History of Formula One
Formula One has its roots in the European Grand Prix motor racing (q.v. for pre-1947 history) of the 1920s and 1930s. However, the foundation of Formula One began in 1946 with the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile's (FIA's) standardisation of rules. A World Drivers' Championship followed in 1950. The sport's history necessarily parallels the history of its technical regulations; see Formula One regulations for a summary of the technical rule changes. Although the world championship has always been the main focus of the category, non-championship Formula One races were held for many years. Due to the rising cost of competition, the last of these occurred in 1983. National championships existed in South Africa and the UK in the 1960s and 1970s.
The early years
Formula One was first defined in 1946 by the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI) of the FIA, forerunner of FISA, as the premier single seater racing category in worldwide motorsport. It was initially known as Formula A, but the name Formula One was widely used early on and became official in 1950.
In the beginning, the formula was largely based on pre-war regulations defined by engine capacity. The regulation expected to bring a new balance between supercharged and normally aspirated cars. Non supercharged 4.5 litres pre-war Grand Prix cars were allowed to race against the pre-war 1.5 litres supercharged 'voiturettes' while pre-war supercharged Grand Prix cars were banned. The first race under the new regulations was the 1946 Turin Grand Prix held on 1 September, the race being won by Achille Varzi in an Alfa Romeo 158 Alfetta, although in reality the cars were no different to those that had raced earlier in the season. Indeed Varzi's car was built before the war. Championships for drivers or constructors were not re-introduced immediately. In the early years there were around 20 races held from late Spring to early Autumn (Fall) in Europe, although not all of these were considered significant. Most competitive cars came from Italy, particularly Alfa Romeo. Races saw pre-war heroes like Varzi, Jean-Pierre Wimille and Tazio Nuvolari end their careers, while drivers like Ascari and Fangio rose to the front.
- See 1950 season, 1951 season, 1952 season, 1953 season, 1954 season, 1955 season, 1956 season and 1957 season.
In 1950, as an answer to the Motorcycle World Championships introduced in 1949, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) organized the first ever official World Championship for Drivers using the Formula One rules. The organization of the championship, to be held across six of the 'major' Grands Prix of Europe, plus the Indianapolis 500, was a mere formalization of what had already been developing in Grand Prix racing during the previous years. It was the Italian teams of Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and Maserati which were best positioned to dominate the initial years of the championship. Other national manufacturers – such as the French manufacturer Talbot or the British effort BRM – competed, although less successfully. A number of private cars also took part in local races.
Alfa Romeo dominated all before them in the 1950 season, winning every race in the championship with the pre-war "Alfetta" 158s. The sole exception was the Indianapolis 500, which was part of the championship, although not run to Formula One regulations and rarely contested by the European teams. The race would never be important for Formula One and was no longer part of the championship after 1960. Nino Farina won the inaugural championship, Juan Manuel Fangio taking it in 1951 with the Alfa-Romeo 159, an evolution of the 158. The Alfetta's engines were extremely powerful for their capacity: In 1951 the 159 engine was producing around 420 bhp but this was at the price of a fuel consumption of 125 to 175 litres per 100 km. Enzo Ferrari, who had raced the Alfettas before the war, was the first to understand that the 1.5 litre supercharged engine was a dead end: Any increase in power meant more fuel to carry or more time lost in the pits for refuelling, For the last races of 1950 Ferrari sent his 1.5 litre supercharged 125s to the museum, and fielded the new V12 4.5 litre normally aspirated 375s. With a fuel consumption of around 35 litres per 100 km the 375s offered fierce opposition to the Alfettas towards the end of the 1951 season. Alfa Romeo, a state-owned company, decided to withdraw after a refusal of the Italian government to fund the expensive design of a new car. Surprisingly, Alfa Romeo involvement in racing was made with a very thin budget, using mostly pre-war technology and material during the two seasons. For instance the team won two championships using only nine pre-war built engine blocks.
No Alfa Romeo would make Ferrari invincible. The FIA was in embarrassing position as it had already announced that current Formula One regulations would last until 1954 before switching to 2.5-litre atmospheric engines. Major manufacturers were already working to develop cars for the future regulation and it was obvious that nobody would develop a new car for only two years. The solution was to put the World Championship for drivers under Formula Two regulation for two years. However, Ferrari's dominance went on with the light 4-cylinder powered 500s, bringing Italian legend Alberto Ascari his two championships in the 1952 and 1953 seasons. Ferrari's Formula One cars continued to race very successfully in non-Championship Formula One and Formula Libre races through this period. Ironically, during this period the only World Championship race for which Formula One cars were eligible was the Indianapolis 500. In 1952 Ferrari entered four Formula One 375s with Alberto Ascari as lead driver, but with little success.
Discounting the Indianapolis 500, the World Championship was entirely based in Europe until 1953 when the season opened in Argentina. Since then there has always been at least one race outside Europe.
As planned, the World Championship returned to Formula One regulations for the 1954 season, now based on 2.5-litre atmospheric engines. With them, Lancia and Mercedes-Benz came to the formula, hiring the best drivers of the era: Ascari for Lancia, Fangio for Mercedes. Featuring desmodromic valves, fuel injection, magnesium and exotic alloys parts, "streamlined" bodywork and other advanced features, the brand new Mercedes began the 1954 season with Fangio taking pole position at the "Grand Prix de l'ACF" at Reims-Gueux with the first lap over 200 km/h in Formula One before winning the race after a duel with other Mercedes driver Karl Kling, who finished second.
The Mercedes cars swept the next two seasons with Fangio winning all but three of the races. However, at the end of the 1955 season Mercedes vanished as swiftly as they had come. They had proven the superiority of their technology, but the crash of one of their sportscars that year at Le Mans, killing 83 people, was also a significant factor. The company would not return to Formula One for forty years. After Le Mans, three of the year's remaining Grands Prix were cancelled.
The Monaco Grand Prix saw a spectacular incident when Ascari and his Lancia crashed into the harbour after missing a chicane. Ascari was pulled out of the water alive and apparently well. However, there was speculation over an undetected internal injury when four days later Ascari was killed at Monza while testing a sportscar. After Ascari's death, Lancia followed Mercedes out of the category, passing their engines, cars, information and technology to Ferrari.
