1950 British Grand Prix

On a sunny day, in the middle of May of 1950, 200,000 people gathered on an English airfield, to witness the dawn of a new series of motor-sport. This was the creation of Formula One, as the FIA decided to hold its first ever championship race. Silverstone would be the setting for this exciting new venture. The race was to have the joint title of been the British Grand Prix, and the Grand Prix d’Europe. There were 21 drivers, from five constructors, competing over the race day. The Brits were well represented with nine drivers. Reg Parnell, driving for the Alfa Romeo team, whose cars seemed to have a pace advantage over the rest of the teams, was the home crowd’s best shot for a British winner.

1950 British Grand Prix

The Alfas, true to form, locked out the front row. Giuseppe Farina took the pole position from his fellow Italian, Luigi Fagioli, by 0.2 seconds. Parnell qualified fourth, behind his Argentine team-mate, Juan Manuel Fangio. The fastest driver after the Alfa’s was the Maserati of Prince Bira, who was nearly two seconds off Farina’s time.

Qualifying

Position Driver Constructor Time

1 Giuseppe Farina Alfa Romeo 1 minute 50.8 seconds

2 Luigi Fagioli Alfa Romeo +0.2

3 Juan Manuel Fangio Alfa Romeo +0.4

4 Reg Parnell Alfa Romeo +1.4

5 Prince Bira Maserati +1.8

6 Yves Giraud-Cabantous Talbot-Lago-Talbot +2.6

7 Eùgene Martin Talbot-Lago-Talbot +4.6

8 Toulo de Graffenreid Maserati +5.0

9 Louis Rosier Talbot-Lago-Talbot +5.2

10 Peter Walker ERA +5.8

11 Louis Chiron Maserati +5.8

12 Leslie Johnson ERA +6.6

13 Bob Gerard ERA +6.6

14 Philippe Étancelin Talbot-Lago-Talbot +7.0

15 Cuth Harrison ERA +7.6

16 David Hampshire Maserati +10.2

17 Geoffrey Crossley Alta +11.8

18 David Murray Maserati +14.8

19 Joe Kelly Alta +15.4

20 Joe Fry Maserati +16.2

21 Johnny Claes Talbot-Lago-Talbot +18.0

Before the race, the drivers lined up to be greeted by King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, and Princess Margaret. It was the first time a reigning monarch had attended a motor-sport event. They were accompanied by the Earl and Countess Mountbatten of Burma. After their meet and greet, the group headed to the Royal Box, and the drivers headed to their cars to start the race.

At the start, the Alfas make a good getaway, and left the rest of the pack behind. Fangio leapfrogged Fagioli for second, with Parnell taking up the rear of the Alfa pack, in fourth place. Prince Bira was the best of the rest, with the Talbot of Martin close behind. Johnson retired on lap two. Tony Rolt took over from Taylor, in the ERA, after two laps, but then retired on lap five, due to gearbox issues. Three laps later, and another retirement. This time it was Martin,and that promoted de Graffenreid to sixth place. Fagioli, who lost second place on the first lap, had fought his way to lead the race on lap 10. The British crowd were getting treated to a thrilling battle between ERA’s Gerard and Harrison. On lap 16, Farina regained the lead from Fagioli. Chiron was the next to retire on lap 26, with clutch issues. His team-mate, de Graffenreid, joined him 10 laps later, with a broken connecting rod. Fangio was the first of the Alfas to pit. At half distance, the top three were Farina, Fagioli, and Parnell. After all the Alfa’s have pitted, Fangio was briefly leading the race over Farina. Fagioli had fallen back to third. On lap 43, Crossley’s pressure hose failed, and he came into the pits to retire. One lap later, Murray came into the pits with an overheating engine, and even with the best efforts of his mechanics, he had to retire from the race. On lap 49, Shawe-Taylor took over driving duties from Fry, in the Maserati. On the same lap, Prince Bira ran out of fuel. The second part of the race story was the duel between Farina and Fangio for the lead. The gap was less than a second between the pair. With eight laps to go, and only a half a second distance between the two Alfas, Fangio was forced to retire with a broken oil pipe, leaving the race for Farina to cruise home and win.

Race (after 70 laps)

Position Driver Constructor Time

1 Giuseppe Farina Alfa Romeo 2 hours, 13 minutes, 23.6 seconds

2 Luigi Fagioli Alfa Romeo +2.6

3 Reg Parnell Alfa Romeo +52.0

4 Yves Giraud-Cabantous Talbot-Lago-Talbot +2 laps

5 Louis Rosier Talbot-Lago-Talbot +2 laps

6 Bob Gerard ERA +3 laps

7 Cuth Harrison ERA +3 laps

8 Philippe Étancelin Talbot-Lago-Talbot +5 laps

9 David Hampshire Maserati +6 laps

10 Joe Fry/

Brian Shawe-Taylor Maserati +6 laps

11 Johnny Claes Talbot-Lago-Talbot +6 laps

The first official championship race was over, and even though the race had ended in an anti-climax, the whole event was deemed a success. There were six more official races that year, with Farina continuing his winning form and taking the title. This new series of motor-sport had captured the hearts and minds of the public and the competitors. If Turin, in 1946, was when it had been conceived, then Silverstone, in 1950, became the moment Formula One was born.

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