grand Prix races, driving for both Hoffman and the Bugatti factory team. His reputation as a top racer was firmly established when he won the European Grand Prix at Monza, beating the three Italians - Varzi, Nuvolari and Campari. In 1929, the first-ever Monaco Grand Prix was organized by Anthony Noghes and Louis Chiron. In 1930, he won the European Grand Prix run at Spa but was beaten to his home Grand Prix by René Dreyfus, running an extra fuel tank under the empty passenger seat, and running non-stop in the race. Chiron won the Monaco Grand Prix the next year as well as the French Grand Prix, but at the end of the year was fired by both Freddy Hoffman (for an ‘affair’ with his wife Alice Hoffman) and by the Bugatti factory team for disobeying team orders. After an abortive attempt to start his own team, he joined the Scuderia Ferrari, in 1933, as their lead driver. The 1934 French Grand Prix was the international debut of the new Mercedes and Auto Union cars, but Chiron led a Ferrari clean sweep (with the Alfa Romeo 2.9-litre supercharged Type B/P3) of all three places on the podium. But thereafter the Grand Prix scene was taken over by the Germans, and in 1936, he moved on to the Mercedes team, joining his very close friend, German lead driver Rudolf Caracciola. But 1936 was the year of Auto Union and Bernd Rosemeyer and by 1937 Chiron had decided to retire for good. But after the war, Chiron came out of retirement, first racing for the Lago-Talbot factory team during 1946-9, and then with the new championship approaching, switched to Maserati.

Another driver in a Maserati was Prince Bira, grandson of King Mongut of The King and I fame, went to England for his education at Eton and later Cambridge, and was an ardent racer, winning a few voiturette races before the War, and then by 1950 for the private team run by Enrico Plate, driving Maseratis. He raced under the simple ‘B Bira’ name, was extremely shortsighted and raced using glasses and specially built goggles.

Other notable Maserati drivers in 1950 were the Swiss Baron "Toulo" de Graffenried who had won the British Grand Prix in 1949, and Argentinian Jose Froilan Gonzalez, the youngest driver in the 1950 World Championship. Froilan Gonzalez was nicknamed El Cabazon meaning ‘Fathead’ by his close friends.

Louis Chiron Monaco   03 08 1899   22 06 1979   all races except B (r5) - 4CLT/48
Baron 'Toulo' de Graffenried Switzerland   18 05 1914   ?   all races except B and F - 4CLT/48
Paul Pietsch Germany   20 06 1911   ?   only Monza - 4CLT/48
Prince Bira Thailand   15 07 1914   23 12 1985   all races except B and F - 4CLT/48
Jose Froilan Gonzalez Argentina   05 10 1922   ?   races 2 (MC) and 6 (F) - 4CLT/48
Franco Rol Italy   05 06 1908   05 06 1977   MC (r2), F (r6) and I (r7) - 4CLT/48
Antonio Branca Italy   15 09 1916   10 05 1985   r4 and r5 only - 4CL
Felice Bonetto Italy   09 06 1903   21 11 1953   r5 and r6 - 4CLT/50
Nello Pagani Italy   11 10 1911   ?   r4 only - 4CL
Gianfranco Comotti Italy   24 07 1906   10 05 1963   r7-Monza - 4CLT/50
David Hampshire UK   29 12 1917   25 08 1990   r1 and r6 - 4CLT/48
David Murray UK   28 12 1909   05 04 1973   r1 and r7 - 4CLT/48
Joe Fry UK   01 01 1915   29 07 1950   r1 - 4CL
Brian Shawe-Taylor UK   29 01 1915   01 06 1999   r1 - 4CL
Reg Parnell UK   02 07 1911   01 01 1964   r6 (F) - 4CLT/48

The Lago-Talbot drivers: Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury, started the Talbot factory in 1903, which was taken over by Anthony Lago, an Italian exile, in 1934. Lago-Talbot designed the MD90 and the MC90 cars in 1939, with a 4.5-litre normally aspirated 6-cylinder engine, and in 1948 used the engine to produce the heavy, but reliable Lago-Talbot T26C. In the absence of Alfa Romeo in 1949, European racing saw five wins for the Lago-Talbot T26C including the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa – won by Louis Rosier - and French Grand Prix at Reims - won by Louis Chiron. Notable among the drivers, driving the Lago-Talbot in the first World Championship were Louis Rosier, Philippe Etancelin, Pierre Levegh and Johnny Claes.

Louis Rosier would in June 1950, go on to win the Le Mans 24-hour race with his son Jean-Louis, becoming only the first and only father and son combination to do so, while Etancelin, the oldest in the 1950 World Championship, was a wealthy farmer and wool-merchant, who had won the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1934 partnering Italian Luigi Chinetti. Johnny Claes was a Belgian musician with the Johnny Claes and the Clay Pigeons jazz band and running his own car, while Pierre Levegh would go on to single-handedly drive twenty-two and a half hours in the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1954, and be leading comfortably when his car failed. The next year though, in the same race, he would die along with 83 spectators when his Mercedes 300 SLR was hurled into the crowd.

Lago Talbots T26C     Birthdate   Death   Races
Johnny Claes Belgium   11 08 1916   03 02 1956   all 6 races
Louis Rosier France   05 11 1905   29 10 1956   all 6 races
Philipe Etancelin France   28 12 1896   13 10 1981   all 6 races
Yves Giraud-Cabantous France   08 10 1904   30 03 1973   races 1,4-6
Pierre Levegh France   22 12 1905   11 06 1955   races 5-7
Eugene Chaboud France   12 04 1907   28 12 1983   race 5 and 6
Eugene Martin France   24 03 1915   ?   races 1 and 4
Henri Louveau France   25 01 1910   07 01 1991   race 7 only
Guy Mairesse France   10 08 1910   24 04 1954   race 7 only
Charles Pozzi France   27 08 1909   28 02 2001   race 6 only
Raymond Sommer France   31 08 1996   10 09 1950   races 5-7
Harry Schell USA   29 06 1921   13 05 1960   race 4 only

The Simca-Gordini drivers: Amedee Gordini, an Italian exile settled in France and building and racing cars from the 1930s, had fitted a 1.5-litre, supercharged, 4-inline cylinder Simca engine to his Gordinis for the 1950 World Championship. Drivers of the Equipe Gordini were French veterans, Maurice Trintignant and Robert Manzon.