The 1956 season saw Fangio make good use of the Lancia-born Ferrari to win his fourth championship. Driving for Maserati, he took his fifth championship in the 1957 season, a record which would not be beaten for 46 years.
The mid engine revolution
Although the basic formula remained unchanged in 1958, races were shortened from around 500 km/300miles to 300 km/200 miles and cars had to use Avgas instead of various fuel mixtures using methanol as the primary component.
With Fangio retired, Mike Hawthorn in a Ferrari took the 1958 driver's championship – becoming the first English driver to earn a title. The British Vanwall team took the maiden constructors championship that season, but ruined their driver's championship aspirations by taking points off one another. Stirling Moss, despite having many more wins than Hawthorn, lost the title by one point. This season saw a woman driving in Formula One for the first time with Maria Teresa de Filippis racing a private Maserati at the Belgian Grand Prix.
1958 was a watershed in another crucial way for Formula One. Against a small field of Ferraris and Maseratis (BRM and Vanwall were still working to convert their engines to Avgas), Stirling Moss won the Argentine Grand Prix driving a mid-engined Cooper entered by the private team of Rob Walker, and powered by a 2 litre Coventry-Climax Straight-4. This was the first victory for a car with the engine mounted behind the driver in Formula One The next Grand Prix in Monaco was also won by that Cooper, this time driven by Maurice Trintignant and facing a more substantial opposition. Powered by undersized engines, the Coopers remained outsiders in 1958 but as soon as the new 2.5 litre Coventry-Climax engine was available, the little British cars went on to dominate Formula One. The 1959 season saw fierce competition between the works Cooper of Australian Jack Brabham and Moss in the Walker team's Cooper. As the use of a modified Citroën Traction Avant transaxle was Achilles heel of the Coopers, Walker switched to a home design. Unfortunately the special transmission turned out to be more unreliable that the standard part and Brabham took the title with Moss second.
For 1960 while Enzo Ferrari adopted a conservative attitude, claiming "the horses pull the car rather than push it", Lotus and BRM introduced mid-engined machines. Walker team switched to a Lotus 18 chassis. Moss gave Lotus its first Formula One victory at Monaco but his season was ruined by a crash and Brabham took a second title with his Cooper.
The mid-engined revolution rendered another potentially revolutionary car obsolete. The front-engined four-wheel drive Ferguson P99 raced in British Formula One races in 1961, winning the non-Championship Oulton Park International Gold Cup, but was too heavy and complex compared to the new breed of mid-engined machines.
In 1961, in an attempt to curb speeds, Formula One was downgraded to 1.5 litre, non-supercharged engines (essentially the then-current Formula Two rules), a formula which would remain for the next five years. Ferrari could have used its already proven V6 powered mid-engined Formula 2 cars, but preferred to go one step beyond by designing a very sophisticated car powered by a 120° V6. This led to Ferrari dominance for the 1961 season as the British teams scrambled to come up with a suitable engine.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Formula One World Championship was merely the tip of the iceberg when it came to races run to Formula One regulations. The total number of races run to Formula One regulations remained about the same as it had been before the introduction of the World Championship. Many famous races, such as the Pau and Syracuse Grands Prix, the BRDC International Trophy, the Race of Champions and the Oulton Park Gold Cup, were not part of the World Championship, but nonetheless continued to draw the top drivers and teams to compete.
In 1962, the Lotus team ran the Lotus 25 powered by the new Coventry-Climax FWMV V8 engine. The car had an aluminium sheet monocoque chassis instead of the traditional spaceframe design. This proved to be the greatest technological breakthrough since the introduction of mid-engined cars, but the Lotus was unreliable at first. Jim Clark finished second that year leaving the title to Graham Hill and his new V8 powered BRM.
As soon as the car and the engine became reliable, the era of the Lotus and of Jim Clark began. Clark won the title twice in three years, 1963 and 1965, the latter being the only occasion to date of a driver winning both the Championship and the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race in the same year. For 1964 Lotus introduced the new Lotus 33 and Ferrari made considerable technological and financial effort to win the title. Ferrari used no less than three different engines in the season—the existing V6, a V8 and a flat-12, while Lotus was struggling with the teething troubles of a new car. The title went to John Surtees and Ferrari. Surtees' title was especially notable, as he became the only driver ever to win the World Championship for both cars and motorcycles. The 1965 Mexican Grand Prix, the last race of the 1.5 litres Formula One, saw Richie Ginther giving Honda its first victory at the end of a season that was otherwise disappointing for the Japanese newcomer. This was first victory by a Japanese car and, as of today, the only one by a car powered by a transverse engine.
1966 saw a 'Return to Power' as Formula One changed the engine rules once again, allowing engines of 3.0 litre normally aspirated, or 1.5 litre supercharged capacity. 1966 was a transitional year for most teams, however, the year did see the first use of a technology which would later go on to revolutionise the sport: composite materials. The McLaren M2B, designed by Robin Herd, used an aluminium-wood laminate known as Mallite for much of its monocoque, although the car's design did not make best use of the new material.
Ferrari was the great favorite with a 3 litre version of his well tested sports car V12 design, but the engines were underpowered and the cars were heavy; an enlarged V6 held some promise but Surtees left mid-season after a dispute with team manager Dragoni. Coventry-Climax, formerly supplier to much of the field, pulled out of the sport leaving teams like Lotus to struggle with enlarged versions of obsolete Climax engines. Cooper turned to a development of an otherwise obsolete Maserati V12 that was originally designed for the Maserati 250 F in the late 1950s while BRM made the choice to design an incredibly heavy and complex H-16. The big winner was Jack Brabham, whose eponymous racing team took victory two years with a compact spaceframe chassis powered by the aluminium-block stock-derived Repco V8 unit. With SOHC heads and no more than 330 bhp, the Repco was by far the least powerful of the new 3 litre engines but unlike the others it was light, reliable and available right from the start of the new rules. 1966 was Jack's year, while 1967 went to his teammate, New Zealander Denny Hulme, as Jack tried new parts on his car.
