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The first ever Formula 1 Grand Prix: 70 years ago today

May 13, 2020

Under different circumstances today is a day the F1 world would have greeted with much fanfare, rather than with the odd social media post they’ve allowed in the COVID-19 stifled world of 2020, because today my friends, Formula 1 is 70!

The first ever Formula 1 Grand Prix was held on Saturday the 13th of May 1950 at Silverstone, then a recently disused airfield – the third Grand Prix to be held there since racing resumed, post-war.

Crucially though, ‘The Royal Automobile Club Grand Prix d’Europe Incorporating The British Grand Prix’ as it was officially called, was the first to be conducted under the new set of rules, or ‘Formula’, making it the first race of its kind.

The race – held on a Saturday as opposed to the traditional Sunday races we see today – consisted of 22 entrants, 21 of who qualified (only Felice Bonetto in a Maserati failed to set a time in qualifying.)

The race was attended by their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother to you and I). Only fitting really that the reigning monarch should attend such a momentous occasion.

18 seconds was the difference between pole-sitter Guiseppe Farina’s 1.5 litre 8 cylinder Alfa Romeo and Belgian Johnny Claes in a Talbot-Lago in 21st.

When the flag dropped at 3pm on Saturday afternoon, Farina raced off into the lead, hotly pursued by Alfa team-mates Fagioli and the great Juan Manuel Fangio, watched by a reported 200,000 British motor racing enthusiasts.

Such was Alfa Romeo’s advantage over their competition, consisting of Maseratis, ERAs & Talbots, and keen to put on a show, ‘the three Fs’ as Farina, Fangio and Fagioli would come to be known) exchanged positions at the front of the field every now and again to keep the crowd entertained.

Fangio retired on lap 62 of 70, and the fourth Alfa of Reg Parnell inherited a distant third place, as Farina led home Fagioli in first and second for an Alfa Romeo 1-2-3.

British Grand Prix 1950 Programme

According to the programme, Farina took home the princely sum of £500 for winning, before going on to win the inaugural Formula 1 World Championship and sealing his place in history.


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