Through what was nearly the first-third of the Italian Grand Prix of 1950 it would be Juan Manuel Fangio running up near the front with the championship within his grasp. However, on the 34th lap of the race, smoke would begin to pour out of his Alfa Romeo. This would hand the lead, and the inaugural World Championship, to his Alfa Romeo teammate. Had it not been for Fangio's ailments this Italian's image would not hang among the hallows of Formula One greats, nor would he ever be a World Champion If things remain as they are the Argentinean would be crowned champion. But then, to many, Emilio Giuseppe Farina would be remembered for less favorable reasons than for being the first Formula One World Champion.
Emilio Giuseppe Farina would be born into the world of elite motoring. Born in Turin, Italy in October of 1906, 'Nino', as he would become known, would be the nephew of Pinin Farina, the head of the famed coach building company. Growing up in that environment, Giuseppe would become very interested in all kinds of sports and would display a good deal of talent in skiing, football, cycling and some others.
When of the age to attend university, Farina would go to school and would end up becoming a doctor of political science. But having grown up in the automotive world, he would also be quite adept in engineering.
Also, because he did grow up in the automotive world, he would become very interested in motor racing. Using an older Alfa Romeo, his first race would make quite an impression on the man who was now in his twenties. His first race would not be a fairy-tale experience. In fact, it would be a nightmare. During the race, Farina would crash his Alfa Romeo heavily and would suffer because of it. The crash would leave such an impression upon the man that he would abandon all thoughts of motor racing and would look, instead, to a career as a cavalry officer as he was quite an accomplished rider as well.
But, like so many others, once the racing seeped into the bloodstream it would be practically impossible to get out. Therefore, Farina would abandon the cavalry to pursue a career in motor sport. However, in order for him to do that, he would need to get over his experience, his initiation, to motor racing and would have to be willing to make a living out on that edge between victory and life-threatening crashes. And to Farina, the only way to truly overcome any of the fears would be to drive as cold-hearted and as near to recklessness as possible. Then, when comfortable living in those quarters he would be truly able to compete. Unfortunately, this attitude would have its consequences.
Farina would return to motor racing in 1933 and would compete in a number of races as a privateer. But then, in 1936, he would join Scuderia Ferrari driving Alfa Romeos alongside the great Tazio Nuvolari. Nuvolari would become Farina's tutor and the effects of his tutorship would be experienced and loathed by others all the way up into the fledgling early days of the Formula One World Championship.
Under Nuvolari's guidance, Farina would become a star on the rise. During the late 1930s Giuseppe would earn a number of minor grand prix victories and would go on to win the Italian Drivers' Championship some three years in a row (1937-1939). Then, finally, in 1940 at the Tripoli Grand Prix, Farina would succeed on the grand stage taking his first major victory. Unfortunately, with it being 1940, and just as he was beginning to reach the peek of his driving abilities, his racing career would be put on hold because of the outbreak of the Second World War.
In many ways, Farina's break-neck and ruthless driving style would cause many to believe the world had been at war for a number of years prior before Germany invaded Poland in 1939. More than once Farina would be involved in terrible accidents that would get other drivers injured…or killed.
More than one driver would lose his life while tangling with Giuseppe on the race track. And Farina would make little to no apologies for what would transpire either. Though he would become famous for his straight-armed driving style, a style that many others would come to copy, he would also earn an infamous reputation as a brutal competitor that had absolutely no qualms about stiff-arming his competition and putting them into harm's way.
Some of the more famous incidents would include the death of Marcel Lehoux at Deauville in 1936 and Hans Hugo-Hartmann at Tripoli in 1938. In both cases, these men would be involved in collisions with Farina and would pay the penalty as a result of clashing with the Italian that would turn from gentleman outside of the car, into an absolute tyrant when behind the wheel.
The Second World War would rob Farina of some of his most competitive years. It would be a long five years. However, at the conclusion of the war, Farina would be committed to reigniting his past form. He was intent on not becoming like the other pre-war champions that would never gain their form of former glory.
Farina had been a cold and bitter foe behind the wheel of a car before the war, and, wouldn't change when racing resumed afterward either. But despite his fierceness on the track, it could be said that Farina had the necessary attitude in order to make a comeback to top-flight racing at the age of 40.
The proof of this seemed to come with the Grand Prix des Nations held at Geneva in 1946. Driving the Alfa Romeo 158 Alfetta, Farina would win the second heat race over Carlo Felice Trossi and Tazio Nuvolari, his mentor, and, would go on to win the final beating Trossi and Jean-Pierre Wimille. All three would be driving Alfa Romeo 158s.
In spite of the fact that, on the track, Farina would appear as cold and bitter, just ask any back-marker he prepared to put a lap down; outside of the car, Farina was the usual Italian gentleman and was even rather soft-spoken. It seemed to some, undoubtedly, as truly disingenuous and an impossible situation. But, he would manage to charm Elsa Giaretto, a lady from Turin known among the elite social circles and that ran her own fashion business. And, despite her beliefs that racing cars was a stupid endeavor, the two would be married during the 1940s.
However, the appearance of a family life could not and would not hide the fire within Farina. Even outside of the car his passion and intense focus on motor racing would show itself. And it would never be more evident than when he would grab a plane and head to Argentina for a race, just three days after being married.
Unlike so many of the pre-war greats, Farina would rise again and would be a champion. Driving Maseratis and Alfa Romeos, Giuseppe would earn a number of victories throughout the late-1940s. In 1948, he would win in Monaco and his two victories he would score over the course of the season would come back-to-back. 1949 would see Farina struggle. His only result of any real note would be a victory he scored in the Lausanne Grand Prix on the 27th of August. However, despite the struggles and lack of results, Farina, who was 43 years of age by the end of the 1949 season, would still be a force to be reckoned with out on the track. And as such, he would be offered an opportunity to drive for SpA Alfa Romeo for the 1950 season.
While Farina would be a regular sight on the grand prix scene, not unlike many other drivers of the period, he would also be a regular presence in the sportscar world as well. In fact, it would be in 1933 that he would take part in his first sportscar race, the Targa Abruzzi, driving an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300.
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