In 1967 Lotus introduced the Lotus 49, powered by the Ford-Cosworth DFV V8 engine that was to dominate Formula One for the next decade. Like the Repco the Cosworth was light and compact but it was a real racing engine using 4-valve DOHC heads and delivering much more power - Cosworth had aimed for 400bhp and exceeded this when the engine first ran. The DFV was designed to be fully stressed (an idea pioneered by the Lancia D50). This allowed Chapman to design a monocoque that ended just after the driver's seat while the Brabham were still using a very classic tubular frame that supported the engine, the gearbox and the rear suspension wishbones. The newborn DFV suffered from frequent failures due to excessive vibration from the flat-plane crank, forcing Keith Duckworth to redesign several parts and allowing Hulme to win the World Driver's Crown on reliability.
1967 also saw a remarkable result by Rhodesian driver John Love with a 2.7 litre four-cylinder Cooper-Climax; Love, who was in his forties and although seen as one of the finest drivers in Southern Africa was not a major star, led and finished second in that year's South African Grand Prix. Love's Cooper was originally designed for the short races of the Tasman Formula; to run a full Grand Prix Love added two auxiliary gas tanks. Unfortunately the auxiliary tanks fuel pump failure forced him to refuel after having lead most of the race.
Love was the king of South Africa's flourishing domestic Formula One championship, which was run from 1960 through to 1975, winning the drivers championship six times in the 1960s. The frontrunning cars in the series were recently retired from the world championship although there was also a healthy selection of locally built or modified machines. Frontrunning drivers from the series usually contested their local World Championship Grand Prix, as well as occasional European events, although they had little success at that level.
By the late 1960s, 'overseas' races outside Europe like the South African Grand Prix formed about a third of the championship in any year. The core of the season remained the European season run over the Northern Hemisphere summer, with overseas races usually falling at the start or end of the season, a pattern which has continued to this day. There were also a number of non-championship races run outside Europe – the South African Grand Prix was occasionally one of these.
In 1968 Lotus lost its exclusive right to use the DFV. McLaren built a DFV-powered car and a new force appeared on the scene when Ken Tyrrell entered his team using Cosworth-powered French Matra chassis driven by ex-BRM Jackie Stewart as lead driver. Clark took his last win at the 1968 season opening South African Grand Prix. On 7 April 1968 the double champion was killed at Hockenheim in a non-championship Formula Two event. The year saw two significant innovations. The first was the arrival of unrestricted sponsorship, which the FIA decided to permit after the withdrawal of support from automobile related firms. In May the Lotus Formula One team appeared at Jarama in the red, gold and white colors of Imperial Tobacco's Gold Leaf brand. The second innovation was the introduction of wings as seen previously on the Chaparral CanAm and endurance cars. Colin Chapman started the arms race with modest front wings and a spoiler on Graham Hill's Lotus 49B at Monaco. Brabham and Ferrari went one better at the Belgian Grand Prix with full width wings mounted on struts high above the driver. Lotus replied with a full width wing directly connected to the rear suspension. Brabham and Matra then produced a high mounted front wing connected to the front suspension. At the end of the season most cars were using mobile wings with various control systems. There was several case of wings, struts, or even suspension collapsing. Lotus won both titles in 1968 with Graham Hill with Steward second.
The 1968 Matras most innovative feature was the use of aviation-inspired structural fuel tanks but the FIA decided to ban technology for 1970. For 1969 Matra made the radical decision to withdraw its works team and build a new car using structural tanks for the Tyrrell team, even though it would be eligible for only a single season. The 1969 season started with cars using larger and more sophisticated wings than the previous year. When both Lotus cars broke their wings' struts and crashed at the Spanish Grand Prix, the FIA banned wings for the next race at Monaco. They were reintroduced later in the season but were to be restricted in size and height, and attached directly to the chassis in a fixed position.
Safety became a major issue in Formula One and the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa did not take place as the drivers boycotted the circuit after safety upgrades were not installed as demanded. Stewart won the 1969 title easily with the new Matra MS80, a spectacular achievement from a constructor and a team that had only entered Formula One the previous year. It remains the only title won by a chassis built in France. 1969 also saw a brief resurgence of interest in four wheel drive with a record of four such cars on field at the British Grand Prix. Johnny Servoz-Gavin became the one and only driver to score a point with a 4WD, finishing sixth with the Matra MS84 at the Canadian Grand Prix, although the front wheel transmission was actually disconnected. Wide tyres and downforce had proved to be better means of increasing grip, and the technology was largely abandoned. Jacky Ickx finished second in the championship for Brabham, competitive again after dropping its Repco engines in favour of the DFV.
For 1970 Tyrrell were asked by Matra to use their V12, but decided to retain the Cosworth instead. As Matra was now a Chrysler affiliate and Tyrrell derived much of its income from Ford and Elf (associated with Renault) the partnership ended. Ken Tyrrell bought March 701 chassis as an interim solution while developing his own car for the next season. The new wedge-shaped Lotus 72 was a very innovative car featuring variable flexibility torsion bar suspension, hip-mounted radiators, inboard front brakes and an overhanging rear wing. The 72 originally had suspension problems, but once resolved the car quickly showed its superiority and Lotus' new leader, the Austrian Jochen Rindt, dominated the championship until he was killed at Monza when a brake shaft broke. He took the 1970 title posthumously for Lotus. 1970 saw the introduction of slick tyres by Goodyear.
After Rindt's death the Lotus team had a desultory 1971 season with its two new and inexperienced drivers - Emerson Fittipaldi and Reine Wisell. The team spent a lot of time experimenting with a gas turbine powered car, and with four wheel drive again. After Jack Brabham's retirement, his old team went into a steep decline. Using their own chassis heavily inspired by the Matra MS80 but with conventional tanks, Tyrrell and Stewart easily took success in 1971.
Focussing again on the type 72 chassis, now fielded in John Player Special's black and gold livery, Lotus took the 1972 championship by surprise with 26-year old Brazilian driver Emerson Fittipaldi becoming the then youngest world champion. Stewart came second, his performance compromised by a stomach ulcer.
In 1973, Lotus teammates Fittipaldi and Ronnie Peterson raced each other while Stewart was supported by François Cevert at Tyrrell. Stewart took the Driver's title, but then at the final race of the season, the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, Cevert crashed during Saturday practice in the notorious esses and was killed instantly. Stewart and Tyrrell withdrew from the race effectively handing the Constructor's title to Lotus. At the end of the season Stewart made public his decision to retire, a decision that was already made before the US Grand Prix.
