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Legendary stories from the world of Formula One

Dive into Formula One and explore the legendary drivers, circuits, memorable seasons and records that make it one of the most exciting and iconic motorsports on the planet. Welcome to the ultimate guide to the history of F1.

Formula One History

  • Where did Formula 1 originate?

    Formula 1 can trace its beginnings as far back as the early 20th century, with competitive car racing inside Europe dating back to the early 1900s.

    Between 1931 and 1939, the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR) governed open-wheeled racing across the European continent, holding various championships that all had a similar DNA to today’s F1 World Championship. During this time, and throughout the 1940s, there were several attempts to unify these races into a single championship season. However, these attempts were thwarted when World War II hit the continent. After the war, the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) introduced a standardised set of rules that open-wheel racing would follow and inaugurated the Formula One World Championship in 1950.

    Formula 1’s first-ever championship race was the 1950 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Held on May 13th, the race was won by Nino Farina for the Alfa Romeo team. That win propelled him on to win the Drivers’ Championship that year, making him F1’s first champion.

  • Who invented Formula 1?

    Formula 1 racing cannot really be credited to a single person or organisation as its origins stem from individuals coming together and racing. It’s in our DNA to race and win, whether on two feet, four or four wheels. While early races and competitions were frequent, it wasn’t until the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) created a set of racing rules and created a distinct Drivers’ Championship that Formula 1 emerged as a recognised sport. Therefore, it can be argued that the FIA are the pioneering force behind Formula 1 as a series.

    As the global governing body for various motorsports, the FIA plays a pivotal role in Formula 1. They are tasked with framing the rules and regulations and interpreting and enforcing them. The organisation holds the authority to impose sanctions, mediate disputes, and, most critically, grant the super licenses required by F1 drivers to participate in Grand Prix races and seasons.

    However, the FIA’s influence isn’t static. As the dynamic world of motorsport evolves, the FIA has to constantly adapt and reshape the face of Formula 1. From modifications in car design and engine specs to updates in the points system, changing circuits on the race calendar to overseeing and enhancing the safety of spectators and drivers, these ongoing refinements mean that the FIA is continually reinventing Formula 1. These changes ensure that the sport stays relevant and competitive and appeals to new and old fans.

  • When was Formula 1 established?

    F1 history can be traced back to the 13th of May, 1950. A major milestone in the history of the sport when the first official Formula 1 Championship race took place at the historic Silverstone Circuit in England. Heralding the start of the official Drivers’ Championship under new FIA rules.

    While Europe had been hosting races across a season every year, the FIA made the move in 1950 to select seven of these races to contribute points toward the inaugural F1 Drivers’ Championship. This decision by the FIA reduced the large number of races being held into a defined championship, adding weight to these seven races and their importance in the championship. They also added a level of glitz and prestige to the selected races. Such was the prestige of F1; the inaugural race at Silverstone hosted King George VI and several members of the English Royal Family, and an astonishing 100,000 spectators.

    The allure of these championship races didn’t fade, and post-1950, the championship witnessed exponential growth. With each passing season, more races were incorporated into the calendar, expanding the geographic footprint of the sport. Formula 1 soon moved beyond Europe, establishing races in countries across the world helping F1 to draw in a global audience and establish itself as the pinnacle of motorsport.

  • History of F1 safety

    Formula 1 is known for being a high-speed and dangerous sport, and during its history, it has witnessed harrowing crashes. Over the years, as the sport has evolved, these risks have been reduced with new and improved safety for drivers and spectators. Tragically, the history of Formula One’s early years is marred by the frequent fatalities it saw. In its first decade alone, 15 F1 drivers lost their lives. As the sport grew these tragic numbers continued into the early 1980’s with some consistency.

    Today, the FIA and Formula 1 are resolute in prioritising driver safety. Every year, new rules are made to improve safety standards in the sport, from car design to safety gear and on-track changes. These changes are backed up by the numbers, the total fatalities in Formula 1 since 1980 have been fewer than all those in the 1950s. F1 drivers emerging unscathed from terrible crashes have become a common sight, highlighting the remarkable advancements in safety technology. Modern F1 cars are designed to cocoon drivers and dissipate the violent forces of a crash to reduce life-threatening injuries.

  • Where is F1 popular?

    Long before Formula 1, Europe had been holding motor races. Historical records show that as early as the late 1890s, drivers were racing across various European countries. These races made Formula 1 a logical progression for Europe, offering drivers and teams an official series to compete in.

    From its inception, Formula 1 fans have passionately rallied behind teams representing their countries. From the Italian Tifosi supporting Ferrari to the English fans for Williams and McLaren, Europe has created some of the most historic F1 teams. However, this passion isn’t confined to Europe. Nations like Argentina, Brazil, and Australia have produced some of the sport’s most iconic and famous drivers, from Ayrton Senna to Fangio.