Maurice Trintignant was nicknamed Le Petoulet meaning ‘Rat-droppings’ after the family of rats that infested the fuel tank of his 2.3-litre supercharged Bugatti, which he had stored in a barn during World War II. Trintignant’s Formula 1 career would stretch to 1964, when he was placed sixth in the German Grand Prix. Manzon had joined the Equipe Gordini in 1948, and had saved his team-mate Trintignant’s life on the race circuit when coming at 200 kmph on the straight, he had the presence of mind to hit Trintignant’s errant car as it was coming off the banking onto the helpless Trintignant, thrown off his car earlier and lying on the track. Both Trintignant and Manzon were part of the four-driver Equipe Gordini racing team, known familiarly as the Three Musketeers.

Simca-Gordini T15   Born    
Maurice Trintignant France   30 10 1917 Races 2 and 7 only
Robert Manzon France   12 04 1917 Races 2, 6 and 7

The ERA and the Alta drivers: ERA or the English Racing Automobiles Ltd was set up in 1934 by English racing driver Raymond Mays and his friend Humphrey Cook. They built 4 ‘A’ type cars and 13 ‘B’ type cars with 6-cylinder supercharged engines of 1100, 1500 and 2000 cc. Some of the ‘B’ types were also converted to ‘C’ types. The cars were a success in voiturette racing in 1936. After the war, the company produced the ‘E’ type, which was not a success, and the company was sold to Leslie Johnson in 1948. Johnson would use one of the ERA ‘E’ in the first race of the new World Championship. Another Englishman, Brian Shawe-Taylor, was denied entry in the 1950 World Championship as his ERA ‘A’ was deemed to be uncompetitive, and would share a Maserati instead at the first World Championship.

All the drivers of ERAs and Altas were British amateurs, though notable among them was Tony Rolt – Major AP Rolt - famous for his Colditz Castle escape attempt as a Prisoner of War, and who would go on in 1953 to win the 24-hour race at Le Mans with Duncan Hamilton. Peter Walker was another of these amateurs with an ERA in the first World Championship, but would go on to win Le Mans in 1951 with Peter Whitehead, and give Jaguar its first-ever win at Le Mans.

The Alta Car and Engineering Company was set up by a British engineer, Geoffrey Taylor, operating on a shoe-string budget and who produced three made-to-order GP cars, GP2 sold to Geoff Crossley and GP3 sold to Joe Kelly. The cars, powered by a 1490 cc 4-cylinder supercharged engine, were built in 1949 and 1950 respectively.

ERAs             Races   Type
Cuth Harrison UK   06 07 1906   21 01 1981   GB, MC and I   C
Bob Gerard UK   19 01 1914   26 01 1990   GB, MC   B
Peter Walker UK   07 12 1912   01 03 1984   GB only   E
Tony Rolt UK   16 10 1918   ?   GB only   E
Leslie Johnson UK   01 01 1911   08 06 1959   GB only   E
Geoff Cossley UK   11 05 1921   07 01 2002   GB, B   GP2
Joe Kelly UK   13 03 1913   01 12 1993   GB only   GP3

The others: Harry Schell, an American, born and brought up in France by his mother, Lucy O’Reilly Schell, an Irish-American multi-millionaireness, who ran the Ecurie Bleu racing team in France in the 1930s, and his father, Lauri Schell also a notable racing driver, would drive the first rear engined 500 cc Cooper–JAP car at Monte Carlo. He would switch to a Lago Talbot T26C for the Swiss GP.

Clemente Biondetti, a four-time winner of the Mille Miglia (a 1000 mile road race from Brescia to Rome and back to Brescia, first run in 1927 until 1957, excepting for War years) in 1938, 1947, 1948 and 1949, had been enamoured by the Jaguar sportscars he had been racing in 1950 and hence entered the Italian GP with a Ferrari 166 fitted with the Jaguar engine.

Another driver in the world championship would be Reg Parnell, a wealthy British farmer and haulage contractor, who was given an Alfetta to race in the the British Grand Prix as a gesture to the locals and thereafter drove his own Maserati ‘San Remo’ at Reims.

Harry Schell USA   29 06 1921   13 05 1960   MC (r2) - Cooper JAP, and CH (r4) - Lago-Talbot
Clemente Biondetti Italy   18 08 1898   24 02 1955   Ferrari-Jaguar at Monza

The Races of the 1950 World Drivers Championship

1950 - Round 1 - BRITISH GP - Silverstone - Start Line-up
Alfa Romeo 158 - 4 cars
Farina Q1, Fagioli Q2, Fangio Q3, Parnell Q4
Maseratis (all CLT/48 except 4CL of Fry) - 6 cars
Bira Q5, de Graffenreid Q8, Chiron Q11, Hampshire Q16, Murray Q18, Fry Q20
Lago-Talbots - 5 cars
Cabantous Q6, Martin Q7, Rosier Q9, Etancelin Q14, Claes Q21
ERAs (first 2 cars "E" type, then "B" and "C"types) - 4 cars
Walker Q10, Johnson Q12, Gerard Q13, Harrison Q15
Altas - 2 cars
Crossley Q17, Kelly Q19

Round 1: the British Grand Prix - May 13, 1950, 325.46 kms: The first round of the inaugural World Championship was the British Grand Prix held on the thirteenth of May at the Silverstone racing circuit. The racing circuit, originally a RAC airfield in the Second World War, had hosted the first British Grand Prix on the 10th October in 1948. That race was won by Luigi Villoresi in a Maserati 4CLT/48. The second Grand Prix held at Silverstone in May 1949 had gone to Baron Emmanuel "Toulo" de Graffenreid again in a Maserati, although the older 4CLT model. There had been a second race in 1949 at the circuit - the International Trophy in August - won by Alberto Ascari in a Ferrari 125. This first round of the World Championship was only the third British Grand Prix race, though the first to be counted for the new World Championship.

