If James Bond watched sports, you can almost bet that he would spend his time watching Formula 1 (F1). This sport – which is a sport, regardless of how much anyone protests – simply exudes class, style, elegance, and danger. The world’s greatest drivers and vehicle manufacturers combine to bring the global audience a series of races that keeps spectators glued to screens from New York to New Delhi. Yes, it is a pretty big deal.
Formula 1 is also fast. Very, very fast. According to manufacturer Red Bull, Juan Pablo Montoya set the record for the fastest ever speed in an F1 race at 231 mph. Montoya’s incredible record at the Italian Grand Prix that year pretty much sums up the pace with which an F1 race is contested at. It also proves how incredibly gifted the engineers of these cars are, and how brave the racers simply have to be to win.
The style and aesthetic beauty on show in the F1 is mesmerizing. This is down to the combination of the beautifully streamlined vehicles, all in vibrant and rich colors, zooming past the hills, mountains, public roads, and dedicated track surfaces of the world’s brightest cities. The sport is a deliciously-crafted blend of all the things that we love about modern engineering.
Of course, it wasn’t always that way. F1 has come a long, long way from the origins of the first Grand Prix. The cars, the drivers, and the engineers tasked with creating the highest level of human design and technology. You see, Formula 1 is more than just a few fast cars competing to beat other fast cars. It is the culmination of the hard work and constant effort of the greatest minds in auto racing.
So, where did it all begin?
In order to truly understand the history of Formula 1, we must first take the story all the way back to August 30, 1867, in England. On this date, the first recorded arranged race between two self-powered vehicles took place between Ashton-under-Lyne and Old Trafford. Isaac Watt Boulton’s car was the winner of the eight-mile distance, with historians believing that Boulton’s son was driving.
Daniel Adamson built the other car in the race, which was believed to have been driven by a Mr. Schmidt. While records are a little sketchy – perhaps owing to the fact that the 4:30am race was breaking the law – this is regarded as the first ever auto race. Both of the vehicles were said to be solid fired steam carriages, as recorded in the press at the time, The Engineer.
American readers may want to know when the first ever recorded race in the U.S. took place. Here it is.
The first record of a similar race in the U.S. pertains to a 200-mile endeavor in 1875, following the Wisconsin legislature passing an act which offered a major financial prize to the winner. The stretch began in Green Bay and ended in Madison, with two vehicles competing in the race. These machines were named after the towns where they were built: the Green Bay and the Oskosh.
A book written in 1878 by Richard Backus, called The Great Race, details what went down on that day. This clearly inspired others to try their hands at constructing vehicles which could handle traveling fairly long distances at consistent speeds, which, in effect, led to the creation of auto racing. With advancements in technology beginning to take effect, the competition would grow exponentially.
When the first gasoline-powered automobiles were constructed, this led to more and more curiosity when it came to racing vehicles. On April 28, 1887, the editor of a Parisian publication named Monsieur Fossier arranged for a race to be run 1.2 miles from Neuilly Bridge to the Bois de Boulogne. Georges Bouton – representing the De Dion-Bouton Company – won the race, in a car he helped to construct. The only issue with Bouton’s victory is that he was the only person in the race.
Four years later, in 1891, Peugeout’s Auguste Doriot and Louis Rigoulot navigated a Type 3 Quadricycle in a gasoline-powered bicycle race from Paris to Brest, and back to Paris. This was a seismic event at the time as it was believed to have led to a deeper interest in recording speeds and distances. Just three years later, auto racing would be set to get its first ever competition.
A Paris-based magazine, Le Petit Journal, is credited with creating the world’s first ever racing competition on July 22, 1894. The starting place, unsurprisingly, was Paris with the finish line ending in Rouen. Le Petit Journal is believed to have used the race to garner publicity for the magazine, with the journal’s editor announcing the competition as a competition for horseless carriages. We have certainly come a long way.
There were 102 participants, who had each paid an entrance fee of 10 francs to enter the event. On the day, 69 vehicles took part in what was set to be a 31-mile qualifier to earn a spot in the 79-mile main event from Paris to Rouen. 25 of the 69 entrants earned a spot in the final race, with amateurs rubbing shoulders with established car manufacturers such as Peugeot and Panhard. There was a distinctive buzz about the race, which began from Porte Maillot and would eventually end in the Bois de Boulogne.