McLaren, having fully recovered from the death of his founder, ended the 1973 season with three wins and several poles. The new M23, an updated interpretation of the Lotus 72 concept, appeared to many as the best design on the field. Fittipaldi made the choice to leave Lotus for McLaren that offered him true lead driver status that Chapman refused to him.
Ferrari and McLaren at the top
The 1974 season went to pre-season favourites McLaren and Fittipaldi, but was a far closer result than expected. Ferrari bounced back from a dismal 1973 season with its first true monocoque cars, the flat-12 powered 312 B3s driven by young Austrian Niki Lauda and the experienced Clay Regazzoni. Despite the failure of the new Lotus 76, Peterson managed to win Grands Prix with the four year old 72. Brabham driver Carlos Reutemann was also able to win with the new BT44 and young talent Jody Scheckter ended most of the races in the points, including winning the Swedish Grand Prix with the M23-lookalike Tyrrell 007. Lauda's season fizzled out after a crash on the first lap of the German Grand Prix. Only the last race of the season decided the driver's title between Fittipaldi, Regazzoni, and Scheckter.
By this time the innovations introduced by the Lotus 49 and 72 had changed car design. Fully stressed engine and variable flexibility suspension was now the norm, most cars had wedge shaped bodywork and airboxes towered over driver's heads. The main innovation of this era came in 1975, when the Ferrari 312T appeared, its transverse gearbox allowing better weight distribution.
The red cars won the Constructors titles in 1975, 1976, and 1977. Lauda took a relatively straightforward first Driver's title in 1975. The main surprise of the season came when the tiny Hesketh team won the Dutch Grand Prix with James Hunt. Despite entering only one car and refusing sponsorship the team finished 4th in the constructors championship. That year also saw Lella Lombardi score the first points by a woman in Formula One for 6th place at the Spanish Grand Prix.
For 1976, Fittipaldi made the surprising decision to drive for the Brazilian Fittipaldi Automotive team of his brother Wilson, sponsored by Copersucar. James Hunt, who knew that Hesketh's future was doomed by its lack of sponsorship (Lord Hesketh had tried to obtain major backing once he realised Hunt was a likely title contender and that he could no longer afford to run the team out of his own pocket), signed for McLaren. In 1976 Lauda's second successive title seemed inevitable until he crashed in the rain on the first lap at the Nürburgring, suffering severe burns. He was given the last rites but unbelievably was back in his Ferrari six weeks later. He lost the championship by a single point to James Hunt in heavy rain at the final round at Fuji in Japan when he pitted his car and refused to continue, declaring that the risk was too great and that from now on he would refuse to race under extreme conditions.
The most radical innovation of 1976 was the 6-wheeled Tyrrell P34. The P34 was a good car, often finishing third or fourth and winning the Swedish Grand Prix, but it was not superior to the best 4-wheeled cars. 1976 also saw the Lotus team fitting brushes or plastic skirts under its rather uncompetitive 77; McLaren and Brabham also experimented with air-dams and splitters in an attempt to cause low-pressure areas under the car but found no significant effect on performance, in fact nobody knew what was in Chapman's mind.
The incident at Fuji damaged Lauda's relationship with Enzo Ferrari and Lauda officially became the second driver of the Scuderia with Carlos Reutemann as leader. Lauda signed for Brabham before the end of the 1977 championship, having taken the title easily before Enzo Ferrari refused him a car for the end of the season. His second title was mostly built on regularity and reliability. Despite his conflict with the "Commendatore" and his second driver status Lauda enjoyed immense respect from the Ferrari team, which did its best to give him a good car. There was in fact a very competitive field that year but no single challenger to the Austrian emerged and points taken away from Ferrari were shared between many teams and drivers. Surprisingly, the new Wolf team, born from the ashes of Frank Williams Racing Cars and Hesketh, made excellent use of its legacy with Jody Scheckter finishing second to Niki Lauda.
1977 also saw two radical technical innovations that would change the future of Formula One. The purpose of Lotus' experimentation in 1976 was revealed with the Lotus 78, which brought ground effect to Formula One for the first time, using wing-profiled sidepods sealed to the ground by sliding lexan skirts. Generating radically increased downforce with radically less drag, the Lotus 78s driven by Mario Andretti and Gunnar Nilsson won five Grands Prix in 1977. Renault unveiled the second when their RS01 made its first appearance powered by a 1.5 litre turbocharged engine, derived from their sportscar unit. Although supercharged engines were successful in the 1950s and the regulations allowing for turbocharged engines had existed for 11 years, no Formula One team had built one, feeling that the fuel consumption and turbo lag (boost lag) would negate its superior power. Motor engineer Bernard Dudot, who had observed the turbocharged Offenhauser engines used in Indycar racing in the USA, pushed for this choice.
The entry of Renault also brought Michelin's radial tires to Formula One. Goodyear, who enjoyed a monopoly before the entry of Michelin, was still using the cross ply design for racing. Goodyear saw the entry of Michelin as a serious threat and made a notable effort in research and development to develop its own radial tires. Tyrrell's 1977 season was disastrous because Goodyear was too busy to continue to develop the unique small tires required by the P34. Without continuing development, the tyres became less competitive and the six-wheeled concept had to be dropped.
The wing-cars era
For 1978 the new Lotus 79 made a more radical and mature use of the ground effect concept. Many other teams began experimenting with the technology, but Lotus had a head start and Mario Andretti won the Championship in the "Black Beauty", becoming the first driver to win both the American IndyCar championship and the Formula One title. Brabham outbid Lotus in generating downforce with BT46B "fan car", a revival of the "sucker car" concept used by Jim Hall's Chaparrals in CanAm in 1970. The car exploited a loophole in the regulations, but the team, led by Bernie Ecclestone who had recently become president of the Formula One Constructors Association, withdrew the car before it had a chance to be banned after winning its only race with Niki Lauda at the wheel at the Swedish Grand Prix. Late in the season Ronnie Peterson crashed into the barriers in the first lap at Monza and his Lotus burst into flames. James Hunt heroically pulled him out of the car and the medical prognosis was initially good but the Swede died the next day because of an embolism. Hunt would retire after the following season's Monaco Grand Prix.