May 13th was a Saturday and had the reigning King George VI and Queen in attendance. A crowd 100,000-strong was in place to view the race. Twenty-one cars lined up for the first round of the first World Championship. There were four Alfettas in the field for the three Alfa Romeo factory drivers, Farina, Fangio and Fagioli and local guest-driver, Reg Parnell. There were also six Maseratis in the hands of the Thai Prince Bira, Swiss Baron "Toulo" de Graffenreid, Louis Chiron of Monaco, and local amateurs, David Hampshire, David Murray and Joe Fry. There were five Lago-Talbots in the fray, with two factory-entered cars in the hands of Frenchmen Yves Giraud-Cabantous and Eugene Martin, and three private entries in the hands of Frenchmen Louis Rosier and Philippe Etancelin and Belgian Johnny Claes. The remaining six drivers completing the grid for the first race were all locals, with four of them - Peter Walker, Bob Gerard, Cuth Harrison and Leslie Johnson - in ERAs and Geoff Crossley and Joe Kelly in Altas.

This race was to be run over seventy laps of the 4.649 km course making for a total race distance of 325.460 km, including the thirty-metre start/finish overlap. The twenty-one cars were arranged in six rows on the 4-3-4-3-4-3 starting grid.

The four Alfettas were on the front row with Farina taking the pole position with a time of 1 minute and 50.8 seconds. His Alfa Romeo team-mates, Fagioli and Farina were beside him, both just 0.2 seconds slower, and local driver, Reg Parnell completing the front row of the starting grid, though 1.4 seconds off the pace. The slowest car in qualifying was the Belgian, Johnny Claes, eighteen seconds slower than Farina.

The race started with Farina taking the lead, followed by Fagioli and Fangio, running in close formation, throughout the race. Farina led the first nine laps, Fagioli, the next five, and the Fangio the 15th lap, before Farina resumed leadership of the three-driver leading formation. And except for a lead change on lap 38, when Fagioli went to the front of the lead-pack, Farina led the Alfettas home to their thirteenth consecutive race win since St Cloud in 1946. Fangio though, was not at the finish, having broken an oil-line in his engine, and retiring on the 63rd lap. Fagioli finished 2.6 seconds adrift with Parnell taking the final place on the podium, 52 seconds behind. There were twelve cars at the finish, though Joe Kelly, in an Alta was not classified, having covered less than 90% of the race distance by the finish, being 13 laps behind. Farina’s winning time, in completing the 325.46 km race distance was 2 hours,13 minutes and 23.6 seconds, giving him an average speed of 146.391 kmph. Farina had also recorded the fastest lap of the race, at 1:50.6, to take the maximum nine points from the race. And the eleventh and last finishing car was of the Belgian jazz star, Johnny Claes, six laps behind, covering only 297.57 km at an average speed of 131.78 kmph.

Final Classification: 1st G Farina (Alfa 158) 70 laps, 2:13:23.6, 2nd L Fagioli (Alfa 158) 70 laps, +2.6s, 3rd R Parnell (Alfa 158) 70 laps, +52s, 4th Y Giraud-Cabantous (Lago-Talbot T26C) 68 laps, 5th L Rosier (Lago-Talbot T26C), 6th B Gerard (ERA C) 67 laps, 7th C Harrison (ERA B) 67 laps, 8th P Etancelin (Lago-Talbot T26C) 65 laps, 9th D Hampshire (Maserati 4CLT/48) 64 laps, 10th J Fry/B Shawe-Taylor (Maserati 4CL) 64 laps, 11th J Claes 64 laps, 2:15:28.6, Not Classified Joe Kelly{Alta} 57 laps
Retirements: J M Fangio, 62 laps - oil-line/engine; B Bira, 49 laps - fuel injection; D Murray, 44 laps - engine; G Crossley, 43 laps - transmission; E de Graffenried, 36 laps - con rod; L Chiron, 24 laps - clutch; E Martin, 8 laps - oil pressure; P Walker/A P Rolt, 5 laps - gearbox; L Johnson, 2 laps - supercharger.

1950 - Round 2 - MONACO GP - Monte Carlo - Start Line-up
Alfa Romeo 158s - 3 cars
Fangio Q1, Farina Q2, Fagioli Q5
Ferrari 125 - 3 cars
Villoresi Q6, Ascari Q7, Sommer Q9
Simca Gordini T15s - 2 cars
Manzon Q11,Trintignant Q13
Maseratis-CLT/48 - 5 cars
Froilan Gonzalez Q3, Chiron Q8, de Graffenreid Q12, Bira Q15, Rol Q17
Lago Talbots T26C - 3 cars
Etancelin Q4, Rosier Q10, Claes Q18
ERAs - 2 cars
Gerard (A) Q6, Harrison (C) Q14
Copper T12-JAP - 1 car
Harry Schell Q19

Round 2: the Monaco GP - May 21, 1950, 318 kms: The state that is today Monaco was once just a part of the territory of the Italian city-state of Genoa, until taken over by Italian buccaneer, Francois Grimaldi in 1297. Monaco measures just 1.95 square kilometers, and is formed by three original villages of Monaco (the rock, with Grimaldi’s castle), Monte Carlo (the village on the opposite cliff) and La Condamine (the port in-between).

The first Grand Prix race took place in 1929, organized by Anthony Noghes and Louis Chiron, and by 1950, ten annual Grand Prix races had taken place. Past winners of the race in the 1950 starting line-up were Louis Chiron, the winner in 1931 in a Bugatti T51, Luigi Fagioli, the winner in 1935 in a Mercedes-Benz W25/35 and Guiseppe Farina, leading the 1950 standings after Silverstone, the winner in 1948 in a Maserati 4CL.

Nineteen cars had come through qualifying to take the start in the 3-2-3-2-3-2-3-1 starting grid for the race. For the first time, the Ferraris were entering the 1950 World championship, with Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi. The Simca-Gordinis with Maurice Trintignant and Robert Manzon were also present, after missing Silverstone. Fangio took the pole with a time of 1 minute and 50.2 seconds around the 3.18 km course, 100 laps of which would constitute the race. Sharing the front row were Farina, 2.6 seconds behind, and Jose Froilan Gonzalez, in a Maserati 4CLT/48. Etancelin (1:54.1) and Fagioli (1:54.2) shared the second row, while the Ferraris of Villoresi (1:54.3) and Ascari (1:55.8) were relegated to the third row with Monaco’s own Louis Chiron (1:56.3). The single car on the last row was a 500cc Cooper-JAP, the lone rear-engined car in the field (whose day would come in the future, when all cars would have engines in the rear only) in the hands of colourful American, Harry Schell.