The first man to reach Rouen was Count Jules-Albert de Dion, after 6 hours and 48 minutes. The Count’s average speed was clocked at 19km/h, seemingly winning him the race with 3 minutes and 30 seconds to spare over runner-up Albert Lemaître of Peugeot. However, the winners of the race were declared as Peugeot and Panhard as vehicles in the race were judged on factors such as speed, handling, and safety. Dion had used a stoker, which effectively disqualified him from winning.
When racing historians discuss the first organized automobile competition in America, the Thanksgiving Day Chicago Times-Herald race tends to be it. It was on November 28, 1895, when the race as held, with the course stretching 54 miles from the south to the north of Chicago (and then back again). It took the winner, Frank Duryea, 7 hours and 53 minutes to beat off the competition on the day.
It is safe to say that the French had pretty much dominated automobile racing in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. “Speed Week,” which is considered to be the first regular event in Nice, saw many different variants of auto racing being held, including what is the world’s first drag race, despite it being classed as a sprint at the time. France had the superior engineers and manufacturers, which made it unsurprising for that time.
In 1899, the millionaire owner of the New York Herald, James Gordon Bennett Jr., presented the Automobile Club de France (ACF) with a trophy for the purposes of creating an auto racing competition between nations. This international contest would signal the first time that auto racing was seen as a genuine sport between various countries, which would, in effect, challenge the French superiority in this field.
Around this time, the interest in racing had never been more popular. The ACF then arranged for numerous international races around Europe, which were popular at the time. However, when Marcel Renault lost his life in the Paris–Madrid race – which took nine lives in total – the French government banned auto racing, which threatened the future of the fledgling sport.
France was not done with auto racing, however, and the ban on the sport was loose, to say the least. In 1907, the Peking to Paris race brought massive attention back to the sport. Over 9,317 miles were covered in the five-car race, which was eventually won by Prince Scipione Borghese of Italy. He had driven a 7,344 cc 35/45 hp model Itala. Italy’s contribution to racing and engineering would thrive from here on.
1908 saw the great New York to Paris race, featuring a total of six teams representing France, Germany, Italy, and the USA/ Just three teams made it to the finish line in Paris, with the George Schuster-driven American Thomas Flyer winning the 169 days, 22,000-mile epic. Once again, this would engage more and more curious observers which would drive further interest in auto racing.
Racing historians point towards Brooklands in Surrey as the first ever motor racing venue built solely for auto racing as a sport. With a 2.75-mile concrete track, banked corners, and a revolutionary style, Brooklands was a statement of intent by the British who were keen to catch up with their French counterparts. With the emergence of World War I, Brooklands also served as the spot of an airplane factory and aerodrome.
Despite the track closing due to damage sustained to it during World War II, the British had made enough progress in motorsports for it not to really matter too much. The British Empire had far-reaching territories across the globe, and one of these, India, hosted their first race in 1905. This race, run by the Motor Union of Western India, was a Delhi to Bombay run which stretched 810 miles.
Auto racing historians are almost unanimously in agreement of the importance that the 1906 Grand Prix has on the history of F1. The official name of the race was the 1906 Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France. The race took went down on June 26 and 27 on the outskirts of the now famous city of Le Mans. The ACF created the event, in conjunction with key figures of the country’s automobile industry.According to writings at the time, the Gordon Bennett races were seen as a little too exclusive for many in the French automobile industry. The Grand Prix would promote wider competition by refusing to limit entrants from any country. The 64.11-mile track was essentially a series of old roads that had been laid over with tar. Competitors would lap the track six times on each day, making the total distance traveled 769.36 miles.
Renault’s Ferenc Szisz would win the race, with FIAT’s Felice Nazzaro taking second place. Albert Clément, driving a Clément-Bayard, would come third. The race also featured an ingenious design by tire manufacturer Michelin. Given that punctures were common in races, the manufacturer created a detachable rim which already has a tire attached to it that would save time when it came to replacing the original.
The race was a roaring success for a number of reasons. The French automobile industry rejoiced at the victorious car manufacturer Renault seeing a surge in sales of their vehicles, while the media also paid heavy interest. In fact, the Grand Prix was such a success that it would run again the following year and also encourage Germany to create a Grand Prix of their own.
