Following World War II, a series of rules was established that all participating cars must conform to. These rules are called the formula. In 1946, Formula One was the introduced after World War II and the Turin Grand Prix, the first non-championship race was held later that same year. It wasn’t until 1950 when the first world championship race was held at Silverstone in the UK. Silverstone continues to hold the British Grand Prix in modern-day Formula 1. In 1958, the constructors championship was introduced.
At Silverstone, Italian driver Giuseppe Farina won the first world championship race in his Alfa Romeo. Farina would go on to win the first Drivers’ World Championship ahead of his Alfa Romeo teammate, Juan Manuel Fangio. The following year in 1951, Fangio would go on to win the second Drivers’ World Championship and then four more in 1954, 1955, 1956, and 1957. With 5 World Championships, Fangio still has the joint-second most championships alongside Lewis Hamilton and behind Michael Schumacher, who won 7 championships.
The 50s were a tumultuous time for Formula One, in the 1952 and 1953 seasons, the championship were held to Formula Two regulations due to the lack of teams entering as a result of rising costs. The oldest team is Ferrari as they are the only team still-competing to have competed in the debut 1950 season.
From the late-50s and early-60s, teams began to make technological improvements to the cars they entered. Starting with Mike Hawthorn’s championship win in 1958, British drivers went on to win 9 Drivers’ World Championships between them, and British teams went on to win 10 Constructors’ World Championships between 1962 and 1973.
Formula One drivers continued to put their lives at risk competing and British driver Jackie Stewart retired ahead of the final race of the 1973 World Championship following the death of fellow team mate Francois Cevert. Two years later, Emerson Fittipaldi refused to compete in the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix which stopped when a car crashed and killed five spectators. Jackie Stewart would go on to become a fervent advocate for increased safety within the sport:
“If I have any legacy to leave the sport I hope it will be seen to be an area of safety because when I arrived in Grand Prix racing so-called precautions and safety measures were diabolical.”
In the 90s, McLaren and Williams were the two dominant constructors. McLaren won 9 Drivers’ Championships and 7 Constructors’ Championships in that time with their drivers Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. Senna and Prost had a close and intense rivalry until 1993 when Prost retired. The following year, Senna died at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix after crashing. That same weekend Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger also died following an accident during the qualifying session on the Saturday. Further rule changes were introduced with a focus on safety by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile), Formula 1’s governing body.
Between 1984 and 2008, four teams, out of those who competed, Ferrari, Williams, McLaren and Renault went on to win every World Championship. The increasing cost of competing in Formula One a gap between the top teams and everyone else began to emerge. Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher dominated the late-90s winning 6 consecutive Drivers’ World Championships between 1999 and 2004 (in addition to 5 consecutive Constructors’ World Championships for Ferrari during the same time).
Since then, rules and regulations for Formula 1 entrants continued to evolve to encourage more competitive races and improve safety on-track. Formula 1 continued to expand worldwide and in 2023 will compete in 23 different countries around the world.