Though the race started on a warm and sunny day, there was wet spray on the Tabac corner, from the waves of the Mediterranean Sea, and on the opening lap the Alfetta of Farina slid on the spray causing a nine-car crash. There was no restart and except for the leader Fangio, safely through, nine cars - the remaining two Alfettas (Farina and Fagioli), two Maseratis (de Graffenried and Franco Rol), both Simca-Gordinis, and Harry Schell, Louis Rosier and Cuth Harrison - were out of the race after the first lap. A tenth car, that of Froilan Gonzalez, went out in flames on the next lap, leaving only nine cars in the race. Fangio led throughout the 318km race, winning in 3 hours, 13 minutes and 18.7 seconds – averaging 98.7kph - with Ascari taking second in his Ferrari 125, one lap behind. Chiron took a popular third place, two laps behind, with Sommer and Prince Bira taking the last two places in the points. There were only seven cars at the finish, with Villoresi, having retired on lap 64 and Etancelin on lap 36, both with mechanical problems.

Final Classification: 1st J M Fangio (Alfa 158) 100 laps, 3:13:18.7, 2nd A Ascari (Ferrari 125) 99 laps, 3rd L Chiron (Maserati 4CLT/48) 98 laps, 4th R Sommer (Ferrari 125) 97 laps, 5th B Bira, 95 laps, 6th B Gerard (ERA A) 94 laps, 7th J Claes (Lago–Talbot T26C) 94 laps
Retirements: lap 64 - L Villoresi, lap 37 - P Etancelin, lap 2 - Froilan Gonzalez and lap 1 - Farina, Fagioli, de Graffenried, Rol, Manzon, Trintignant, Schell, Rosier and Harrison (ERA B)
Fastest Lap: J M Fangio 1:51.0.

Round 3: the Indy 500 - May 30, 1950: The 34th running of the Indy 500 was formally a part of the FIA’s 1950 World Championship, with points scored counting toward the 1950 Formula 1 World Championship, but with none of the drivers in the other six European races taking part in the Indy 500 and vice-versa, it was only a ‘token’ race from Formula 1’s point of view.

The Indy 500 in 1950 was held on a Tuesday, after rain had stopped the start of the race on Sunday and Monday. Instead of the scheduled 200 laps of the 2.5-mile Speedway, the race was declared completed after 138 laps, owing to further rain. The winner was American Johnny Parsons in a Kurtis-Kraft-Offenhauser in 2 hours, 46 minutes and 55.97 seconds over the 555.224km race, for an average race-speed of 199.562kph on the oval track. Twenty-three of the 33 cars were still running when the race was stopped, with the second-placed Bill Holland a lap down and the fifth-placed car of Joie Chitwood, taken over by Tony Bettenhausen, 2 laps behind. The other drivers getting points were Mauri Rose in third and Cecil Green in fourth. All the drivers were American and would not be taking any further part in the 1950 World Championship.

1950 - Round 4 - SWISS GP - Bremgarten -Start Line-up
Alfa Romeo 158 - 3 cars
Fangio Q1, Fagioli Q3, Fagioli Q3
Ferraris - 3 cars
Villoresi (125) Q4, Ascari (125) Q5, Sommer (166) Q13
Maseratis - 6 cars - all CLT/48 except Branca & Bonetto
Bira Q11, de Graffenried Q11, Bonetto (4CLT/50) Q12, Pagani Q15, Chiron Q16, Branca (4CL) Q17
Lago-Talbots - 6 cars
Etancelin Q6, Cabantous Q7, Martin Q9, Rosier Q10, Claes Q14, Schell Q18

Round 4: the Swiss Grand Prix - June 4, 1950, 305.76 kms: The Swiss Grand Prix would be run on the Bremgarten circuit, a 4.52-mile circuit through the forests near Berne, with sweeping corners and hardly any straight sections. The first Swiss Grand Prix was run in 1934, won by Hans Stuck in an Type A Auto Union car, and the next five races until 1939 were also won by the Germans, with Caracciola winning three for Mercedes in 1935, 1937 and 1938, Rosemeyer winning for Auto Union in 1936 and Lang winning again for Mercedes in 1939. Then came the Second World War and there was no racing until the Swiss Grand Prix resumed in 1947. The Alfetta won both the 1947 and 1948 races with Wimille and Trossi and Ascari won in 1949 in a Ferrari 125, in the absence of the Alfettas. That the Bremgarten circuit was dangerous was well known, with the 1948 race weekend alone seeing two deaths - legendary Italian Achille Varzi dying in practice, and Christian Kautz, son of a Swiss multimillionaire, killed in the actual race.

Eighteen cars would make the starting grid at Bremgarten in 1950 composed of three Alfettas, three Ferraris, six Maseratis and six Lago-Talbots. Three Italian drivers would be making their world championship debut in this race - Nello Pagani, Felice Bonetto and Antonio Branca - all in Maseratis. This would be Pagani’s only race in Formula 1. Pagani, incidentally was a Motor-Guzzi and Gilera motorcycle racer, and also team manager of the M V Agusta motorcycle racing team.

Qualifying saw the three Alfettas take the front row of the 3-2-3-2-3-2-3 starting line-up, with Fangio fastest with a time of 2 minutes 42.1 seconds on the 7.28km circuit. Farina was next, 0.7 seconds slower and Fagioli slowest with 2:45.2. The two Scuderia Ferrari entries were on the second row - Villoresi (2:46.1) and Ascari (2:46.8) - while Raymond Sommer driving his own 166 model Ferrari was last on the fifth row with a time of 2:54.6. The slowest car was that of Harry Schell, now in a Lago-Talbot T26C, with a time of 3:11.5, more than 29 seconds slower than Fangio.

The start of the race saw Fangio take the initial lead with Ascari keeping up initially. But by the end of the third lap, it was the three Alfettas again in the lead, with Fangio leading the three-car train. Ascari had retired on the fifth lap of the 42-lap race with mechanical problems, and Villoresi on the tenth lap with transmission problems. Farina took over the race lead for fourteen laps from the seventh lap, before stopping for fuel and tyres. Fangio led for laps 21 and 22 before his stop, giving the race lead to Fagioli for a lap before Farina resumed in the lead, which he kept until the end of the race. Fangio had dropped out on lap 34 with electrical problems in his car, so the finish saw Fagioli take second and Rosier in a Lago-Talbot, the third place, ahead of Prince Bira, fourth and Felice Bonetto fifth. Nello Pagani, finished seventh in his only Formula 1 World Championship appearance, and he would end without any points. Eugène Martin, driving a Lago-Talbot, ended in hospital with major injuries, after a crash on lap 20, when he was thrown from his car.

