Today marks 70 years of Formula 1 competition, with the first world championship race held at Silverstone on May 13th 1950. Officially titled The Royal Automobile Club Grand Prix d'Europe (incorporating The British Grand Prix) it was preceded by four non-championship races at Pau, San Remo, Goodwood (the Richmond Trophy) and Paris.
Video: Amazing footage of the first ever F1 race
This wonderful archive news report captures a very different atmosphere and way of doing things in comparison to the global spectacle Formula 1 has become. Cars from Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Talbot Lago, Alta and ERA arrived on trailers and small teams of mechanics worked on them in the open air or in the pitlane which was alongside, but not separated from, the start-finish straight.
Sponsorship was blink and you’ll miss it brand names – Jaguar, Dunlop – on the corner braking markers, catering was a tea tent serving ham sandwiches and the crowd was happy to settle onto the grass of the infield.
It was an international affair with drivers from Italy, France, Switzerland, Belgium, the Republic of Ireland, Argentina and Thailand (the charismatic Prince Bira) and was attended by King George VI, the Queen and Princess Margaret. A demonstration of the new British Racing Motors Type 15 V16 was held just before the race, driven by BRM’s founder Reg Parnell.
The race itself was uneventful, just as well considering the tiny hay bales which were all the separated the crowd from the cars, and won by Giuseppe Farina in a beautiful Alfa Romeo 158 with its astounding two-stage supercharged 1.5-litre straight-eight engine. Farina’s average speed for the race was 90.95mph and his mechanics managed to pull off a blistering 25-second pit stop.
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