Although the sport is now owned by former Formula One driver Bernie Ecclestone, the roots of the great tradition date back to the European Grand Prix motor racing circuit of the 1920s and 1930s.
But, despite originating nearly 90 years ago, Formula One as we now know it didn’t actually begin until 1946, when standardisation of the rules took place by Formula One’s governing body: the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobiles (FIA).
Previous proposals for a standardised rulebook from each circuit had been put forward by individual circuits prior to this date, but the creation of a ‘formulised’ set of rules had to be postponed because of World War II.
Luckily, just five years after the conflict ended, in 1950, the first World Drivers’ Championship under the Formula One took place in Silverstone, in Britain – and the rest, as they say, is history!
What’s in a name?
Formula One gets its racy moniker from the set of rules which all participants and cars were obliged to meet in order to participate in the sport.
Before World War II, a number of Grand Prix racing organisations had laid out rules according to their own wishes, or formulae, for a World Championship.
But, due to the suspension of racing during World War II, it was not until the war was over that these proposed regulations were amalgamated into one formula, or Formula One, and were ready to be put into practice. Other less expensive and less powerful engines and cars were categorised into other sets of formulae known as Formula Two, which was renamed Formula 3000 in 1985, and Formula Three.
Formula 3000 – originally Formula Two – eventually dwindled in popularity until its terminal decline in the 1990s. However, Formula Three is still going strong as a worldwide sport, and is an important stepping stone for young drivers with ambitions of driving in Formula One. Learn more about the British Formula Three here.
Although the original rules of Formula One still exist to this day, technological advancements mean that the guidelines used now are practically unrecognisable from the ones established all those years ago. But the sport still calls itself Formula One, in correspondence with the original agreed rules.
A world first!
The British can pride themselves on being the first country in the world to host a Formula One championship.
This historic world championship race was held at Silverstone, Britain in 1950. Sadly, a British driver did not see a medal despite the support of the home crowd! Instead, the very first Formula One World Championship was won by the Italian Giuseppe Farina, driving in an Alfa Romeo. He narrowly defeated his Argentine teammate Juan Manuel Fangio, who came in second place.
However, Argentinian Fangio was not to be disappointed with second place for long! He went on to win the title in 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957, and his streak was only interrupted by two-time champion Alberto Ascari of Ferrari. With this incredible run of success, Fangio became the first true legend of the sport and is remembered for dominating the first decade of Formula One. In fact, many still consider him the ‘grand master’ of Formula One.
What a body!
Formula One’s fledgling years were dominated by teams run by road car manufacturers such as Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes Benz and Maserati, all of whom had competed before the war in the European Grand Prix circuit.
Initially, the race cars were all front-engined pre-war cars, with narrow treaded tyres, and boasted a 1.5 litre supercharged or 4.5 litre normal engines. This was hot stuff for the times