1950 Swiss Grand Prix race report: Farina heads Alfa 1-2 in Berne

Guissepe Farina takes the win ahead of Alfa Romeo team-mate Luigi Fagioli as all three Ferraris breakdown

On paper, and for that matter in practice, the Swiss GP for Formula 1 cars, held on the Bremgarten Circuit on June 4th, promised to be a first-class affair, but it turned out to be another demonstration of how to go motor-racing in the grand manner, by the Alfa-Romeo team.

Alberto Ascari in his Ferrari 125F1 V12 at the 1950 Swiss Grand Prix, Bremgarten

Photo: Motorsport Images

After the finish of the three practice periods it looked as though Alfa-Romeos, although fastest, were not going to have an easy time, for against them, and with very good practice times, were two 1 1/2-litre Ferraris, two unblown Lago-Talbots and two 4CLT Maseratis. On the first practice day two Alfas were out and the three drivers, Fangio, Farina and Fagioli, first of all practised on the same car, after Guidotti had done a lap to make sure everything was in order. First Farina tried and after that Fagioli, but when he was flagged in to hand over to Fangio he arrived with a serious noise in the engine. The car was rushed away and torn apart while Fangio practised in the second car. The Alfas are fitted with maximum reading tachometers and when Fagioli came in the second needle was at 7,700, while Fangio recorded 8,000 with the second car. Neither the Ferraris nor the Maseratis appeared for the first practice and the new Talbots were also absent, though Rosier was driving his own car.

For Friday's practice everyone was out, including Villoresi and Ascari with the two-stage supercharged Ferraris, the former having the new lengthened chassis with de Dion rear end and four-speed gearbox on the back axle and the latter having the earlier chassis with the swing axles and five-speed gearbox. Both drivers were trying very hard, as were the Alfa team. The two new Talbots were being tried by Rosier and Giraud-Cabantous, and these had the dual ignition system on the front of the engine and three horizontal Type 50 HN downdraught Zenith carburetters in place of the normal downdraught Solex models. Rosier's car also had lightened brake drums and backplates.

Eugene Martin was driving an official Talbot, while Etancelin and Claes had their own cars and Harry Schell borrowed Rosier's personal car. The Plate Maseratis were out, with "Bira" on the new car, with the redesigned steering wheel which has a jointed track-rod in front of the wheel centres, while de Graffenried had the earlier model with the double drag-links. As Gonzalez had not recovered from his injuries at Monaco, the Italian motorcyclist Nello Pagani drove the Argentine Maserati, and Felice Bonetto had a lone Milan, with the highly boosted Speluzzi engine. Neither of the English entries, Parnell and Whitehead, appeared.

"The practice speeds in kph showed promise of a good battle"

In round figures, for comparison purposes, the practice speeds in k.p.h. showed promise of a good battle. Fangio and Farina recorded 161 and 160, while Villoresi had 157 out Ascari 155. What was most interesting was Etancelin's 153 and Giraud-Cabantous' 151 with the Talbots which would run through non-stop. "Bira" and de Graffenried recorded 151 and 150, respectively.

At the line-up for the start the three Alfas were on the front row, with the two supercharged Ferraris just behind, while the third row consisted of "Bira," Giraud-Cabantous and Etancelin, three drivers who had very good form in practice. The rest of the field were ranged behind, and Sommer, who should have had a G.P. Ferrari, was driving the unblown 2-litre. The opening lap was most interesting, for Ascari had his car in between Farina and Fagioli, thus breaking up an Alfa 1-2-3, while Villoresi was just behind. Next came "Bira," driving very nicely, and, close behind, the Talbots led by Rosier.

This interesting situation was not to last, however, for after only three laps Ascari came into the pits to retire, and when, before a quarter of the race was over, Villoresi also retired, the race developed into a demonstration by the Alfas, for the Talbots were obviously not fast enough to make up for their lack of refuelling and "Bira" could only hope to keep in fourth place, while naturally Sommer's car was not of G.P. class. The race ran its distance, the Alfa pit-stops ran nicely to order, and after all the team had refuelled the order was Farina, Fangio and Fagioli, with Rosier and Etancelin behind them, "Bira" having had to stop for minor adjustments.

"It would seem the the new team three Fs, Fangio, Farina and Fagioli, are more than capable of upholding the name that the late Jean-Pierre Wimille and his contemporaries made three years ago"

By three-quarter distance Etancelin was forced out with gearbox trouble, Sommer had already gone, and seven laps from the end there was consternation in the Alfa camp when Fangio repeated his Silverstone effort and retired with mechanical trouble. It only remained for the remaining Alfas to slow up and cross the line less than one second apart. Rosier gave another of his well-known "tortoise and hare" acts and finished third, with "Bira" a lap behind after numerous pit-stops, while Bonetto, after motoring in a most spasmodic manner, sometimes very fast and sometimes virtually retiring, finished astern of Bira.

