Formula One racing has always carried the notion of being a rich-man’s sport. It came as no surprise when the first ever Formula One World Champion turned out to be someone who had had a privileged upbringing. Nino Farina was a strong and determined race driver who’s entire racing strategy was based on a highly volatile combination of self belief and plain raw courage. Although most of his opponents were much more talented than Farina, his reckless driving and disregard for personal safety helped him to the first ever Formula One title.

Farina always lived dangerously and had a career that was riddled by accidents. It came as no surprise as one day, his luck ran out on him and Farina perished in a road accident.

Born 30 Oct 1906
Died 30 Jun 1966 (59 years)
Nationality Italy Italy
Nickname The Gentleman of Turin

Giuseppe Antonio Farina’s father established a car bodywork shop known as Stabilimente Farina, in his home town of Turin, on the day Nino was born. Nino’s uncle, Pinin, also founded a coach-building firm in Turin, Pininfarina. The company, at later times, became rather renowned for their sleek and stylish Italian sports cars. Nino got into his first car, a mini version, at the age of nine. His first drive around the factory floor of his father’s establishment created a craving that lasted all his life. At 16, Nino was in a race car, although as a passenger along with his uncle, who participated in races quite frequently. At 19, he was ready to race and in his first solo competition, he began a dangerous trend that proved fatal for him. Nino crashed out of his first ever solo race in a terrible accident.

Farina was always athletic, as showed his skills as a runner and football player. He was also academically strong and got a doctorate in Law from the University of Turin. For Farina, the road to the World Championship title still was far off as he enrolled into the military service as a cavalry officer. During the war, Farina served in the tank regiment but the love for speed still nurtured itself at the back of his mind.

In 1932, Farina began his racing adventures with an Alfa Romeo. The honeymoon didn’t last long as he crashed the car in a hill climbing event. Not only was the car damaged, Farina also broke a shoulder and slashed his face badly. It hardly put him off of racing and he took to Maseratis for the next few years. Although he was a regular at accidents, Farina did have a unique driving ability and his skills were evident enough to attract the eye of a certain Enzo Ferrari. Farina, before he knew it, was in the Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo team. The instructional and incredibly inspirational style of driving displayed by Tazio Nuvolari was a great guiding force for an inexperienced Nino Farina. Farina blossomed under Tazio and in 1938, finished enough races as a winner to become the champion of Italy.

World War II was an unwanted break in the racing circuit and after the war was over, Farina tied the knot and got back into the car. Despite marrying someone who firmly believed that racing was dangerous, Farina was off to race in Argentina after just three days of his high profile wedding. In 1950, the FIA had begun to formally organize the Formula One World Championships and Farina became the team-lead for the three member team that Alfa Romeo put out into the championships.

With a powerful car, the Tipo 158, ‘the three F’s.’ of Alfa Romeo ended as the top three with the 44 year old Farina leading the 39 year old Juan Manuel Fangio and the 52 year old Luigi Fagioli. The first ever Formula One championships were successfully held and Farina was the champion. The series began at Silverstone which Farina won. He won again in Switzerland and then in Italy. Fangio also won three races but the official standings confirmed what the ego-driven Farina considered to be an indisputable fact. Compared to Fangio, Farina was extremely charming and gracious although there were allegations that the champion tended to be rather aloof and “Above” the general crowd. Farina was also said to be an ‘elitist’ who believed that racing was a sport for the socially sound and there was no place for the underprivileged at the top level. Despite these allegations, Farina was the first man to visit Fangio, someone who had a modest background in Argentina, after Fangio almost died in the 1952 Italian Grand Prix.

Farina came to be known as the “Gentleman of Turin” but mainly due to his privileged upbringing and the dignity that followed his every move. His stylish way of driving the race car was later adopted by Fangio and Stirling Moss. Farina, though, was extremely prone to pushing the car beyond its limits and his crashes ended with him blaming the machinery rather than his ability to control the car.

Fangio was always a cause for concern for his boss, Enzo Ferrari. Enzo considered Farina to be a tightly strung thoroughbred that was capable of going to any extent. This was clearly on display when, in 1954, Farina seriously burnt himself at Monza that required a high amount of morphine and painkillers to subside. Farina decided that in 1955, it was time to take off from racing and decided to deal in Alfa Romeo cars. Farina died on the way to the French Grand Prix when the Lotus-Cortina he was driving skidded off a slippery bend in the Alps, near Chambery. The first ever World Champion had perished and till the last minute, his faith in his driving ability and skill was as strong as ever.

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