Final Classification: 1st G Farina (Alfa 158) 42 laps, 2:02:53.7 (149.279 kph), 2nd L Fagioli (Alfa 158) 42 laps - 0.4 seconds behind, 3rd L Rosier (Lago-Talbot T26C) 41 laps, 4th B Bira (Maserati 4CLT/48), 40 laps, 5th F Bonetto (Maserati 4CLT/50) 40 laps, 6th E de Graffenried (Maserati 4CLT/48) 40 laps, 7th N Pagani (Maserati 4CLT/48) 39 laps, 8th H Schell (Lago-Talbot) 39 laps, 9th L Chiron (Maserati 4CLT/48), 10th J Claes (Lago-Talbot), 11th A Branca (Maserati 4CL)
Retirements: lap 34 - J M Fangio, electrical; lap 26 - P Etancelin, gearbox; lap 20 - E Martin, thrown from car in big accident; lap 10 - L Villoresi; lap 5 - A Ascari; lap 1 - Y G Cabantous
Fastest Lap: G Farina 2:41.6

1950 - Round 5 - BELGIAN GP - Spa - Start Line-up
Alfa Romeo 158 - 3 cars
Farina Q1, Fangio Q2, Fagioli Q3
Ferraris - 2 cars
Villoresi (125) Q4, Ascari (275) Q7
Maserati 4CL - 1 car
Branca Q13
Lago Talbots - 7 cars
Sommer Q5, Etancelin Q6, Rosier Q8, Cabantous Q9, Levegh Q10, Chaboud Q11, Claes Q14
Alta - 1 car
Crossley Q12

Round 5: the Belgian Grand Prix - June 18,1950, 494.2 km: There were only fourteen drivers when the World Championship came to Spa-Francorchamps. The first-ever Grand Prix at Spa was staged in 1925, when Italian Antonio Ascari won in an Alfa Romeo Type P2. Antonio Ascari won at Spa on June 28th. Just five weeks later he was dead-killed at the French Grand Prix at Reims (July 26). His son, Alberto Ascari, and lead driver for Ferrai was one of the fourteen drivers for the race in 1950, and his Ferrari 125 car was fitted with a new V12 engine for this race. The only winner from the past in the 1950 field was Louis Rosier who won the last race held in 1949, but that was when the Alfettas were not there. The 1930 winner, Louis Chiron, a part of the 1950 field was not in the starting line-up. The first race of the world Championship was on May 13th, Spa was held on June 18th, the fourth race in five weeks was taking its toll on cars and drivers. The field of fourteen for Spa was made up of the usual three Alfettas, two Ferraris for Ascari and Villoresi, seven Lago-Talbots, including one for Raymond Sommer, one Maserati for Antonio Branca, the Italian, and the sole Alta of Geoff Crossley.

Qualifying saw the front row of the 3-2-3-2-3-1 starting formation, made up of the three Alfettas, with Farina taking Pole in a time of 4 minutes and 37 seconds, ahead of Fangio, having the same time, and Fagioli, 2 seconds slower. One lap at the Spa circuit in 1950 was 14.12 km, and the race would be over 35 laps, making for a race distance of 494.2 kms. Villoresi had qualified fourth (4:47), Sommer 5th (also 4:47) and Ascari 7th (4:52). On the last row was local Johnny Claes, not having recorded any time. The slowest qualifier, in terms of a time recorded was the Italian Antonio Branca, and he was 1 minute and 8 seconds slower than Farina and Fangio.

When the race started, Fangio took the lead. When Fangio stopped for fuel and tyres on lap 7, Farina went ahead. Farina stopped on lap 12, and Fagioli took the lead. And when the last of the Alfettas stopped, the Lago-Talbot of Raymond Sommer, the French ‘Lionheart’ went into the lead - first time in this World Championship that any car other than an Alfa was leading. The previous year at Spa, Rosier had run non-stop to win the race. Sommer led for five laps before his engine gave way. Farina led for just 2 laps, before Fangio took over the lead and coasted for a win. Farina suffered from problems with his transmission system, but eventually finished a very important fourth - this fourth place was to give Farina the World Championship. The race also revealed the Achilles’ heel of the Alfettas - their fuel consumption was more than double that of the normally-aspirated cars, and would eventually lead to the 4.5-litre Ferrari, which would end the Alfettas’ winning run at Silverstone in 1951.

Final Classification: 1st Fangio (Alfa 158) 2:47:26, 177.097kph, 2nd Fagioli (Alfa 158) + 14 seconds, 3rd L Rosier (Lago-Talbot) + 2:19, 4th Farina (Alfa 158) +4:05, 5th A Ascari (Ferrari 125/275) + 1 lap, 6th L Villoresi, + 2 laps, 7th P Levegh (Lago-Talbot) + 2 laps, 8th J Claes (Lago-Talbot) + 3 laps, 9th G Crossley (Alta) + 5 laps, 10th A Branca (Maserati 4CL) + 6 laps
Retired: Lap 22 - Chaboud, engine; lap 20 - Sommer, engine; lap 15 - Etancelin, overheating; lap 2 - Giraud-Cabantous, engine.
Fastest Lap: G Farina 4:34.1

1950 - Round 6 - FRENCH GP - Reims - Start Line-up
Alfa Romeo 158 - 3 cars
Fangio Q1, Farina Q2, Fagioli Q3
Ferrari 125 - 1 car
Whitehead Q19
Maseratis - 6 cars (all CLT/48 except Bonetto's)
Rol Q7, Gonzalez Q8, Bonetto (4CLT/50) Q11, Parnell Q12, Chiron Q14, Hampshire Q18
Lago-Talbots - 8 cars
Etancelin Q4, Cabantous Q5, Rosier Q6,L evegh Q9
Chaboud Q10, Claes Q15, Pozzi Q16, Sommer Q17
Simca-Gordini T15 - 1 car
Manzon Q13

Round 6: the French GP - July 2, 1950, 500.224 kms: The next race was held on the 7.816km long Reims circuit, with the race distance a staggering 500.224km. This circuit is the home of the Marne GP – 11 races taking place between 1925 and 1947. The French Grand Prix - the first ever Grand Prix race was the French GP of 1906 held over a 64-km road circuit near Le Mans - had been held at this circuit five times previously. The big winners from the past in the 1950 field were Louis Chiron, winner of five French GP and two Marne GP races and Philippe Etancelin, winner of the 1930 French GP held at Pau, and three Marne GPs in 1927, 1929 and 1933.