For 1979 Ligier, the resurrected Williams team and surprinsigly Ferrari, despite the handicap of the Flat-12 that obstructed wind tunnels, produced wing-cars designs that were more effective than the Lotus 79. This forced Lotus to hastily introduce the new 80 that overplayed the ground effect concept (it was originally intended to run with no drag-inducing wings, merely ground-effect sidepods) and never proved competitive. Renault persisted with the turbo engine, despite frequent breakdowns that resulted in the nickname of the 'Little Yellow Teapot', and finally won for the first time at Dijon in 1979 with the RS10 that featured both ground effect and turbo engine.
The new technologies introduced by Renault and Lotus became entangled in the FISA-FOCA war of the early 1980s. Turbo engines were complex machines whose layout limited the ground effect 'tunnels' under the car. They were an emerging technology and so they were difficult and expensive to develop and build and make reliable. It was mostly manufacturer-supported teams, such as Renault, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo which took that route. In contrast, the cheap, reliable and narrow Ford-Cosworth DFV engine, still used by most teams more than a decade after its introduction, lent itself well to highly efficient ground effect aerodynamics. These two groups were represented by two political bodies – the sport's governing body FISA, headed by Jean-Marie Balestre, and FOCA, headed up by Bernie Ecclestone. The first group supported a strict limitation of ground effect to gain full advantage from their powerful turbos while the other relied on unrestricted ground effect to balance their horsepower deficit. There were also financial considerations. Faced with large constructors with unrestricted budgets, the smaller constructors wanted a larger share of Formula One's income to remain competitive.
The battles between FISA and FOCA during the first years of the 1980s overshadowed the events on track. Jody Scheckter took Ferrari's last title for 21 years in 1979, but attention there was already being focused on young Canadian Gilles Villeneuve. Alan Jones and Keke Rosberg brought success to Frank Williams at last in 1980 and 1982, while young Brazilian Nelson Piquet won titles for Brabham team owner Ecclestone in 1981 and 1983.
Patrick Depailler was killed in 1980, probably due to high lateral acceleration causing a black out in Hockenheim's fast Ostkurve. The double blow struck to Ferrari in 1982, of the death of Gilles Villeneuve and the crippling injury to teammate Didier Pironi only a few weeks later, helped bring this crisis into the spotlight, and helped both sides settle the dispute for the good of the sport.
The old fashioned DFV helped make the UK domestic Aurora Formula One series possible between 1978 and 1980. As in South Africa a generation before, second hand cars from manufacturers like Lotus and Fittipaldi Automotive were the order of the day, although some, such as the March 781, were built specifically for the series. In 1980 the series saw South African Desiré Wilson become the only woman to win a Formula One race when she triumphed at Brands Hatch in a Williams.
After several years in darkness McLaren merged with Ron Dennis's Formula Two Project-4 team. The McLaren MP4/1 (McLaren Project-4) introduced the first carbon fibre composite chassis in 1981, an innovation which, despite initial doubts over its likely performance in a crash, had been taken up by all the teams by the middle of the decade. The use of carbon fibre composite in place of aluminium honeycomb produced cars that were significantly lighter, yet also far stiffer which improved grip and therefore cornering speed.
The rise of the turbo
The 1983 title, won by the Piquet for the Brabham team of Bernie Ecclestone, champion of the non-manufacturer teams' rights, was the first-ever won by a turbocharged engine. By 1983, the dispute between FISA and FOCA had been resolved and although FOCA emerged with the stronger hand, the teams had seen the writing on the wall. By 1984, only Tyrrell still struggled on with the old DFV engines. 1983 also saw the last non-championship Formula One race: The 1983 Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, won by reigning World Champion Keke Rosberg in a Williams Cosworth in a close fight with American Danny Sullivan.
Safety issues finally helped resolve the dispute; after nearly 50 years, the power achieved by the turbocharged cars could finally match the 640 hp (477 kW) produced by the supercharged 1937 Mercedes-Benz W125, without a huge consumption of very explosive special fuel. By 1986, some engines were producing over 1000 bhp (750 kW) in short bursts in qualifying. BMW's 1000bhp dynamometer was incapable of measuring the output of their qualifying engines - Paul Rosche estimated that it might be as much as 1300bhp.
First fuel consumption and then turbocharger boost were restricted - to 4-bar in 1987 and 1.5-bar in 1988; by 1988 the turbos were only slightly more powerful than the lighter 3.5-litre atmospheric cars that had been introduced the previous year.
The thirsty turbo engines briefly saw refuelling introduced into the sport, but this was banned for 1984.
Domination of McLaren and Williams
- See 1984 season, 1985 season, 1986 season, 1987 season, 1988 season, 1989 season, 1990 season, 1991 season, 1992 season and 1993 season.
With controversy at last left behind, the Formula One teams flourished through the remainder of the 1980s and into the 1990s. Despite the overwhelming dominance of two teams—McLaren and Williams—this period is regarded (perhaps ironically) as one of the brightest spots in F1's 50 year history.
Niki Lauda, coming out of retirement for a hefty sum in 1982, pipped his promising young teammate Alain Prost to the title in 1984 by a mere half point, the closest ever finish in Formula One history. That half point in itself was controversial in that it came at the rain-shortened Grand Prix of Monaco, which resulted in half points, too. Prost won that race, but rookie Ayrton Senna made the stronger impression in his Toleman car, finishing 2nd and rapidly closing on Prost (while the young German Stefan Bellof in the inferior non-turbocharged Tyrrell raced from the back of the field to 3rd and might even have taken the win, running faster than both Prost and Senna and with Senna reputed to have terminal suspension damage after an earlier incident). It was the start of a rivalry between the two men that would continue for nearly a decade. But in the early years, Prost held the advantage, driving for the McLaren team with the Porsche-built TAG turbo engine which took three world titles in a row.
1986 provided another close finish. The Honda-powered Williams cars of Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell looked untouchable, but too often they took points from each other, allowing McLaren's Prost to stay in touch. Although Williams easily won the Constructor's Championship that year, it wasn't until the season-ending Grand Prix of Australia that the Driver's title was decided, Prost making the most of both Williams drivers tyre problems. 1987 saw the Williams grow only stronger, with Piquet driving more consistent races to take his 3rd title ahead of Mansell.
