Happy 60th birthday Formula 1
13 May, 2010
May.12 (James Rossi) Today marks the exact date, 60 years ago, that the first World Drivers’ Championship race was completed. This will be marked by a special commemorative event in Monte Carlo on Thursday evening by Total and Mumm Champagne, and what better Grand Prix for the anniversary to fall on, the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.
If anything, all Formula 1 fans can thank Adolf Hitler for being the catalyst of what we now call Formula 1 motor racing. The Second World War, if it achieved anything at all, drove great technological innovation to lengths that had not previously been seen.
Light, efficient power units came into being during the terrible times of World War Two which would later go on to influence automotive engine design in the years after the war.
It was initially the French who gave the world competitive motor racing, with the first known “race” being the Paris-Rouen Trial of 1894, a formally organised event that took up the reins of Benz and Daimler’s foray into petrol-engined motor vehicles and turned it into a grand spectacle.
Yet it took until 1950, five years after the end of the Second World War, to first initiate a formal, global world championship that would encompass drivers and manufacturers from all over the world.
After the regulatory free-for-all of the late 1920s, when a certain apathy had grown over the motor racing community in Europe, the French institution that facilitated early Grand Prix racing (AIACR) decided that if this was considered to be a sport, then strict rules and regulations would be needed. With a technical framework in place, 1950 was heralded as the first year of Formula One motor racing.
Giuseppe Farina was the winner of the 1950 British Grand Prix held at a vastly different Silverstone circuit, in a year when British and Italian manufacturers dominated the championship. Alfa Romeo won the title with Farina by 3 points from a young man named Juan Manuel Fangio, who would go on to become the 2nd most successful driver in history in terms of Championship wins.
Underlying this first worldwide concept of motor racing was the fact that it was Great Britain and Italy that led the way. Powerhouses of European manufacturing, it was the likes of Alfa Romeo, Maserati, ERA, Vanwall, Cooper and later the German Mercedes marque that initially dominated the Grand Prix scene.
In a sense, this is still the case today. Tradition is the order of the day in Formula One, it is what underpins the customary things that we are used to such as the Monaco Grand Prix, the podium ceremony and the contribution of Great Britain, Italy and Germany to Formula One.
There have been an abundance of changes to the look of our beloved sport since 1950, from the playboy and carefree participants of the 1960s and 1970s such as Jackie Stewart, James Hunt and the monarchical Lord Hesketh to those who uphold the fundamental tenets of sportsmanship such as Stirling Moss.
Teams have come and gone, circuits have been utilised and dropped. It is heartening to see that throughout the decades as the sport has grown and adapted, the fundamental pillars of Formula One, the traditions and the customs, have been maintained.
It must touch the heart of all motor racing enthusiasts to see a Ferrari triumph at Monza, or a British driver storming to victory in Great Britain. Names have been deified and ruined in the blink of an eye.
The intense nature of Senna, to the calculating mind of Prost, to the flamboyancy of Hunt; Formula One is the amalgamation of emotions perpetrated by the aforementioned traditions and customs, aligned with the technological innovation and bodily limits that are pushed to the limit every race, every year. Long live Formula One!