Formula 1: How it all started

Formula 1 has a long and exciting history and, despite having its roots in European Grand Prix motor racing between the first and second world wars, its time of conception was in 1946 when the initial formula was devised and its birth was in 1950, the year of the first formula one championship.

However, taking a look at the pre-F1 days of Grand Prix motor racing, the sport began in France in 1894 as a road race from Paris to Rouen, a distance of 80 miles; the average speed was just 12 mph. The first race that was called a Grand Prix took place in 1901, though Grand Prix did not become regular events until 1906. The first of these was held at Le Mans. There were 33 entries, the race being won by FerencSzisz in a Renault.

Initially most of the tracks were road circuits and the first purpose built race track was Brooklands in the UK which was opened in 1907. Monza in Italy was the second European circuit and it opened in 1922. Up until the 1920s all cars were two seaters with the mechanic as the passenger. The first World Championship was held in 1925

A new innovation in 1933 was qualifying for grid positions as determined by lap times. It was also agreed that cars from specific countries should be painted specific colours; this was the origin of the colour British Racing Green. The dominant cars of the era were all French, and Bugatti was the leader, but soon they were challenged by the Italian teams Alfa Romeo and Maserati. However, from 1935 to 1939 the Nazi funded German teams Mercedes and Auto Union dominated the sport. At the time engines had a minimum of8 and a maximum of 16 cylinders. They were supercharged and very powerful, developing 600 bhp. The sport came to a halt in 1939 when the Second World War broke out

Following the war there was very little Grand Prix style racing; only four events were held in 1946. In that year the FédérationInternationale de l’Automobile (FIA) set about standardising the rules of Grand Prix racing and these were put into action in 1950, the year of the firstFormula 1 Drivers World Championship. The first race was held at Silverstone, UK.

The first F1 World Champion was Giuseppe Farina who drove for Alfa Romeo. His team mate Juan Manuel Fangio won the crown in 1951. He went on to win 4 more titles, a feat that was also beaten by Michael Schumacher forty six years later.

Over the following years the design of formula one cars advanced enormously, particularly in terms of their safety. Between 1952 and 1994 52 drivers were killed in races or in testing. The last two were Roland Ratzenberger and AyretonSenna, both of whom lost their lives at the San Marino Grand Prix on 30thApril 30 and 1st May 1994respectively. Since then there have been many serious accidents but, thanks to the amazing safety of the cars, no further fatalities.

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