1987 also saw the return of atmospheric engines to Formula One, after the turbo-only year of 1986. Capacity was increased to 3.5 litres, and the turbo engines were restricted in boost pressure and fuel capacity to limit their effect, with a total ban to be introduced in 1989. Nevertheless, while turbo engines lasted, they dominated, Williams winning easily in 1987, and McLaren returning to form in 1988 with the super-team of Prost and Senna winning 15 of 16 races, a record unmatched today. It was Senna who emerged the victor, claiming the first of his 3 World Titles.
In 1989, turbos were banned, but the dominance of McLaren continued for the next 3 seasons, Prost winning the title in 1989, Senna in 1990 and 1991. The championship was marred however by the fierce rivalry between the two men, culminating in a pair of clashes at the Japanese Grands Prix of 1989 and 1990. In 1989 Prost 'closed the door' on his overtaking team mate while Senna later freely admitted to deliberately driving into Prost in the 1990 race, drawing stiff condemnation from all quarters of Formula One. Senna, however, was more concerned with the threat (and opportunity) afforded by the resurgent Williams, now powered by Renault, which were to dominate Formula One for the next 7 years.
It was more than Renault engines, however, which allowed Williams and later Benetton to dominate Formula One from 1992 to 1997. Refuelling at pit stops was reintroduced turning each race into a series of sprints – as a result the race strategy became as important as the driver's ability. In the early 1990s, teams started introducing electronic driver aids, whose use spread rapidly. Active suspension, (pioneered by Lotus in 1987), semi-automatic gearboxes (Ferrari in 1989), and traction control (Williams in 1991) became essential to compete. Some of these technologies were borrowed from contemporary road cars. Others were primarily developed for the track and later made their way to the showroom. All enabled cars to reach higher and higher speeds, provided the teams were willing to spend the money. The FIA, due to complaints that technology was determining the outcome of races more than driver skill, banned many such aids in 1994. However, many observers felt that the ban on driver aids was a ban in name only as the FIA did not have the technology or the methods to eliminate these features from competition. Even this controversy didn't diminish the pleasure British fans of the sport felt in 1992, when Nigel Mansell finally won the title, after a decade of trying, nor French fans in 1993 when Alain Prost took his 4th Championship, both drivers piloting Williams cars.
Lightweight television cameras attached to the cars became common in the early 1990s (following an American network TV practise actually pioneered in Australia). As well as boosting audience figures this also made the sport more attractive to sponsors beyond the traditional cigarette companies. Safety improvements also meant that the major car manufacturers were more inclined to attach themselves to teams on a rolling basis.
1994, then, seemed ripe to produce a stunning season. Ayrton Senna had moved to Williams to replace Prost, who retired from the sport. Young German driver Michael Schumacher had Ford power for his Benetton. McLaren had high hopes for its new Peugeot engine, and Ferrari were looking to erase the dismal memories of the last 3 years with Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi. The season was stunning, but for all the wrong reasons.
Safety, rules and regulations
By 1994, the last death in Formula One was nearly a decade past, that of Elio de Angelis during testing in 1986. There had been several horrifying accidents (for example Nelson Piquet and Gerhard Berger at Imola, or Martin Donnelly at Jerez), but no fatalities. The speed of Formula One cars had continuously risen over 8 years, despite turbocharged engines being made illegal and reducing the width of tyres and eventually removing driver aids. There was an "air of invincibility" in Formula One, a belief the cars were inherently safe and drivers wouldn't die any more.
At the San Marino Grand Prix this belief was crushed completely with the serious injuries sustained by Rubens Barrichello and the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger during qualifying and Ayrton Senna in the race on 1 May 1994.
The shock from the sudden injuries and deaths was stunning. Not only had two drivers been killed, but one of them was a triple world champion. The FIA reacted swiftly and harshly with major changes to be enforced from that year onwards, and it was the beginning of the FIA's push to increase safety in Formula One.
While significant changes could not be made to cars in 1994, the FIA required all Formula One cars' airboxes to be perforated to reduce their "ram-air" effect, to reduce power. For the same reason special racing fuels, previously an exotic mixture of benzenes and toluenes, were banned; only those with similar characteristics to everyday unleaded petrol would be permitted. To reduce downforce, and therefore the cornering speed of the cars, a wooden "plank" was to be fitted beneath the central portion of the chassis, forcing a large section of the floor further away from the track. If the plank was worn over a certain tolerance (approximately 10 mm), the car would be deemed illegal.
Further, from 1995, designs were required to be drawn from a reference plane (template), and strict limitations were enforced as to the minimum and maximum tolerances for aspects of the vehicle (such as the size of the cockpit opening, an idea well known in Champ Car for a decade, and of aerodynamic devices, commonly called wings). Further, maximum engine displacement was reduced from 3.5 litres to 3 litres. Further changes were mandated as the FIA continued to try to curb the increase in speeds of Formula One cars as the years progressed. These changes included the increase in size of the cockpit opening (to ensure driver egress was easy and to minimise possible side head impacts), introducing grooved tyres (to reduce cornering speeds by reducing grip) and narrower bodywork (this would complicate cooling and also reduce cornering speed), raising and reducing wing sizes and elements (cutting aerodynamic downforce, thus reducing cornering speed), and introducing comprehensive checks on stiffness tolerances and measurements to ensure cars conformed completely with the regulations (for example, weight tests on wings and bodywork to ensure that they maintained integrity and did not flex to give an aerodynamic advantage in a straight line).
The rapid introduction of all of these new rules and regulations—particularly those introduced in 1994—made the atmosphere even more chaotic for Formula One. Michael Schumacher had to fight desperately for his first World Driver's Championship, as his Benetton team found itself in frequent violations of FIA regulations, and Schumacher was suspended for several races as a result. Even his championship-clinching race in Australia was controversial, as he collided with rival Damon Hill, son of Graham, and ensured himself of the title.
By 1995, however, things had settled down somewhat – Schumacher took his second Driver's title, and Benetton, their first Constructor's title with relative ease, defeating the Williams team of Hill and David Coulthard. The Renault engine which powered both teams was virtually unbeatable, with only Ferrari claiming a single win at the Canadian Grand Prix for Alesi, his only career win.
