|First race||British Grand Prix||Silverstone||May 13, 1950||Race results|
|Last race||Italian Grand Prix||Monza||September 11, 1955||Race results|
Nino Farina is the name at the top of the list of Formula One history as he was the winner of the inaugural World Championship, in 1950. He should also be recalled, however, as one of the sport's most prolific crashers and of its most temperamental champions.
He started in hill climbs in the early-1930s, but crashed first time out and hospitalized himself. He progressed to circuit racing the following year with a Maserati, then raced an Alfa Romeo under the tutelage of the great Tazio Nuvolari. He made mistakes aplenty in an age when mistakes were frequently punished with a fatal outcome, but kept coming back for more and became a grand prix winner at Naples in 1937.
He won the Italian drivers' title in 1937, 1938 and 1939, all for Alfa Romeo, with increasing success in assorted grands prix around Europe where he gave chase to the dominant works entries from Auto Union and Mercedes, thus putting himself into a strong position to land a top drive when the Second World War ended.
He won the Grand Prix des Nations in Geneva for Alfa Romeo when racing resumed in 1946, but had a disagreement and quit the works team.
After several years of racing privately entered Maseratis and works Ferraris and enjoying continued success in the assorted grands prix that made up the free-form calendar, he rejoined Alfa Romeo for 1950 and was duly rewarded when he won that first ever World Championship title - winning three of the year's grand total of six grands prix in the process.
A model to other colleagues with his straight-arm driving style, Farina could not match the pace of his team-mate Juan Manuel Fangio in 1951 and ended up fourth overall, having won only the Belgian Grand Prix. For 1952 he joined Ferrari, but this did not produce a race win - apart from ones in the non-championship races that proliferated back then - until the 1953 German Grand Prix, as he was overshadowed by Ferrari team-mate Alberto Ascari.
Engulfed in flames in a sports car race at Monza at the start of 1954, shortly after opening his campaign with second place in the Argentinian Grand Prix and breaking an arm in a crash in the Mille Miglia, he had to take time off to recover from his burns and was not back in the cockpit until 1955. However, this return did not last long as he was unable to live with the pain when racing and had to dose himself with morphine. So, he elected to retire midway through the season.
Sadly, he was unable to stay away and dabbled with the Indy 500 in 1956, failing to qualify, then broke a collarbone in practice for a sports car race. He entered a car for the Indy 500 in 1957, but his driver Keith Andrews was killed in practice and so he quit the sport. Well, almost, as he was killed in a car crash on the way to the French Grand Prix nine years later, at the age of 59.
Strengths and weaknesses
His relaxed straight-arm style was legendary and much copied, and his single-mindedness was key to his success. But to many he was too reckless and in an era when the mortality rate among drivers was so high, that he was not one of the casualties was remarkable. When he did crash he refused to take the blame, always criticising the machinery, even though he was unwaveringly hard on his cars.
Although many of his greatest achievements came before the era of Formula One, three of Farina's five grand prix wins came in 1950 and the third clinched him the inaugural title. He started the day at Monza third in the championship but for once his car proved reliable as his rivals fell by the wayside.
He crashed badly in a sports car event at the start of 1954 and sustained serious burns. He returned to racing but needed amphetamines and morphine to cope with the pain. By the following season it was all too much and he quit.
"He drove as if the devil was behind him and angels ahead."
"He was like a high strung thoroughbred, capable of committing the most astonishing follies. As a consequence he was a regular inmate of the hospital wards." Enzo Ferrari
He won the first Formula One championship race (Silverstone 1950) and the first world title in the same season
He received a doctorate in law from the University of Turin and was widely known as Dr Giuseppe Farina