Giuseppe Farina was the first official World Champion, gaining the title in 1950. Also Italian Champion in 1937, 1938 and 1939, he is best known as the driver who set the style of modern race-driving style: Farina's trademark was to control his machines with arms outstretched and head held back.
Ironically enough, although he gave an impression of smoothness and precision, during his thirty-year racing career he suffered a series of accidents. Burns, fractures, cuts and abrasions were part and parcel of the life of Giuseppe ('Nino') Farina.
Farina hated publicity. After winning the World Championship, he refused to allow photographs of him to be taken at home or to allow the press to probe his private life. Possibly, part of the reason was that his wife would have nothing to do with his racing activities.
Farina was born on 30 October 1906, in Turin. His father was the eldest of the Farina brothers whose car coachbuilding company (known as Pininfarina
) has won world acclaim. Giuseppe began driving at the tender age of nine, handling
a two-cylinder Temperino machine. He was a brilliant student and became Doctor of Political Science, he also excelled at skiing, football, horse riding, athletics and cycling.
The 1925 Aosta-Gran San Bernardo Hillclimb
A career as a cavalry officer in the Italian army was cut short in order to fulfil ambitions in another direction - motor racing. While a student, Giuseppe Farina purchased his first car, a second-hand Alfa Romeo, and ran it in the 1925 Aosta-Gran San Bernardo Hill-climb. He crashed, breaking his shoulder and receiving facial cuts, while trying to beat his father, who was fourth.
In 1933 and 1934, he returned, racing privately-entered Maseratis and Alfa Romeos, and began a friendship with Tazio Nuvolari
who, to some extent, guided Farina's early career. In 1935, he raced a works Maserati and the following year joined Scuderia Ferrari, the team which ran works-backed Alfa Romeos. He finished second in the Mille Miglia, driving through the night without lights, and took several other places in important races that season.
The Alfa Romeo 158 Voiturette
In 1938, the official Alfa Romeo team returned to motor racing and Farina was a member. Driving the new Alfa Romeo 158 voiturettes - the legendary 'Alfettas'-in 1939, Farina won the Antwerp Grand Prix, the Coppa Ciano and the Prix de Berne to become Italian Champion for the third year in succession. In 1940 he won the Tripoli Grand Prix
and finished second in the Mille Miglia
for the third time. After World War 2 Farina returned to drive the Alfa Romeo 158s, winning the Grands Prix des Nations at Geneva and at St Cloud in 1946. Then he left Alfa Romeo after a disagreement over team leadership, sat out the following season and returned in 1948 with privately-entered Maseratis and works Ferraris.
In 1950, Farina rejoined Alfa Romeo. He won the European (British), Swiss and Italian Grands Prix to clinch the World Championship at the age of 43. He continued with Alfa Romeo in 1951
but had to give best to Fangio who took the championship. Farina was fourth in the table with only one championship race victory - the Belgian Grand Prix
. Farina joined Ferrari in 1952, but had to take second place to team leader Alberto Ascari. He won the non-championship Monza Grand Prix
and secured a string of seconds.
Tony Vandervell's 'Thinwall Special'
Driving Tony Vandervell's 'Thinwall Special' - a modified 4½
-litre Ferrari 375 Formula One car - he was second in the end-of-season Goodwood Woodcote Cup free formula race. In 1953
, the highlight of Farina's year was victory in the German Grand Prix
; he took up the challenge against the works Maseratis when Ascari's Ferrari lost a wheel. Other victories came at Bordeaux, Buenos Aires, Naples, Rouen, Silverstone, Nurburgring
and in the Spa 24-hour race
when he shared a 4.5-litre Ferrari 375MM with Mike Hawthorn
Although he was now a veteran at 47, a golden opportunity arose in 1954
when Ascari quit the team to join Lancia, and Farina emerged as Ferrari team leader. After some impressive results - including victory in the Buenos Aires 1000 km sports-car race, the Circuit of Agadir and the Syracuse Grand Prix
- he crashed heavily in the Mille Miglia
when leading in a 4.9-litre Ferrari 375 Plus. Seven weeks later, his right arm still in plaster, Farina raced in the Belgian Grand Prix, dicing with Fangio's Maserati
for the lead before his Ferrari broke down.
The Supercortemaggiore Grand Prix
Then practising for the Supercortemaggiore Grand Prix
sports-car race at Monza the next weekend, a rear universal joint broke, a drive-shaft punctured a fuel tank, and his Ferrari was engulfed in flames. Farina jumped clear, but was out of racing for the year recovering from severe burns. It seemed nothing could keep the man out of the cockpit of a racing car. In 1955 he was back with Ferrari in Argentina, taking morphine injections to kill pain. He was second there, fourth at Monaco and third in Belgium before 'retiring' in mid season, owing to continued pain and the death of his friend, Alberto Ascari.
He failed to start in the Italian Grand Prix
in September after his Ferrari-entered Lancia threw a tyre
tread at 170 mph in practice and was withdrawn. The car spun wildly, but Farina stepped out unhurt. In 1956, he planned to enter the Indianapolis 500-mile race. A six-cylinder Ferrari engine was installed in a Kurtis Kraft chassis, but the project was a failure. The following year Farina, now 50, elected to race a 'conventional' Indy car, but withdrew after it crashed in practice, killing test driver Keith Andrews.
Farina became involved in Alfa Romeo and Jaguar distributorships and later assisted at the Pininfarina plant. In 1966, on his way to the French Grand Prix, he lost control of his Lotus" Cortina road car in the Savoy Alps near Chambery, hit a telegraph pole and was killed instantly. The man who had survived countless accidents on the track ironically perished on the road.