End of the privateer era
For 1996, the FIA mandated a much larger minimum size cockpit area, along with driver's head protection, to ensure the driver's head was less exposed (ironically, this limited driver visibility and contributed to accidents).Template:Fact As part of his plan to rebuild Ferrari, Jean Todt brought Michael Schumacher to the team from Benetton that year, essentially in exchange for his 1995 drivers Alesi and Berger. There was an immediate effect, in his first year with the Scuderia Schumacher won three races, more than the team had managed in the previous five years. Ferrari were not championship contenders though and Damon Hill made a strong run to the title, finally claiming the crown after 3 years of almost but not quite
In 1997, another son of an F1 racing legend took the titles for Williams once again, as Jacques Villeneuve became the 4th driver to take both the Formula One and CART championship (the others being Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, and Nigel Mansell). This season was much closer than 1996, and Villeneuve only clinched the Drivers' Championship at the final race. Once again, Michael Schumacher collided with his championship rival at the final race, but unlike 1994 events turned against him. Schumacher not only found himself knocked out of the race, but was found to have deliberately tried to run Villeneuve off of the road. Schumacher was stripped of second place in the Championship and was disgraced.
At the end of 1997 Renault withdrew from Formula One. McLaren-Mercedes took the Driver's Crown for the next two years, both being claimed by Mika Häkkinen. The Finn was nearly untouchable as he took his first title while Schumacher and Villeneuve could only watch (Schumacher putting up an admirable but futile fight). 1999 provided a stiffer contest for the title. Villeneuve was out of the picture at the brand-new BAR but Schumacher was in contention when he crashed and broke his leg at [[Silverstone Circuit|Silverstone His team mate Eddie Irvine eventually lost by only two points to Mika Häkkinen, but his efforts contributed to Ferrari's first constructors championship since 1983.
Behind the title races, however, there were signs of trouble brewing in Formula One. Long-established, highly respected names like Brabham and Lotus vanished from the starting grids. French powerhouse Ligier found themselves in desperate straits, and were sold to Alain Prost. Ken Tyrrell's team foundered on, despite dismal results, until 1998, when BAR bought the team. And the colorful era of the small, private teams finally came to an end. Names like Larrousse, Dallara, Simtek, Pacific, and Forti would no longer be seen on the starting grids, with only Jordan, Sauber, Arrows and of course Minardi managing to survive somehow. The flourishing of Jordan in 1998 and 1999, under the leadership of Damon Hill, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, and Ralf Schumacher (Michael's younger brother) proved to be a last hurrah of the privateer, not a sign of health in the sport. Even once mighty Benetton, champions only a few years before, were barely surviving. Jackie Stewart fronted his own team from 1997 to 1999 with backing from Ford but even then sold out as the team transformed into Jaguar.
Schumacher and Ferrari ascendant
2000 saw the grids of Formula One start to revert to normal, as Jordan rapidly faded out of sight, and Williams, looking forward to a new partnership with BMW started to reassert itself. The fight at the front, however, was very much between Häkkinen and Schumacher, each two-time champion, driving cars closely matched in performance. Ferrari had been steadily improving since their low point in the early 1990s and in 2000 Schumacher prevailed, becoming the first 3 time Champion since Senna, and bringing the World Driver's title to Ferrari for the first time since Jody Scheckter in 1979. The 2001 season saw Ferrari start to leave the rest of the grid behind, and Schumacher won the championship by the Hungarian Grand Prix, which tied him as second quickest championship winner with Nigel Mansell. For 2002, the season was a red-wash. Ferrari finished every race, and won 15 of 17. Michael Schumacher scored more points than the second and third placed drivers combined. In this season, he wrapped up the championship at the French Grand Prix, becoming the earliest ever championship winner.
While Ferrari celebrated their dominance, the sport itself was seen by many to be in trouble. Two more privateers, Prost and Arrows, had closed their doors for good. Benetton was also no more, the team having been completely bought out by Renault. Even more troubling was the one team in seemingly no danger of disappearing: Ferrari. While Formula One was no stranger to teams monopolizing the winner's stand, Ferrari's actions throughout the 2002 season angered many; in particular the staged finishes of the Austrian Grand Prix and the US Grand Prix. It seemed to many that sportsmanship no longer had a part in Formula One, that it was possible to take the dictum of 'win at all costs' too far. Ratings and attendance noticeably declined in the later half of 2002, a serious problem for a sport which was by far the most expensive (and, more importantly, most lucrative) in the world by this time.
In 2003, despite heavy rule changes in order to prevent what had happened in 2002 from happening again, Schumacher won the championship once more. He was run close by both Kimi Räikkönen and Juan Pablo Montoya, but Schumacher prevailed, taking the championship by one point at Suzuka. It seemed that 2003 was the perfect balm to ease the memories of the previous season, with 8 different race winners (including first-time victories for Fernando Alonso, Kimi Räikkönen and Giancarlo Fisichella) and 5 different teams, including both Renault (for the first time in twenty years) and Jordan, who grabbed a lucky win in a wild Brazilian Grand Prix.
In 2004 Ferrari and Schumacher returned to almost total dominance of the championships, winning both with ease. A new race in Bahrain made its debut in April and another new race in China debuted in September. It was initially thought that in introducing these new races, older Grands Prix in Europe, like the British Grand Prix, might be removed from the championship, but instead the number of races was increased to eighteen. According to Ecclestone, the move was to increase Formula One's global reach, though the steady tightening of restrictions on tobacco advertising in Europe and elsewhere may also have been a factor. This move saw the percentage of races held outside Formula One's traditional European home climb to around fifty percent – meaning the World Championship, which visits four of the six continents, truly deserves its name.
Despite Ferrari's dominance (taking 15 wins from the 18 races), the battle back in the pack was much more interesting than 2002, as powerhouses McLaren and Williams got off to horrendous starts with radical new cars. As could have been expected, Renault were quick to capitalize on the misfortunes of the two older British teams, but the real shock came from British American Racing, led by Jenson Button. Although failing to win a race, Button was a regular sight on the 2nd or 3rd step of the podium, and with teammate Takuma Sato managed to clinch 2nd in the Constructors Championship, leaving Renault 3rd, Jarno Trulli's win in Monaco some consolation. Montoya and Räikkönen each managed a solitary win for their teams, which finished 4th and 5th in the results.
The Ford Motor Company's decision to pull out of Formula One at the end of 2004 exposed the vulnerabilities of some small teams. Not only was their works Jaguar team sold to Austrian drinks company Red Bull, but the few remaining small independent teams, who traditionally had used Ford engines, found their engine supply in a precarious state.
