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1950 French Grand Prix

The fifth round of the 1950 Formula One World Championship was held on July 2 in France at the Reims-Gueux circuit. The length of the track was 7.81 km, while the drivers had to complete 64 laps.

Reims 1950.jpg

With two rounds left in the championship, the question of the champion was still open and all three Alfa Romeo drivers who arrived in France still had a chance for the title, being within 5 points of each other. At the same time, the main rivals of the Milan team, Scuderia Ferrari, encountered serious problems with their new Ferraris 275, as a result of which the team had to miss the French stage at all. Thus, the only Ferrari car in France was usual 125 model, which belonged to a private driver Peter Whitehead.

Meanwhile, most of the cars, taking part in the Grand Prix, were, as usual, French Talbot-Lagos and Italian Maseratis. The French team was represented by as many as five drivers Raymond Sommer, Louis Rosier, Philippe Etancelin, Yves Giraud-Cabantous and Pierre Levegh, supplemented by two more drivers Eugene Chaboud and Johny Claes on their private Talbots. The factory Maserati team this time was represented by two drivers Louis Chiron and Franco Rol, while for the latter it was the first appearance after his injury in Monaco. The rest of Maserati drivers were Reg Parnell and David Hampshire from Scuderia Ambrosiana, Jose-Froilan Gonzalez from Scuderia Achille Varzi and Felice Bonetto from Scuderia Milano. The last driver to take part in the French Grand Prix was Robert Manzon from Equipe Gordini team, which returned to the championship again after two missed Grand Prix.


Qualifying of the French Grand Prix was unusual, as half of the drivers decided not to participate in trainings and their positions at the start were determined randomly. Nonetheless, Alfa Romeos were the fastest once again, taking first three places on the starting grid, with Fangio at the head. Meanwhile, in the absence of Scuderia Ferrari, drivers on Talbot-Lagos got back on the horse and took the next three places, followed by two Maseratis of Rol and Gonzalez. The top ten was closed by another two Talbot and Maserati of Levegh and Bonetto respectively. 


On the day of the race, there is a terrible heat, foreshadowing a serious test for the drivers and their cars. Considering the weather conditions, the organizers of the Grand Prix even decided to give out sombrero hats to the audience to protect them from the sun.


Start. Farina takes the best start this time and immediately takes the lead of the race, followed by Fangio and Fagioli. At the same time, the three Alfa Romeo quickly break away from the rest of the field.


Lap 4: The heat and long straights of the track, which the drivers used to pass at full throttle, begin to kill the engines on the racing cars, and the first to pull over with a failed engine is Gonzalez.

Lap 5: The hero of the Belgian Grand Prix Sommer also failed to shine this time: the oil pump failed.

Lap 6: On Hampshire's Maserati pistons are literally melting, and the British is also out of the race.

Lap 7: Both factory Maserati simultaneously stop on the side of the road, with their engines refusing to work in the heat of the race!

Lap 10: Reg Parnell is the next to retire with a faulty engine, and thus there is only one Maserati remaining on the track, driven by Felice Bonetto!


Lap 11: Rosier also drives into the pits with an overheated engine!

Lap 12: Claes does the same thing a lap later, retiring.

Lap 13: Giraud-Cabantous and Levegh pull into the pits to top up the coolant and then drive back to the track. Throughout the race, Talbots will experience serious cooling problems, with Giraud-Cabantous forced to stop in the pits 10 times!

Lap 15: Pozzi pulls into the pits and passes his car to Rosier, who gets a chance to continue the race. Meanwhile Felice Bonetto on the last of the Maserati also retires with a smoking engine, and thus none of the Maseratis managed to overcome even a quarter of the distance!

Lap 16: Etancelin also stops in the pits with an overheated engine to add coolant to the radiator. At the same time, despite the fact that the red-hot engine burnes his leg badly, the Frenchman courageously returns back to the track!


Meanwhile, after problems with Maseratis and Talbots, it is Whitehead in his Ferrari, who started last, who turns out to be in 4th place behind the leading Alfa Romeo, followed by Manzon in his low-power Simca-Gordini!


Lap 17: Farina begins having problems with the fuel supply, and the Italian pulls into the pits, letting through Fangio and Fagioli! The repair takes 7.5 minutes, and Nino gets back to the track only 5th, missing Whitehead and Manzon! Meanwhile, Fangio, having a clean track in front of him, immediately picks up the pace and easily breaks away from Fagioli!


Lap 18: Farina, no longer able to catch up with his teammates, rushes in pursuit of Manzon and Whitehead, in the hope of earning some points at the least!


Lap 20: Farina catches up and passes Manzon, taking 4th place!

Lap 25: Farina, chasing Whitehead, shows the fastest lap in the race!


Lap 34: Etancelin, who has been suffering pain in his burned leg for a long time, finally gives up, drives into the pits and hands the car over to Chaboud.

Lap 35: Farina still manages to catch up and pass Whitehead, and now the Italian is in 3rd place!

Lap 37: Another car leaves the race with a failed engine, this time it is Levegh's Talbot.

Lap 40: Farina has problems with the fuel supply again, and the Italian is forced to pull into the pits, letting Whitehead through again! However, the Italian does not give up and after his stop begins a new chase of his rival!

Lap 50: After 10 laps of chasing Farina catches up and passes Ferrari again, thus regaining 3rd place!

Lap 52: Fangio is also clearly on a roll today, and the Argentine sets the fastest lap in the race!


Lap 56: All of Farina's efforts are in vain, as the fuel pump on his Alfa Romeo fails completely, forcing Nino to pull over to the side of the road. Naturally, the Italian is extremely disappointed by this turn, because now he will obviously have to say goodbye to his leadership in the championship! Meanwhile, after Farina's retirement Whitehead is 3rd again, and Manzon is 4th!

Last lap: Fangio, in the absence of his main rival, easily wins the second victory in a row and becomes the new leader of the championship before the last race! His teammate Fagioli finishes second in 25 sec. behind, and thus the Italian still preserve his chances of the championship crown. Meanwhile Whitehead in his private Ferrari miraculously finishes 3rd, having problems with gear shifting on the last lap, and the 4th is Manzon in a Simca-Gordini! Naturally, both drivers did not hide their joy at finding themselves in such high places after numerous retirements of rivals, albeit they lost three laps to the winner. The last two points were shared between Etancelin and Chaboud, who swapped driving Talbot during the race.

Fangio wins the 1950 French Grand Prix

Interesting facts:

- Peter Whitehead's first podium.

Driver standings

Alternative GP results

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