Formula One first began in 1950 with Guiseppe Farina as the inaugural champion. Since then, there have been many different winners. Interestingly, in 1959, Jack Brabham won his maiden title in an unusual manner. It was the final race of the 1959 season and there were three contenders for the title. They were, Brabham himself, Tony Brooks and Stirling Moss. It was the first time since 1951 that three drivers were in contention for the title.
Brabham needed to either win or finish second, with Moss behind him. Another scenario was finishing third with fastest lap and Moss second. Finally, if Brooks finished second or lower and Moss third or lower.
Moss needed to win to be champion or second with Brabham behind him, and Brooks first without fastest lap or lower. Another situation would be second with fastest lap, with Brabham behind him.
Finally, Brooks needed to win with fastest lap and Brabham third or lower. Or in another case, Moss second without fastest lap or lower and Brabham third or lower.
However, the race turned out to be quite different indeed for all three protagonists. Qualifying ended with Moss, Brabham and Brooks on the front row. However, overnight, American Harry Schell was given third position, next to Moss and Brabham. As it turned out, he posted a time of 3:05.2 at the tail end of the session, and had gone unnoticed by almost everyone.
Moss led the race from the start and built a gap of ten seconds over Brabham, but after only five laps he retired with a broken gearbox. Brooks was rammed from behind by teammate von Trips in the first turn, and pitted to examine the damage. The stop cost him two minutes, and proved to be unnecessary. Though he rejoined to drive a sensational race and finish third, he never had a realistic shot at Brabham.
Jack Brabham took the lead from Moss while his teammate Bruce McLaren followed in second for most of the race. On the long airport straight, two turns from the finish, Brabham’s car began to sputter, and it rolled to a halt 400 yards from the line on the uphill front straight, out of gas.
He had refused to follow Team Manager Cooper’s exhortations to start the race on full tanks, hoping instead to find more speed from a lighter car. McLaren, surprised to see Brabham slowing, lifted his foot and slowed as well. Brabham waved him on frantically, and McLaren resumed speed just soon enough to hold his lead through the last turn and cross the line less than a second ahead of Trintignant, who had set the race’s fastest lap only three laps from the end.
Brabham was also passed by Brooks for third place, but the final three cars still running were several laps behind. The rules required that he finish without assistance, so he got out and pushed his car up the hill to finish fourth and earn his first World Driver’s Championship, the first for an Australian driver.
Cooper also claimed its first Constructor’s Championship, the first for a rear-engined car. Brooks’ third place gave Ferrari second place in the Constructor’s Championship; Innes Ireland was fifth, three laps down in his Lotus, and Wolfgang von Trips ended up sixth after his Ferrari’s engine gave way with four laps to go. With his victory, McLaren became the youngest ever Grand Prix winner at age 22 years, 104 days. In addition to his prize money, he also won several acres of land adjoining Sebring Lake!