Autocourse Grand Prix Archive

DECADE SEASONS

1950 - 1959

1950

Following the lead set by the FIM (Federation Internationale Motocycliste), who organised a World Championship for riders in 1949, the FIA followed suit granting World Championship status to seven races for the 1950 season.


Given that all the Grands Prix were held in Europe and in the hope that European drivers might participate  in the Indianapolis 500, it was decided to include the 'Blue Riband' oval race. This turned out to be a rather artificial contrivance which was discontinued after the1960 season.


The first season was an Alfa Romeo benefit as their T158 won all six 'true" Championship rounds with hard as nails veteran Guiseppe Farina just edging out the challenge of team mate Juan-Manuel Fangio. The fields were made up of a mixture of basic pre-war (voiturette) cars with 1.5 litre supercharged  engines and 4.5 litre (unblown) cars such as the Talbot Lagos.


Points were awarded to the first five finishers on the basis of 8-6-4-3-2. Also a single point was awarded to the driver (or divided between drivers) who set the fastest race lap. A driver's best four scores were allowed to count for the final championship standings.

Winning Driver Giuseppe Farina

1951

The supercharged Alfa Romeo continued to hold sway, but were seriously threatened by Ferrari with their 4.5 litre T375 machine in the hands of Gonzalez and Ascari. Although the cars from Maranello won three races, Alfa Romeo in the hands of Fangio, had just enough of an advantage to emerge as champions. However the classic T159 car was at the end of its development potential, and with insufficient funds for its replacement forthcoming from the Italian Government, the Milan manufacturer bowed out at the top.

Winning Driver Juan Manuel Fangio

1952

With Alfa Romeo having withdrawn from racing at the end of the 1951 season, coupled with the uncertainty created by BRM after they failed to make an appearance in the non-championship Turin Grand Prix, it seemed that Ferrari were to be unstoppable.


After growing concerns raised by race promoters, the FIA took the decision to run the World Championship for Formula Two Cars. These were limited to cars with engines of a maximum of 2 litres unsupercharged with the hope of creating both plentiful and more evenly matched grids.


Although closer races were expected, Ferrari were the dominant force and the new cars were "Unimpressive to the eye and ear." in comparison to the supercharged machines of 1951. Alberto Ascari won six of the seven races with team mate Piero Taruffi taking the other.


Fangio was very lucky to escape death after a crash left him with a broken neck, which sidelined him for most of the season. A new star did appear in the shape of Mike Hawthorn who created a huge impression driving an under powered, but nimble Cooper-Bristol.


Winning Driver Alberto Ascari

1953

World Championship continued to be run under Formula Two rules which meant that cars were largely unchanged. Thus Ferrari's domination continued as Ascari notched another five wins, supported by team mates Farina and Hawthorn who took a win apiece.


Only Maserati with Fangio provided a credible challenger, their A6GCM finally broke the Scuderia's dominance at the season's Monza finale.


Winning Driver Alberto Ascari

1954

After 'making do' for two seasons, finally the 2.5 litre formula for unsupercharged cars was born. Mercedes Benz returned to Grand Prix racing joined by Vanwall and Lancia who also made their debuts as the season progressed. In addition Maserati introduced their classic 250F model, which was to feature throughout the formula until it ended in 1960.


Although the technically advanced Mercedes in the hands of Fangio was the class of the field, the Stuttgart machines were defeated on two occasions by the Ferrari. Gonzalez at Silverstone and Hawthorn in Spain won for the Scuderia.


Promising young Argentine driver Onofre Marim�n was killed in a practice accident at the German Grand Prix.


Winning Driver Juan Manuel Fangio

1955

Fangio was partnered at Mercedes Benz with Stirling Moss, and the 'Silver Arrows' dominated the season, beaten only by Ferrari, at Monaco.


