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Formula One Champions prior to 1950

European Championships
In 1931, the A.I.A.C.R. finally introduced a European Championship for drivers. Without winning a single event, Ferdinando Minoia on Alfa Romeo became European Champion, narrowly beating his teammate Campari, ending his driving career, which had started in 1904.

The unusual 1932 European Championship was for manufacturers and single drivers, both competing with each other for points. Only the best placed car of a factory team counted, regardless of who was driving. Alfa Romeo won, with Tazio Nuvolari second as the European Champion of the drivers, followed by Borzacchini, Caracciola, Dreyfus and Officine Maserati in sixth place.

The European Championship of drivers from 1935 to 1939 is better known.

Rudolf Caracciola was champion in 1935, 1937 and 1938.

Bernd Rosemeyer in 1936

Hermann Lang in 1939. This 1939 title is strange and doubtful, to say the least, since the A.I.A.C.R. never issued any official results or awarded the title that year. When applying the previous years' scoring system to the 1939 results, H.P. Müller would have been the rightful 1939 champion. But Lang was undeniably the fastest driver that year, having won also two minor Grands Prix. The neutral Swiss AUTOMOBIL-REVUE reported that to score points for 1939 either a new French Plus or the old German Minus system was to be applied. After the conclusion of the Swiss GP, the A.I.A.C.R. obviously had this dispute not yet settled and the new European Champion was not known. This created an unprecedented, totally absurd situation in the history of world sports: the assessment of a championship was to take place not before but after the conclusion of the series. A settlement was then planned for the October conference "at the green table" but this never happened since the A.I.A.C.R. in Paris could not meet with the world at war since 3 September. Consequently, in December of 1939, Korpsführer Adolf Hühnlein, head of the NSKK-Nazis, who simultaneously was also President of the ONS (Oberste Nationale Sportbehörde) in Germany, declared Lang as the European Champion. After racing had stopped in September, at the onset of WW II, the ONS had revised the system to make Lang champion with 23 points. How exactly the scoring system was altered to carry out this injustice remains a mystery.

taken from GRAND PRIX WINNERS 1895-1949 Guidelines and notes by Hans Etzrodt on the site http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/gpw0.htm

Also see www.ddavid.com/formula1/drivers.htm for links to all the main personalities of the era