Who was the first Formula One World Champion?

The inaugural Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) World Drivers’ Championship, which commenced with the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on May 13, 1950, consisted of just seven races. Aside from the British Grand Prix, those races were the other four Grandes Épreuves, or ‘Main Events’, from 1949 – namely the Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten, Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, French Grand Prix at Reims and Italian Grand Prix at Monza – plus the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianpolis 500.

However, while World Championship points were awarded for the Indianpolis 500, as they were for the next decade or so, none of the European Formula One drivers participated. Consequently, it was the only race of the season that was not won by one of the three-car Alfa Romeo team; victory went to Califonian Johnnie Parsons, representing Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser.

In Europe, though, the Alfa Romeo GP Tipo 158, affectionately known as the ‘Alfetta’, or ‘Little Alfa’, reigned supreme. Realising 350 brake horsepower and capable of a top speed of 180 miles per hour, the car was driven to victory at Silverstone, Bremgarten and Monza by the leader of the Alfa Romeo team, 44-year-old Giuseppe Antonio ‘Nino’ Farina, and at Monaco, Spa-Francorchamps amd Reims by his illustrious 39-year-old team-mate Juan Manuel Fangio. Fangio would go on to dominate the rest of the decade, winning the World Drivers’ Championship five times, in 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957 but, in 1950, it was Farina who came out on top, clinching the inaugural title, albeit narrowly, by winning the final race of the season.

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