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Sunday, 3 September 2017

Giuseppe ‘Nino’ Farina – racing driver

The first Formula One world champion


Giuseppe 'Nino' Farina had family roots in the automotive industry
Giuseppe 'Nino' Farina had family roots
in the automotive industry
Emilio Giuseppe Farina, driving an Alfa Romeo, became the first Formula One world champion on this day in 1950.

The 43-year-old driver from Turin - usually known as Giuseppe or 'Nino' - clinched the title on home territory by winning the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

He was only third in the seven-race inaugural championship going into the final event at the Lombardy circuit, trailing Alfa teammates Juan Manuel Fangio, of Argentina, by four points and his Italian compatriot, Luigi Fagioli, by two.

Under the competition’s complicated points scoring system, Fangio was hot favourite, with the title guaranteed if he was first or second, and likely to be his if he merely finished in the first five, provided Farina did not win.  He could have been crowned champion simply by picking up a bonus point for the fastest lap in the race, provided Farina was no higher than third.

Fagioli could take the title only by winning the race with the fastest lap, provided Farina was third or lower and Fangio failed to register a point.

Farina could win the title only by winning the race, recording the fastest lap and hoping Fangio finished no better than third place.  A top-three finish with the fastest lap bonus would do if Fangio did not score at all.

Farina on the cover of the Argentine motor racing magazine El Gráfico in 1953
Farina on the cover of the Argentine motor
racing magazine El Gráfico in 1953
In the event, Farina won and Fangio had a bad day, retiring twice – first in his own car, on which the greabox failed, and then in team-mate Piero Taruffi’s Alfa. He scored one point for the fastest lap, but that on its own was not enough.

It was a third victory of the season for Farina, who had also triumphed in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and the Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten.

Born in Turin in 1906, Farina’s roots were in the car business.  He was the son of automotive coachbuilder Giovanni Carlo Farina and the nephew of the brilliant car designer Battista “Pinin” Farina.

Giuseppe excelled at skiing, football and athletics but was always likely to opt for motor sport.  He bought his first competition car while still at university and abandoned a potential career as an officer in the Italian Army in order to fulfil his ambitions on the track.

He made his competitive debut in 1933 and by 1936 was driving Alfas for Enzo Ferrari’s Scuderia Ferrari team. In 1937 he won his first Grand Prix in Naples and by the end of the season was Italian champion, a title he retained in 1938 and 1939, driving for Alfa Corse, then the official Alfa Romeo team.

The Second World War almost certainly robbed him of his best years. In the immediate years following, he fell out with Alfa Corse, but had some successes in a privately-entered Maserati before returning to Scuderia Ferrari. 

Farina in practice at Monza in 1955
Farina in practice at Monza in 1955
In 1950, however, he rejoined Alfa and enjoyed his best season, going back to Ferrari in 1954 only because Alberto Ascari – world champion in 1952 and 1953 - had left Ferrari and switched to Lancia, creating a vacancy for team leader.

Farina retired in 1955, after which he became involved in Alfa Romeo and Jaguar distributorships and later assisted at the Pininfarina factory.  He died in June 1966 at the age of 59 en route to the French Grand Prix, when he lost control of his Lotus in the Savoy Alps, near Aiguebelle, hit a telegraph pole and was killed instantly.

Travel tip:

Apart from the motor racing circuit, Monza is notable for its 13th century Basilica of San Giovanni Battista, often known as Monza Cathedral, which contains the famous Corona Ferrea or Iron Crown, bearing precious stones.  According to tradition, the crown was found on Jesus's Cross.  Look out also for Villa Reale, built in the neoclassical style by Piermarini at the end of the 18th Century, which has a sumptuous interior and a court theatre.

The church of Santa Giulia in Borgo Vanchiglia
The church of Santa Giulia in Borgo Vanchiglia
Travel tip:

Giuseppe Farina’s father established his coachbuilding business in the historic Borgo Vanchiglia district of Turin, near the confluence of the Dora Riparia river and the Po. The neo-Gothic church of Santa Giulia, on Piazzetta Santa Guilia, is at the heart of the neighbourhood, which is renowned for buildings of unusual design.









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