History of Formula One

One of the closest Grand Prix finishes in F1’s history: the 1971 Italian GP held at Monza.

Formula One (the formula in the name refers to a set of rules to which all participants and cars must comply and was originally and briefly known as Formula A) can trace its roots back to the earliest days of motor racing, and emerged from the buoyant European racing scene of the inter-war years. Plans for a Formula One drivers’ championship were discussed in the late 1930s but were shelved with the onset of World War Two.

In 1946 the idea was rekindled and in that season the first races were held and the following year the decision was made to launch a drivers’ championship. It took until 1950 for the details to be hammered out and in May 1950 the first world championship race was held at Silverstone – the first F1 race had taken place a month earlier in Pau.

Fernando Alonso did not even make it around the first corner at Spa, after he was shunted from behind by Nico Hulkenberg, sending his McLaren spinning through the air.

Only seven of the twenty or so Formula One races that season counted towards the title but the championship was up and running. Even as more races were included in the championship, there were plenty of non-championship Formula One races. Non-championship races continued until 1983 when rising costs ruled them unprofitable.

There were no shortage of privateers – drivers who operated on their own and who bought and raced their own cars. Nevertheless, the formula was dominated by major pre-war manufactures such as Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Maserati and Mercedes Benz. Although Giuseppe (“Nino”) Farina won the inaugural title, the key driver in the 1950s was Juan Manuel Fangio who won the drivers’ championship in 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957 with five different manufacturers… read more >

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