Tony Brooks: who is F1 pioneer who has died, was he a racing driver?

Tony Brooks, defining Formula 1 driver of the 1950s, has died at the age of 90.

The British former Formula 1 driver Tony Brooks has passed away at the age of 90. His daughter, Guilia, announced the news on Tuesday 3 May 2022.

Brooks won six Grands Prix and narrowly missed out on the world championship title in 1950 and is widely regarded as one of the defining Formula 1 drivers of his era.

In a statement made by F1, the CEO Stefano Domenicali said: “I was saddened to hear the news that Tony Brooks has died.

“He was part of a special group of drivers who were pioneers and pushed the boundaries at a time of great risk.

“He will be missed and our thoughts are with his family at this time.”

Who was Tony Brooks?

Brooks was one of the last surviving F1 race winners of the 1950s and famously won his first ever F1 race, the Syracuse Grand Prix in 1955.

He was a last minute entry for the Connaught team and competed while studying for his dentistry finals at Manchester University.

After receiving the call, Brooks headed to Italy where he missed the first practice day and learned the circuit on a Vespa.

He then went on to lead home world championship regulars, Luigi Musso and Luigi Villoresi, to achieve the first international Grand Prix win for a British car since 1924.

Brooks put his dentistry career on the backburner and joined BRM in 1956, unfortunately only racing twice in a car that was far from successful.

Tony Brooks at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1959Tony Brooks at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1959
Tony Brooks at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1959

Alongside another Formula 1 icon Stirling Moss, Brooks joined Vanwall team and finished second at the Monaco GP to Juan Fangio who was on course for his last of five world titles, before going on to share the win with Moss at the British GP.

Brooks was then given his major chance in 1959 when he joined Ferrari. The retirement of Mike Hawthawn and death in the previous season of Peter Collins meant Brooks had a chance of winning the title.

Wins in France, Germany and second place finish in Monaco, meant he went into the final race at Sebring, Florida, still with a chance of winning but fell short after being hit by German temmate Wolfgang von Trips. Brooks was then forced to pit, losing two minutes, but would go on to finish in third place and come second in the championship overall.

His teammate and fellow British driver Moss said of him: “Brooks was a tremendous driver, the greatest - if he’ll forgive me saying this - ‘unknown’ racing driver there’s ever been. He was far better than several people who won the world Championship.”

Brooks left Ferrari after his missed world title opportunity and would go on to leave Formula 1 altogether after 1961.

He received little pomp and circumstance for his departure despite being one of the greatest drivers of his generation.

Brooks’ philosophy

Tony Brooks was a devout Catholic and often struggled with the dangers of the sport as he believed he should not be taking unnecessary risk with his life.

Brooks suffered huge crashes early on in his career, one at Silverston and one at Le Mans, and he spoke of how these had changed his approach to the sport he loved.

Speaking in 1980s to F1 journalist Nigel Roebuck, Brooks said: “I always felt it was morally wrong to take unnecessary risk with one’s life, because I believe that life is a gift from God and that suicide is morally unacceptable.

“I suppose that there are those who would say that driving race cars at all is an unncessary risk but I wouldn’t agree with that.

“However, driving one which may be unsound or damaged, while not exactly suicide, is verging towards it.”

When is the next Formula 1 race?

Tony Brooks will surely be remembered as the sport heads to Florida this weekend for the inaugural Miami Grand Prix. The weekend kicks off on Friday 6 May 2022 and will conclude with the race on Saturday 8 May 2022.

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