    While F1 initially featured heavily in Europe, its reach and appearance are now global. F1’s seasons don’t just feature in Europe but also in the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Europe. In the 2022 season, for instance, nearly half the races were located outside of Europe. Throughout F1 history, races have visited an impressive 34 countries, and drivers’ champions have come from 14 countries. With its international appeal, Formula 1 enjoys a huge fan base in countries like Italy and Germany to the UK and Brazil, where F1 is almost of national sport.

  • A brief history of Formula 1

    Few series in the annals of motorsport have seen as much drama, triumph, and tragedy as Formula 1. Here’s a brief walkthrough of some significant moments in Formula One history.

    1904: The motorsport world witnesses the establishment of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), an institution created to champion the causes of motoring organizations.

    May 13, 1950: Silverstone, England, becomes the birthplace of Formula 1. As a historic moment in the sport, the race sees Nino Farina race to victory.

    1953: South America enters the F1 map with a Grand Prix hosted in Argentina. Though the country’s celebrated driver, Juan Manuel Fangio, suffered an unfortunate DNF due to mechanical problems, it marked the beginning of South America’s legacy in the sport.

    1958: The Formula 1 circus touches down in Africa, with the Moroccan Grand Prix debuting.

    1968: Commercialism embraces Formula 1. Team Lotus, an iconic name from England, becomes the first to showcase sponsor logos on their racing cars.

    September 5, 1970: Tragedy strikes the sport when Jochen Rindt succumbs to injuries sustained during qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix. He posthumously secured the World Championship, a haunting memory in F1 history.

    1975: Niki Lauda secures his first Drivers’ Championship title. During his career, he would go on to win two more.

    1976: Lauda suffers major facial injuries and lung damage in a fireball accident at the German Grand Prix. Remarkably, Niki misses just two races but is narrowly pipped to the 1976 Drivers’ title by James Hunt.

    1991: Michael Schumacher, who went on to become one F1’s greatest drivers, makes his Formula 1 debut, stepping in as a back-up driver for Team Jordan. This career chance was the start of a career that saw him clinch a record seven World Championships.

    April 29- May 1, 1994: The race weekend at the San Marino Grand Prix remains one of the darkest in F1’s history. Rubens Barrichello’s massive crash saw him suffer a sprained wrist and broken nose, followed by the tragic deaths of rookie Roland Ratzenberger and the iconic Ayrton Senna. Post race the FIA and Formula 1 bodies sought to improve and change the sport’s safety regulations once again.

    2006: After dominating the sport with seven world titles, Michael Schumacher announces his first retirement.

    2008: Lewis Hamilton makes history, becoming the youngest World Champion at just 23.

    2009: Brawn GP, a new entrant, sweeps the season, with Jenson Button taking home the 2009 Drivers’ Championship. The team’s success is short-lived as it soon transforms into Mercedes GP.

    2010: The legend returns as Michael Schumacher is back in Formula 1 with Team Mercedes, although the magic of the past eludes him.

    2010-2013: The motorsport world watches in awe as Sebastian Vettel, racing for underdogs Red Bull Racing, clinches four consecutive Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championships.

    2014-2019: Lewis Hamilton‘s reign at the top continues, with the British driver bagging five titles in this period of dominance.

    2022: The season finale in Abu Dhabi witnessed one of the most contentious moments in recent F1 history. A decision by race director Michael Masi altered the outcome of the race, going against normal safety car race protocol that allowed Max Verstappen to clinch his maiden F1 Drivers’ title and deny Lewis Hamilton a record eighth championship. The aftermath saw Masi relieved of his duties as race director and left F1.

  • Formula 1 from 1950 to the 1970s

    The first Formula 1 race, held at the iconic Silverstone circuit on May 13, 1950, set the tone for the fierce on-track battles that would define the sport as we know it today. The skilled Nino Farina emerged as the race winner and claimed the record of becoming Formula One’s first winner.

    By 1958, the Formula 1 calendar had become a global series with races in South America and Africa. Races were featured in Argentina, the homeland of Juan Manuel Fangio, and on the African continent, where the Moroccan Grand Prix was held.

    In 1968, the commercial side of F1 was introduced with cars displaying sponsor logos for the first time. Team Gunston was the first team to run a cigarette sponsorship on their Brabham cars, which ran the colours of Gunston cigarettes. Team Lotus, part of the Lotus Car company, also pioneered the way with the gold and white colours of Imperial Tobacco’s Gold Leaf brand.