Nineteen drivers were on the starting grid for the 1950 race, with Fangio taking pole with a time of 2:30.6, 1.9 seconds ahead of Farina and 4.1 seconds ahead of Fagioli. The three Alfas were again on the front row of the 3-2-3-2-3-2-3-1 starting grid. The only Ferrari on the grid was the private Ferrari 125 of Englishman Peter Whitehead, with both Ascari and Villoresi opting for the F2 race instead, after difficulties in qualifying with their new V12 engines. Six Maseratis, eight Lago-Talbots and one Simca-Gordini made up the 19 cars for the French GP.

Farina went into the lead for the first sixteen laps of the race, but fuel-feed problems dropped him to the tail-end of the pack. Farina raced back into third place, only to retire after the fuel-pump gave way. Fangio led the race thereafter, coasting home in 2 hours 57 minutes and 52.8 seconds for an average race speed of 168.729kph. Fagioli was second 25.7 seconds behind with Peter Whitehead finishing third, but 3 laps in arrears. There were only seven cars at the finish, the last car finishing 12 laps behind the winner.

Final Classification: 1st J M Fangio (Alfa 158) 64 laps, 2:57:52.8, 2nd L Fagioli (Alfa 158) +25.7s, 3rd P Whitehead (Ferrari 125) 61 laps, 4th Manzon (Simca-Gordini) 61 laps, 5th P Etancelin/E Chaboud (Lago-Talbot) 59 laps, 6th Pozzi/Rosier (Lago-Talbot), 7th Y G Cabantous (Lago-Talbot) 52 laps
Retirements: 55 laps - Farina, fuel pump; 37 laps - Levegh; 15 laps - Bonetto; 12 laps - Claes; 11 laps - Rosier; 10 laps - Parnell; 7 laps - Rol, Chiron; 6 laps - D Hampshire; 5 laps - Sommer; 4 laps - JF Gonzalez, engine.
Fastest Lap: J M Fangio 2:35.6

1950 - Round 7 - ITALIAN GP - Monza -Start-Line-up
Alfa Romeo 158s - 5 cars- 159 (?) for Farina, Fangio (?)
Fangio Q1, Farina Q3, Sanesi Q4, Fagioli Q5, Taruffi Q7
Ferrari - 3 cars
Ascari (375) Q2, Serafini (375) Q6, Whitehead (125) Q18
Simca-Gordinis - 2 cars
Manzon Q10, Trintignant Q12
Maseratis - 7 cars (all CLT/48s except CLT/50 - Comotti)
Rol Q9, Bira Q15, de Graffenried Q17, Chiron Q19, Murray Q24,C omotti Q26, Pietsch Q27
Lago-Talbots - 7 cars
Sommer Q8, Mairesse Q11, Rosier Q13, Louveau Q14, Etancelin Q16, Levegh Q20, Claes Q22
ERA "C" - 1 car
Harrison Q21
Ferrari 166L-Jaguar - 1 car
Biondetti Q25

Round 7: the Italian Grand Prix - September 3, 1950, 504 kms: The Italian Grand Prix was held after a two-month Championship break.

There were 26 cars in seven rows on the 4-4-4-4-4-4-2 starting line up. The big news was the arrival of the Ferrari 375 - the 4.5-litre normally aspirated car that would in the year to follow break the domination of the 1.5-litre supercharged Alfetta. As Luigi Villoresi had been injured at a non-championship race Dorino Serafini was replacing him in the Ferrari team. Serafini was an ex-motorcycle racer of the highest pedigree having won the 500cc European Championship in a Gilera in 1938 before switching to cars after the War. There were five Alfa Romeos in the field for this season-finale, with Piero Taruffi and Consalvo Sanesi added onto the team. Taruffi was an all-round person, having won as a driver, all types of races, and on both motorcycles and cars. In addition, he was the team manager of the all-conquering Gilera motorcycle team before and after the War.

Fangio was leading the World Championship title race with 26 points (3 wins, two with the fastest lap) to 24 points for Fagioli (four 2nd places) and Farina with 22 points (2 wins, one 4th, and two fastest laps). All three drivers could win the title at Monza. Since only the best four results would count for the World Championship, Fagioli could only add to his points’ tally by winning the race with a fastest lap, and hope for no points accruing to his two team-mates. The only way Farina could take the title was to win the race and hope that Fangio did no better than a fifth place (in case of the additional point for the fastest lap).

Qualifying saw Fangio take pole with a time of 1 minute and 58 seconds, on the 6.3 km course, ahead of Ascari in 1:58.8, and Farina (2:00.2). Fagioli was only on the second row with a time of 2:04.0.

The race over 80 laps started with Farina making a great start but Ascari was second ahead of Fangio and Sanesi. On lap 7, Fangio set the fastest lap of the race. On lap 14, Ascari overtook Farina, but lost the lead 2 laps later. On lap 22, Ascari’s new Ferrari broke its rear axle, and Serafini was ordered to the pits to give up his car to Ascari. On lap 24, Fangio’s car was out with a seized gearbox, and Taruffi was ordered to pits to give up his car to Fangio. Fangio took over Taruffi’s car only to have his engine blown on ap 34. End of the race for Fangio, as Sanesi had already retired on lap 11. Farina made his second pit stop for fuel on lap 50, but still finished a minute and a half ahead of Ascari racing in Serafini’s car, to take the first ever FIA Formula 1 World Championship at the last race.