Another Grand Prix was over and, frankly, as a race it was not interesting, though as an exhibition of Alfa-Romeo supremacy, even after a year's retirement, it was pleasant to watch, and it would seem the the new team three Fs, Fangio, Farina and Fagioli, are more than capable of upholding the name that the late Jean-Pierre Wimille and his contemporaries made three years ago.

1950 Swiss Grand Prix Race Results

1. Guiseppe Farina (Alfa Romeo) 2:02:53.7

2. Luigi Fagioli (Alfa Romeo) + 0.4

3. Louis Rosier (Talbot-Lago) + 1 lap

4. Prince Bira (Maserati) + 2 laps

5. Felice Bonetto (Maserati) + 2 laps

6. Toulo de Graffenried (Maserati) + 2 laps

7. Nello Pagani (Maserati) + 3 laps

8. Harry Schell (Talbot-Lago) + 3 laps

9. Louis Chiron (Maserati) + 3 laps

10. Johnny Claes (Talbot-Lago) + 4 laps

11. Toni Branca (Maserati) + 7 laps

12. Juan Manuel Fangio (Alfa Romeo) Retired - Engine

13. Philippe Etancelin (Talbot-Lago) Retired - Gearbox

14. Eugene Martin (Talbot-Lago) Retired - Accident

15. Raymond Sommer (Ferrari) Retired - Suspension

16. Luigi Villoresi (Ferrari) Retired - Engine

17. Alberto Ascari (Ferrari) Retired - Oil Pump

18. Yves Giraud-Cabantous (Talbot-Lago) Retired - Accident

Championship Standings

1. Guiseppe Farina - 18

2. Luigi Fagioli - 12

3. Juan Manuel Fangio - 9

4. Johnnie Parsons - 9

5. Alberto Ascari - 6

Formula II

In the race for Formula II cars which preceded the Swiss GP, the greatest interest lay in the appearance of German cars and drivers competing at Berne for the first time since 1939. Hermann Lang, who won the Grand Prix in that year with Mercedes, was driving again, this time in a Veritas-Meteor, and also from Germany was Fritz Reiss with the latest AFM, while another of these cars was driven by the Austrian Hans von Stuck. Three more new Veritas-Meteor single-seaters were driven by Swiss drivers. The Equipe Gordini entered three cars, driven by the usual trio of Trintignant, Simon and Manzon, and Ferrari entered three cars driven by Sommer, Bracco and Vallone. Sommer had the new long-chassis car with the de Dion rear end, with which Ascari first appeared at Pau earlier in the year, and the other two cars were the normal Formula II single seaters.

Two Simcas and two Cisitalias, all driven by Swiss drivers, together with Harry Schell in his 1,100cc Cooper, completed the field with the exception of the team of HWMs entered by John Heath. It was particularly pleasing to see a complete team of English-built and entered cars taking part in a major road race, and full marks must be given to the Heath-Abercassis combine for making such a magnificent effort. Due to having already done too much, young Stirling Moss had been forced to return home feeling rather unwell, which meant that the team were short of a driver, and on the first day's practice Raymond Sommer tried the spare car, his own Ferrari having not arrived, and proceeded to give a demonstration of how good these HWMs really are! The following day the car was loaned to a Swiss driver named Rudolf Fischer, who not only did justice to the car but proceeded to get himself into the third row of the starting grid, well ahead of his two team mates.

The German 2-litre cars were obviously very new, although Stuck's AFM was the one with which be led all the Italian cars at Monza recently. Hermann Lang was looking particularly comfortable in his Veritas single-seater and obviously pleased to be back on the continental circuits, but the other cars of this make were not going very fast, being driven by Swiss amateurs.

From a front row start von Stuck finished the first lap with an enormous lead over the rest of the field, which was being led by Sommer, with the three "works" Simcas close on his tail, but this was not to last, for on the second round the Italian car was leading and the AFM came into the pits from a position halfway down the field. The fuel feed had given out and after some hasty repairs Stuck set off again, but he could not hope to catch the flying Sommer, who remained at the head for the remainder of the race.

The Simca team, running very nicely to order, gave a most polished display of speed and reliability, Maurice Trintignant leading, though Manzon, who sat on his tail throughout, looked as though he could have gone in front whenever he wished. The HWM also ran well, with the Swiss driver Fischer leading for quite a while, but later Abercassis sped up and went ahead of the team, though before the end of the race he had to make It hasty pit-stop which put him right at the back of the field. The German cars dropped out one by one with the exception of Fritz Reiss' new AFM, which motored very steadily into seventh place. Von Stuck's fuel feed stopped completely and Hermann Lang's magneto cover broke.