Renault displace Ferrari
In 2005, Formula One saw Ferrari fade out of sight, as the works Renault team dominated the early part of the season, and Fernando Alonso forged a clear championship lead. In the latter part of the season McLaren were significantly the stronger team, with consistently better results and a win tally of 6 from 7 races. However, their early record of poor reliability had meant that catching Renault in either Drivers' or Constructors' Championships was a tall order.
For a while it looked close between Räikkönen and Alonso, but by Brazil Fernando Alonso had become Formula One's youngest ever champion. The Constructors' Championship looked even more likely for McLaren, widely regarded as the faster car and with reliability much improved. However, a retirement for Juan-Pablo Montoya in the season finale at Shanghai secured the Constructors' title for Renault. One statistic proved the two teams' dominance: they together won all but one of the races, the controversial US Grand Prix, (in which neither of the two teams participated) which was Schumacher and Ferrari's only win of the year.
Arguably, the final small specialist racing team disappeared with the September 2005 purchase of Minardi by Red Bull to be renamed as Scuderia Toro Rosso and run as a separate entity alongside Red Bull Racing. Jordan had been bought by Russo-Canadian steel company Midland early in 2005 and was renamed Midland F1 for the 2006 season. In June 2005, BMW bought a majority stake in Sauber, which became their factory entry. The Williams team ceased their partnership with BMW as a result, entering a commercial arrangement with Cosworth instead. From 2006 manufacturer teams have an unprecedented level of involvement in the sport. Honda also bought BAR.
2005 marked the end of the V10 era in Formula One. After the banning of turbocharged engines in 1989, V10 became the most popular engine configuration in Formula One. To keep costs down, the configuration was made mandatory in 2000 (although only V10s had been in use since 1998) so that engine builders would not develop and experiment with other configurations. Over this period, the statistics show a supremacy of the Renault and Ferrari engines, with Renault clinching six Constructors and five Drivers championships as engine suppliers for Williams and Benetton from 1992 to 1997, and their first ever Drivers and Constructors Championships in a 100% Renault car in 2005. Ferrari also enjoyed great success in the V10 era, winning six Constructors' championships and five drivers' championships from 1999 to 2004.
2006 was the last season with two tyre manufacturers: The two manufacturers at the time were Japanese manufacturer Bridgestone and French company Michelin. In December 2005, the FIA announced that from the 2008 season, there would be only one tyre supplier. Five days later, Michelin announced it would quit Formula One at the end of the 2006 season as it did not want to be in Formula One as the sole tyre supplier, leaving Bridgestone as the sole supplier from 2007.
Renault and Fernando Alonso established early leads in both the Constructors' and Drivers' Championships. The Spanish World Champion achieved six wins (including four consecutive victories) in Bahrain, Australia, Spain, Monaco, Britain, and Canada. Teammate Giancarlo Fisichella won his third career race in Malaysia. Schumacher won the United States Grand Prix (his fourth consecutive victory at Indianapolis and fifth career victory there) and the French Grand Prix. He also won the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, with Alonso finishing 5th.
Jenson Button achieved his first Formula One career victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix. Alonso had a mechanical failure whilst leading in the later stages of the race whilst Michael Schumacher retired after a collision with Nick Heidfeld. However, Schumacher was promoted to 8th place in the standings (having been classified 9th following a retirement three laps from the end) because of Robert Kubica's disqualification in his first race. The Polish driver had finished 7th in the BMW Sauber.
Felipe Massa won the next Grand Prix in Turkey, so for the second race in a row, Formula One had a debut winner. Fernando Alonso extended his lead over Michael Schumacher by two points after he managed to finish a tenth of a second ahead of the German in second place.
Schumacher managed to reduce Alonso's lead to only two points after winning the Italian Grand Prix, while Alonso suffered an engine failure in the late stages of the race. Despite a fourth-place finish for Alonso's teammate, Giancarlo Fisichella, and a flat-spotted tyre causing Felipe Massa to score no points, the race also saw Ferrari pull ahead of Renault for the first time in 2006. Polish driver Robert Kubica took his BMW Sauber to his first ever podium finish, in only his third race, but the race results were largely overshadowed by Schumacher announcing, during the post-race press conference, that he would retire at the end of the season. Afterwards he did say that he would hold a position in the Ferrari F1 team for 2007, though he did not disclose what.
Three weeks later, with his victory at Shanghai right ahead of Alonso, Schumacher drew level on points with him at the head of the championship. Schumacher officially lead the World Championship for the first time in 2006 after the race, as he had won 7 races compared to Alonso's 6. Massa did not finish the race, and Renault gained again the lead in the constructors' championship thanks to Fisichella's third place.
A week later at the Japanese Grand Prix, Felipe Massa took pole ahead of Michael Schumacher in second and Fernando Alonso in fifth. Schumacher quickly took the lead and set about gaining a five second lead, which continued until after the second round of pit stops. However, Schumacher's engine failed with 17 laps to go, forcing him to retire and handing Alonso the win ahead of Massa.
At the final round, the Brazilian Grand Prix, Massa again took pole. Drama in qualifying saw Michael Schumacher have a fuel pressure problem, meaning that he started down in 10th, while Alonso began in 5th. In the race, Schumacher had yet more bad luck, suffering a puncture just a few laps in. He recovered to finish fourth, while teammate Massa became the first Brazilian to win his home Grand Prix since Ayrton Senna, in 1993, and Alonso finished second to secure his second successive championship, adding the record of the youngest man to secure back-to-back titles to his ever-increasing list of records. Fisichella finished 6th for Renault, meaning that the French outfit secured their second successive title.
- See the 2007 Formula One season article for information on the current season.
- The Official Formula One Website – Results Archive (2006). . Retrieved 9 February 2006.
- FerrariWorld – see F1 racing cars 1940s–1990s (2006). . Retrieved 9 February 2006.
- Autosport 50th Anniversary Edition, July 13, 2000
- Rod Eime: The "Little Alfa" That Grew Too Big.
- Pierre Ménard: Automobile Historique N°45 Février 2005 – Lotus 72 (1973-1975) – Prolongations exceptionnelles p 60–71 (in French)
- http://perso.wanadoo.fr/did.legrand/htm/histoire.htm (in French)
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