    While F1 continued to evolve, it was never far away from tragedy. In 1970, F1 witnessed one of the most gruesome and devastating accidents. German-born driver Jochen Rindt, who represented Austria, died in a tragic accident while qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix for Team Lotus. The cause was a mixture of issues from poorly installed barriers, Rindt’s habit of using only four points on the five-point harness system, and a potential issue with the car’s brake shaft, although Colin Chapman refuted these claims. With a poorly secured harness, Rindt slid under the harness on impact, slitting open his throat. On route to the hospital, Rindt was declared dead.

    Despite the tragic end to his life prior to that race weekend, he accumulated enough points over the 1970 season to be posthumously awarded the Drivers’ World Championship title. To this day he is the only driver in F1 history to receive this honour after their death.

  • Formula 1 from 1970 to the 1990s

    The death of Jochen Rindt in 1970 was a wake-up call for the Formula 1 community and propelled the FIA into prioritising safety innovations.

    In the mid-1970s, the sport saw legends like Niki Lauda, known for his tactical mind, clinch his first World Championship in 1975, while Lauda’s fierce rivalry with British driver James Hunt kept F1’s global appeal growing.

    But this era was still marred by tragic events. In 1976, at the Nürburgring circuit for the German Grand Prix, Niki Lauda’s car veered off track, crashing into an embankment and erupting into an inferno. The aftermath left Lauda severely scarred, losing part of his ear and eyelids and affecting his lungs. However, his determination to race was nothing short of remarkable. Missing just two races, Lauda made his comeback to F1, giving fans a climatic end to the season at the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix, where James Hunt narrowly edged out Lauda to take his one and only Drivers’ Championship.

    During the ’80s and ’90s, the sport saw the likes of Prost and Senna duel it out, Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell representing British hopes and another legend beginning to make his mark, Michael Schumacher. In a lucky turn of events, Schumchaer debuted in Formula 1, substituting for the number one driver at Team Jordan. An opportunity given to him by team owner Eddie Jordan paved the way for him to become one of the most successful drivers in F1 History as Schumacher went on to clinch seven World Championships.

    This era didn’t escape tragic moments. Despite safety becoming better and better, tragedy struck the sport again in 1994. On April 29th, during the San Marino Grand Prix race weekend, three major incidents fell one after another. The first accident saw Rubens Barrichello suffer a harrowing crash. However, he miraculously survived with minor injuries, although he owed his life to the on-track medics at the scene after swallowing his tongue during the accident. The following day, rookie Roland Ratzenberger had a minor crash but could continue, not knowing the car was severely compromised. This damage resulted in a catastrophic second crash, leading to his death.

    On a track walk later that day, several of the drivers, including Ayrton Senna, questioned postponing the upcoming race to increase the safety of the track. However, come race day, Senna took to the track with a tribute to Ratzenberger – an Austrian flag on his car. Tragically, on the seventh lap, Senna’s car careered off track, resulting in a crash that would claim his life. The world mourned the loss of two racers within 48 hours, and the weekend is frequently called “Black Sunday”.

    In the aftermath of the heartbreaking losses of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna, Formula 1 was galvanised into pushing the envelope for better safety standards.

  • Formula 1 from 2000 to the 2020s

    At the start of these decades, Michael Schumacher stands head and shoulders above them all. After a breathtaking career with Scuderia Ferrari that saw him add five more titles to his career and totalling seven world titles, Schumacher took a bow in 2006. His legacy cemented him as possibly the greatest driver Formula 1 had ever witnessed. However, his passion for racing led Schumacher to return to the sport in 2010 with Team Mercedes. This three-year stint, however, couldn’t replicate his earlier monumental successes.

    In the space between the era of Schumacher and the upcoming champions, an underdog story unfolded that captured the hearts of many. Brawn GP, a team rising from the ashes of Honda Racing F1 in 2009, took F1 by storm, securing the Constructors’ Championship. With Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello driving the team’s cars, Button clinched the 2009 Drivers’ World Championship. However, this meteoric rise was short-lived, as the team underwent a sale and reemerged as Mercedes GP the following year.

    Soon after, from 2010 to 2013, a young talent named Sebastian Vettel burst onto the scene. Driving for Red Bull Racing, he secured four consecutive Drivers’ Championships. His successes and German heritage led many in the F1 community to christen him the ‘next Schumacher’. Yet, the late 2000s and early 2010s were not solely the Vettel show. Several racers carved their niche during this period.

    Lewis Hamilton, synonymous with brilliance in Formula 1, began his journey to greatness by becoming the youngest Drivers’ World Champion in 2008 at just 23. And he didn’t stop there. Over six years, from 2014 to 2020, Hamilton went on a title-winning spree, clinching six more championships. His relentless drive and talent have spurred conversations around whether he might surpass his Michael Schumacher record-equalling seven titles to solidify his position as potentially the most decorated driver in Formula 1 history.