Final Classification: 1st G Farina 2:51:17.4, 176.543kph, 2nd A Ascari/D Serafini 80 laps, +1 min 18.2s, 3rd L Fagioli 80 laps, +1 min 35.2s, 4th L Rosier (Lago-Talbot) 75 laps, 5th P Etancelin (Lago-Talbot) 75 laps, 6th E de Graffenried (Maserati) 72 laps, 7th P Whitehead (Ferrari 125) 72 laps
Retirements: Lap 57 - D Murray; lap 52 - C Harrison; lap 49 - R Sommer; lap 43 - G Mairesse (Lago-Talbot); lap 40 - F Rol; lap 35 - JM Fangio/P Taruffi; lap 30 - P Levegh; lap 24 - JM Fangio; lap 23 - J Claes; lap 22 - A Ascari; lap 18 - C Biondetti (Ferrari-Jaguar); lap 17 - H Louveau; lap 16 - G Comotti; lap 14 - L Chiron, M Trintignant; lap 12 - C Sanesi; lap 8 - R Manzon; lap 2 - B Bira; lap 1 - P Pietsch (Maserati)

A Long Conclusion

The Final Standings: The First Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship had seven races on the calendar, but the third race, the Indy 500 was a separate race, with none of the drivers involved in the European races taking part. The below table conveys in brief how the championship was decided, although the positions of the drivers at the Indy 500 has not been included to distort this article. Only the best four results counted toward the World Championship, but the only driver with placings in the points in more than four races was the Italian veteran, Luigi Fagioli. Sharing meant only half points to Ascari and Serafini for the season finale at Monza and for Etancelin and Chaboud for their shared fifth place at Reims.

        Final       Wins 2nds 3rds 4ths 5ths FLs
    Drivers   Points R (8 pts) (6 pts) (4 pts) (3 pts) (2 pts) (1 pt)
1   Giuseppe Farina (Italy) 30   6   3 0 0 1 0 3
2   Juan Fangio (Argentina) 27   6   3 0 0 0 0 3
3   Luigi Fagioli (Italy) 24 (28) 6   0 4 1 0 0 0
4   Louis Rosier (France) 13   6   0 0 2 1 1 0
5   Alberto Ascari (Italy) 11   4   0 1.5 0 0 1 0
8   Prince Bira (Thailand) 5   4   0 0 0 1 1 0
9   Peter Whitehead (UK) 4   2   0 0 1 0 0 0
10   Louis Chiron (Monaco) 4   5   0 0 1 0 0 0
11   Reg Parnell (UK) 4   2   0 0 1 0 0 0
13   Dorino Serafini (Italy) 3   1   0 0.5 0 0 0 0
14   Yves Giraud-Cabantous (France) 3   4   0 0 0 1 0 0
15   Raymond Sommer (France) 3   5   0 0 0 1 0 0
16   Robert Manzon (France) 3   3   0 0 0 1 0 0
18   Philipe Etancelin (France) 3   6   0 0 0 0 1.5 0
19   Felice Bonetto (Italy) 2   2   0 0 0 0 1 0
20   Eugene Chaboud (France) 1   2   0 0 0 0 0.5 0

Additional notes: 1. The Indy 500 winner, Johnnie Parsons was placed sixth in the final standings with nine points - eight points for the win and one additional point for the fastest lap of the race. The other drivers finishing in the top five at Indy - Bill Holland, finishing second to be placed seventh in final standings, Mauri Rose finishing third to take the twelfth place in the standings, Cecil Green finishing third to take the seventeenth place, and finally Joie Chitwood and Tony Bettenhauser sharing a car to finish fifth, and the last two places in the standings.
2.Peter Whitehead with a seventh place finish at Monza, and Chiron with a ninth-placed finish at Bremgarten, finished ahead of Parnell in the final standings, although they all ended up with four points.

How the title chase played out: The last race at Monza gave the title to Dr Farina in what must have been a very satisfactory conclusion for both the Alfa Romeo team as well as to the Italian fans at Monza. Whether only Farina was given the 159 version of the Alfetta and what part this played in the result of the Italian GP will never be known. But in a way, it was a satisfactory turn of events, considering that Fangio was to win five World Championships over the next seven years. The way the title chase went is given briefly in the below table.

    After   After   After   After   After   After
    race 1   race 2 race 4   race 5   race 6   race 7
Farina   9 (1)   9 (1)   18 (1)   22 (1)   22{3}   30 (1)
Fangio   0{6}   9 (1)   9{3}   17{3}   26 (1)   27 (2)
Fagioli   6 (2)   6 (3)   12 (2)   18 (2)   24 (2)   24 (3)

A brief look at what happened to the 46 drivers thereafter: Of the 46, Fangio and Ascari would go on to emulate Farina in winning World Championships. And unlike Farina, they would not be content with a single Championship. Ascari would take the 1952 and 1953 Championships with ease with the formula revised downwards, while Fangio would add four-in-a-row during 1954-1957 to his narrow win in 1951 in the Alfa 159.

So of the 46, three would become World Champions. Farina would continue in F1 until 1955, shifting to Ferrari from 1952 and playing second fiddle to Alberto Ascari. He won two more GPs during that time before retiring, and finally met his end in a road accident in 1966 on his way to the French GP. Ascari would move to the new Lancia team in 1954, and in 1955, after a harmless dip in the harbour at Monaco during the Monaco GP, would meet his end three days later, while taking out Castellotti’s car for a spin at Monza. Fangio, alone of the three, passed away quietly in his town of birth, Balcarce, in 1995 at the age of 84.

Another four of the 46 drivers would go on to win races in the World Championship. After a third place in the 1950 World Championship, Luigi Fagioli would find the new World after the War the same as before it, when he would be required to surrender his car, while leading at the French GP of 1951, to Fangio. That would be the last straw for Fagioli in F1, seemingly a repeat of events with Mercedes Benz in the mid 1930s. He met his end in 1952 at Monaco while practicing for a sportscar race there. His only race win would be the French GP where Fangio won the race after taking over Fagioli’s car. The next winner among the 46 would be El Cabazon, Jose Froilan Gonzalez. He won only twice in his 26 career F1 races over eleven years (1950-1960) but both triumphs would be momentous. First at Silverstone in 1951, he ended the Alfetta’s unbroken winning run, and then again in 1954, at Silverstone, would do the same to Mercedes Benz on their entry to the new F1 Championship. And in 1954 he went on to win Le Mans with Maurice Trintignant in an enhanced 5-litre, V12 Ferrari 375. He would retire for good after a one-off race at home in a Ferrari Dino 246 in 1960, after quitting F1 in 1957.