The year was overshadowed by tragedy at Le Mans when the Mercedes sports car of Pierre Levegh somersaulted into the crowd killing more than 80 spectators. In the aftermath of this disaster the French, German, Swiss and Spanish Grands Prix were cancelled and racing was banned in Switzerland.


Twice-World Champion Alberto Ascari was killed testing a sports car at Monza which blunted the challenge of Lancia. In financial difficulty, they effectively withdrew after the death of their star driver and the cars were eventually handed over to Ferrari who raced them towards of the year, before using them as the basis of their 1956 machines.


At the end of the season, Mercedes Benz withdrew from all racing.


Winning Driver Juan Manuel Fangio

1956

Fangio moved to Ferrari and duly claimed his fourth World Championship, but only after team mate Peter Collins handed over his machine during the Italian Grand Prix. The pair shared second place, and this sporting act of generosity by the Englishman ironically denied Stirling Moss the title.


British cars began to challenge the might of Italy with Vanwall (now with fuel-injection and an aerodynamic shape) and BRM both proving very fast, but unfortunately, also unreliable.


A fascinating newcomer in the form of the Bugatti appeared at the French GP with a radical rear-engined car. It proved to be uncompetitive and is not raced again. Further bad news for supporters of the French racing blue came at the end of the year when Gordini finally give up their unequal struggle and abandoned racing.


Winning Driver Juan Manuel Fangio

1957

A fifth and final World title for Fangio, who at 47 was still at the peak of his powers. After an unhappy year at Ferrari 'The Maestro' rejoined Maserati and displayed his brilliance on numerous occasions, most notably, beating the Ferrari's of Hawthorn and Collins in the German Grand Prix.


After a number of false dawns British Racing Green finally emerged victorious when Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks shared aVanwall to win the British Grand Prix at Aintree.


In a low-key manner, Cooper introduced their T43 car at Monaco. This advanced design was to begin the mid engined revoution in which power plant was placed behind the driver.


Their was sadness for Italy as Ferrari's Eugenio Castelotti was killed in a testing accident at Modena, whilst at the end of the year Maserati announced their withdrawal from racing, although their machines were to race on without works support.


Winning Driver Juan Manuel Fangio

1958

The year saw many changes, beginning with the early season retirement of Fangio. But it was also a season of triumph and tragedy. Vanwall largely dominated with Moss and Brooks winning six World Championship races to take the newly introduced Constructors' Championship, though it was Ferrari's Mike Hawthorn (winner of only one race) who became Britain's first World Champion ahead of the unlucky Stirling Moss.


Ferrari suffered severe losses to their team when Luigi Musso and Peter Collins were killed in accidents at Reims and the N�rburgring respectively. More sadness followed after the season closed with the death of Vanwall's Stuart Lewis-Evans as a consequence of injuries sustained in the Moroccan Grand Prix.



Rule changes (which came into place for the season) were:

  • In GP Racing, alcohol fuel banned, replaced by AvGas aviation spirit.

  • Minimum race distance for World Championship Races was cut from 500 kms to 300 kms and from 3 hours to 2 hours' duration.

  • No shared drives allowed.

  • Manufacturer's Championship Introduced for constructors.

Winning Driver Mike Hawthorn
Winning Constructor Vanwall

1959

The year began on another sombre note with newly retired World Champion Mike Hawthorn killed in road accident on 22nd January. Later in the season, France also lost their heroes when the tough and uncompromising Jean Behra was killed in a sportscar race at Avus.


Vanwall withdrew from racing partly due to the ill health of owner Tony Vandervell, but other British teams took up the baton, with BRM finally winning their first Grand Prix at Zandvoort. In addition Cooper and Jack Brabham finally arrived as a leading force with the Australian achieving his first World Championship. Team-mate Bruce McLaren won his first Grand Prix aged just 22 year 3 months and 12 days.


The United States hosted a World Championship Grand Prix for the first time at the Sebring Circuit.


Winning Driver Jack Brabham
Winning Constructor Cooper - Climax

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