The Italian Grand Prix of 1950 was significant for a few reasons: it was the first to be held in the country since the creation of the world championship; it saw the crowning of Formula One’s first champion; and- get this, fact fans- it was the only time a world champion has ever been crowned in his home country.
With this being the first Formula One race in Italy the homecoming teams- in particular Ferrari and Alfa Romeo- were keen to impress, leading the Scuderia to introduce a brand new car- the 4.5 litre Ferrari 375- in the hope that star driver Alberto Ascari could compete for victory.
But Ascari would be fighting for honour- the title was already guaranteed to go to an Alfa man, with Nino Farina (who entered the race on 22 points) Luigi Fangioli (24 points) and Juan Manuel Fangio (26 points) all seeking to make motorsport history.
Qualifying saw Fangio seal pole, but Ferrari’s new motor was clearly a step forward: Ascari was second, just two tenths shy of the great Argentine. Behind them were the Alfas of Farina, Sanesi and Fagioli, with the Ferrari of Serafini 6th- a full seven seconds shy of pole. In fact the gap between first and last on this 26 car grid was a whopping 35 seconds, and this on a track that Fangio was lapping in just under two minutes.
The race was led from the start by Farina, with Ascari fighting him for the lead and Fangio keeping both in sight. 1950 had been a poor year for the Scuderia, but Ascari gave them hope by challenging Farnia in the new 375. On lap 13 he took the lead, before Farina retook the position two laps later.
Then on lap 21 Ascari’s engine began overheating, and he was forced to retire his car. A few laps later Fangio too withdrew, leaving Ascari clear at the front and heading for the title.
But that wasn’t the end of either’s races. In a move that would make Eddie Jordan’s head inflate to twice normal size and pop live on TV both took over the car of a still-running teammate. Fangio took Taruffi’s machine, but this too expired, and Fangio’s title hopes lay in tatters.
Meanwhile Ascari- who replaced Serafini in the number 48 Ferrari- took full advantage of his reprieve, passing Fagioli’s Alfa late on to claim second place.
But out front it was Farina who cruised home in first place, propelling him from third to first in the championship at the last round of the season. And so history was made: Formula One had its first champion. He was an Italian and he’d done it on home turf.