What exactly is Formula 1?
The name can be split into two. The ‘Formula’ refers to the rules and regulations that bind the sport, while the ‘1’ denotes that it is the supreme level of motorsport — the highest echelon, if you will.
Before World War II
The 1933 Monaco Grand Prix is probably something of a marker when it comes to Grand Prix racing. It was the first time that the starting grid of a race was determined according to who had the fastest timing, as opposed to a lucky draw. While the first World Championship had taken place in 1928, it was only open to full-fledged automobile manufacturers. It was in 1935 that the first European Championship was held, consisting of all the important European race circuits. This championship was held every year till 1939, when war broke out.
Post World War II
The AIACR (Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus), which was the governing body of motorsport until that time, had dissolved during the years of war. It was then reorganised into the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) that is the regulatory body for motorsport events, including Formula 1, to this day. It drafted the plans for Formula 1 at the end of 1949.
F1 is born
In 1950, the first ever Formula 1 World Championship was held. It consisted of seven races, six of which were held in Europe, while the seventh — the Indianapolis 500 — was held across the seas in the United States of America. May 13, 1950 was the date that the first ever Formula 1 Grand Prix was held at the Silverstone circuit in the United Kingdom. Italian driver Giuseppe Farina claimed pole position, had the fastest lap of the race and won it too. It was a sign of things to come — Farina dominated the entire season, claiming the first F1 world championship title for Alfa Romeo.
The sport evolves
Technology rapidly changed over the decades as did the racetracks and drivers. As the speeds involved in Formula 1 rapidly increased, so did the casualties that the sport saw. It wasn’t till the 1960s that seatbelts were made mandatory in Formula 1, and with the death of drivers like Jochen Rindt (the only posthumous world champion in the sport) and severe injuries to the likes of triple world champion Niki Lauda, safety gradually became a top priority in Formula 1.
F1 morphed into what it has become today after Bernie Ecclestone came on the scene. He pioneered the sale of F1’s television rights towards the end of the 1970s, after which his company — Formula One Management — gained administrative control over the sport. F1 today is an elaborate and well-oiled machine, and we certainly aren’t talking about the cars. Formula 1 is one of the most expensive sports in the world, employing thousands and, more importantly, reaching out to millions.