The next winner among the 46 drivers of 1950 would be Piero Taruffi. Taruffi switched to Ferrari in 1951 and in 1952 would win the lone race of his 19-race F1 career at Bremgarten in a Ferrari 375. Taruffi would then go on to win the Carrera Panamericana in 1951 in a Ferrari 212 sportscar and the last Mille Miglia in 1957 before quitting racing and penning The Technique of Motor Racing in 1966. He passed away in the city of his birth in 1988 at the age of 82. The last of the 46 drivers of 1950 to win an F1 race would be Le Petoulet, Maurice Trintignant. Trintignant would have the longest F1 career of the 46 drivers, driving in every F1 World Championship until 1964. He would win twice at Monaco in 1955 and in 1958, both momentous races. 1955 was the return of Monaco to the F1 calendar after 1950, and would see the Ascari crash into the sea (and his death three days later at Monza) and Trintignant’s win in a Ferrari 625, after the exits of all the front-runners including Fangio and Moss. Trintignant would win again at Monaco in 1958 in a Cooper-Climax T45, the race that would see the entry of Team Lotus into the F1 World Championship. Trintignant finally called it a day after the Italian GP in 1964 and retired to a quiet life with grapes and wine in his vineyard at Vergeze, near Nimes in France.

So, after 3 World Champions and seven GP winners, we still have 39 drivers left of the 46 who took part in the 1950 World Championship. Of these, eleven would never race in the World Championship thereafter. These eleven include the lionhearted Raymond Sommer who died at Cadours a week after Monza, Italians Dorino Serafini, Clemente Biondetti (who would not add to his four wins at the Mille Miglia in 1938, 1947-9, and died of cancer in 1955), and Nello Pagani, Frenchmen Eugene Martin and Charles Pozzi, and five Englishmen - Leslie Johnson, Joe Fry, David Hampshire, Geoffrey Crossley, and Cuth Harrison. Joe Fry would be the first to die of the Class of 1950, killed in a hill-climb event, just three months after the British GP. Leslie Johnson, who failed to revive ERA, passed away in 1959 at the age of 48 of a weakened heart. Of the remaining seven, five passed away peacefully after long lives - Harrison in 1981, aged 75, Hampshire in 1990, aged 73, Serafini in 2000, aged 91, Pozzi at Paris in 2001, aged 92 and Crossley in 2002, aged 81. Eugene Martin and Nello Pagani are still alive.

Eight of the twenty-eight remaining drivers ended their F1 racing in 1951. Of them, Guy Mairesse would fatally crash in the Coupe de Paris race in 1954 at Monthlery and Pierre Levegh passed away at Le Mans 1955, killed by a last-minute pitstop decision by the eventual race winner. The six remaining drivers would die peacefully after long lives - Eugene Chaboud in 1983, aged 78, Branca in 1985, aged 69, Louveau in 1991, aged 81, Joe Kelly in 1995, aged 80, Consalvo Sanesi in 1998, aged 87 and Brian Shawe-Taylor in 1999, aged 84.

Five drivers of the remaining twenty drivers, would call it a day after the 1952 season - Paul Pietsch who would go into publishing and the Auto Motor und Sport magazine, and four others who would pass away peacefully – Comotti in 1963, aged 57, Murray in 1973, aged 64, Rol in 1977, aged 69 and ‘Phi-Phi’ Etancelin in 1981, aged 81. Felice Bonetto would meet his death while leading the Carrera Panamericana of 1953, and Yves Giraud-Cabantous would pass away peacefully in 1973 aged 69 - these two were the only drivers who stopped racing in the World Championship after the 1953 season. Three more left F1 after the 1954 season - Prince Bira, and the two Englishmen, Peter Whitehead and Reg Parnell. Peter Whitehead who with Peter Walker would give Jaguar its first Le Mans win in 1951 in a 3441cc, 6-cylinder XK-120C sportscar, died in 1958 in the Tour de France when the Jaguar driven by his half-brother Graham plunged off the bridge at Lasalle. Parnell died in 1964, aged only 52, after an appendix operation. And Bira would pass away in a heart attack while in a London subway, in December 1985.

Three more of the 1950 class would make it until the 1955 Championship - Tony Rolt, Peter Walker and Johnny Claes - and four others to the 1956 season - Luigi Villoresi, Louis Rosier, Robert Manzon and Toulo de Graffenried. Claes died of tuberculosis in 1956 aged only 39. Walker, who with Whitehead gave Jaguar its maiden Le Mans win, died in 1984 in straightened circumstances. Rolt would give Jaguar a second win in the 1953 Le Mans, before moving on to Ferguson and the 4-wheel drive. Rosier was killed at Montlhéry in 1956 at the Coupe du Salon. Villoresi would pass away peacefully in 1997, aged 88 while de Graffenried who promoted the Philip Morris sponsorship of F1 in the 1970s and Robert Manzon are probably alive.

Louis Chiron finally called it a day in F1 in 1957 after a couple of DNQs at the end of a long and distinguished career, and passed away gracefully in 1979, aged 80. The Englishman, Bob Gerard, who would stretch eight F1 races until 1957, would also pass away in 1990, aged 76. And Harry Schell, the man who with Trintignant was the only man still racing of the 46 drivers of the 1950 World Championship, died in practice at the 1960 International Trophy race at Silverstone in 1960.

The end: And so the first World Championship came to an end. It had been the Alfetta story all the way, the win in Monza, being the 22nd win on the trot since a defeat in 1946. But the end would come only after another year, when the Ferrari 375 would show that a 4.5-litre normally-aspirated car was the way to beat the 1.5-litre supercharged Alfettas. And the 1950 season, the first of 55 continuous Championships which have followed, will remain above all a testimony to the dominance of the three Alfettas, as shown by the below table.

Laps led in 1950

  race 1 race 2 race 4   race 5   race 6   race 7 Total   KMS
Farina 63       33   7   16   78 197   1248 km
Fangio 1   100   8   22   48     179   1067 km
Fagioli 6       1   1         8   49 km
Sommer             5         5   71 km
Ascari                     2 2   13 km
TOTAL 70   100   42   35   64   80 391   2448 km

The Alfettas led 384 of the 391 laps and 2364km of the 2448km of the six European races that made up the 1950 FIA Formula 1 season. That’s 98.2% and 96.6% respectively. There would never be such dominance again. And while the 1950 World Championship might have been unheralded and even disliked by the purists, it has by the fact of going stronger than ever in 2005, become the foundation of the FIA F1 World Championship and the symbol of the very elite in motor racing today. And while privateers may have disappeared over the years, the move of the FIA in instituting these Championships, has in retrospect to be deemed an unqualified and resounding success. And the start of all this: the 1950 Championship, which is what this article is all about.