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If you are a bit of a petrolhead and enjoy an afternoon of high speed thrills and spills, the chances are that you have seen one or two Formula One racing events. You may prefer the mayhem of Nascar racing or perhaps the 2.2 litre madness of the Indianapolis class floats your boat. But you will probably still have a soft spot for the incredible skill and reactions of those talented drivers in Formula One.  This article takes a look at the events and how it all began.


Mika Salo

What Is Formula One?

Formula One is also known as simply F1, and describes the highest class of racing cars that are recognised by the FIA governing body. The racing season is known as the Grand Prix, meaning ‘Grand Prize’ in French. The races take place in locations all over the world and some of them are actually held on public roads, such as the Monaco Grand Prix racing event. The cars themselves are the fastest circuit racing cars in the world and race at speeds over 200 miles per hour. About half of the races take part in Europe and the remainder are held in far flung places such as Brazil, South Africa, Australia and Japan. It is an absolutely massive spectator sport with a worldwide audience of over 520 million people.  But you may be wondering where exactly did this monster event come from?

Formula One – The Beginnings

The beginnings of Formula One were synonymous with the European Grand Prix Motor Racing series, and they kicked off in the 1920’s. The application of the word ‘Formula’ described the standards that all cars were duty bound to meet. The engines and design of the cars should all meet predetermined criteria, in order to ensure that a fair competition could be achieved.  The Formula One agreement came into being just after the end of the second World War. The original launch had been delayed somewhat by the international conflict. The inaugural Formula One world championship took place in 1947 at Silverstone, United Kingdom.

All Systems Go!

The first world champion was Giuseppe Farina in his Italian Alfa Romeo, it was a thrilling debut and he only just eclipsed his team mate, Juan Fangio, to scoop the prize. Unperturbed, Fangio returned and managed to win the world championship five times in the next seven years. This record was not bested until the legendary Michael Schumacher took to the stage nearly fifty years later. The cars of this era were made up of four legendary racing marques:

  • Alfa Romeo
  • Mercedes Benz
  • Maserati
  • Ferrari

Early Car Specifications

 Although the Formula One class was set up in order to ensure the cars all had a similar setup, there was quite a choice of engine types and aspiration on offer. The Alfa Romeo 158 had a choice of two engines:

  • A 4.5 litre normally aspirated lump.
  • A 1.5 litre turbo charged engine.

Surprisingly, these both had a similar amount of success in the class, and had extremely narrow tires in comparison with todays’ computer aided monsters. Formula One had arrived and was here to stay!

Todd Jacobson is an instructor with a high performance driving school in Florida and trains people in competition dynamics and advanced driving techniques. His hobbies include writing and playing tennis.