With greater exposure, more organization, and post-World War I developments in engineering came drastic changes to the sport. Included in the shape up of auto racing as a whole was the introduction of more refined rules. The first ever mass start, for example, came into effect in the 1922 French Grand Prix. A few years later saw the death of Tom Barrett leading to the removal of riding mechanics.
Flags and boards were brought in at the 1926 Solituderennen by Alfred Neubauer, the who headed the Mercedes-Benz team. There were further advancements to cars and the way that racing would be conducted. The Monaco Grand Prix of 1933 saw places in the grid coming down to qualifying time. It was previously random where cars would start and this led to a further emphasis on qualifying as a whole.
It was also in the rulebook for competitors to drive in cars that had been painted according to international colors. These days, when we think of the red of Ferrari and the White of Mercedes, we believe those colors to be random. In fact, Italy would always race in red, France would race in blue, Britain in green, and Germany in white. This was until Germany stopped painting their cars for aerodynamic purposes.
France enjoyed the lion’s share of the spoils until the emergence of Alfa Romeo and Maserati of Germany towards the end of the 1920’s. The French period of dominance was set to be challenged even greater when the Nazi party of Germany pushed for Mercedes and Auto-Union to be afforded greater funds to help them establish Germany as the greatest producer of vehicles in the world.
The additional funds certainly helped, with both of the German manufacturers cleaning up in the mid to late 1930’s. Having won the majority of Grand Prix races in four year period, they had established the country as the one to watch in auto racing. Cars were now more refined and better built, featuring 8 to 16 cylinder supercharged engines running on alcohol fuels.
Races at this time were now part of the European Championship, which featured Grand Prix races in all major countries. World War II broke out in 1939, which put a halt to races in the same capacity until the end of the war. The further development of supercharged engines saw the emergence of even more rules and regulations to cover the development of European auto racing. This would lead to the birth of Formula 1.
In 1946, the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI) of the FIA defined Formula 1. A standardized set of rules – which were called the “International Formula” – also created two other tiers which would eventually become Formula 2 and Formula 3. Engine capacity was at the forefront of discussions as the greatest minds in the sport aimed to create parity between supercharged and non-supercharged cars.
In 1946, Achille Varzi of Alfa Romeo won the Turin Grand Prix held on September 1 of that year. This was the first race ever contested under the new rules. The trend of Italian cars making up the most successful on the track would continue, with numerous successful post-war drivers also coming from Italy. The emergence of Alberto Ascari and Juan Manuel Fangio saw a new breed of driver ushered in.
As you can probably sense from this point, things were set to radically changed with auto racing in Europe. The post-war optimism seemed to really spill over into Formula 1, and countries went back to competing with one another on the race track rather than the battlefield. A new era had been established, even if it would take a few years for the idea of Formula 1 to truly come to fruition.
In 1950, the FIA announced the World Championship for Drivers. The championship would consist of the six main European Grand Prix races in addition to the Indianapolis 500 in the United States. In keeping with the trend of the preceding years, Italian manufacturers utterly dominated the first few years of the championship. With Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and Maserati, it seemed Italy could do no wrong.
In neighboring France, Talbot was seen as the strongest manufacturer capable of putting it up to the Italians. Across the channel, BRM of Britain were also considered to be competitors, although no one could come close to the talent and craft emanating from Italy. Alfa Romeo won every single race apart from one in the 1950 championship, which was the Indianapolis 500 (which did not conform to Formula 1 regulations).
The European manufacturers did not hold the Indianapolis 500 with respect and it was removed from the championship following the 1960 season.
Alfa Romeo’s Juan Manuel Fangio’s win in 1951 with the 159 saw many praising the sheer power of the manufacturer’s engines. The 159 engine had an output of 420 bhp (310 kW). The only problem was price and this was something that did not go over the head of the now-legendary Enzo Ferrari. Ferrari had the foresight to predict that their 1.5-litre supercharged engine was not sustainable for the future.
If there was any more power to be squeezed from the engine, then this would require a greater intake of fuel. This would naturally lead to time wasted in pit stops, which would also spell the end for the engine. Ferrari responded by unveiling the V12 4.5-litre normally aspirated 375s. Fuel consumption would be drastically cut down, which would present the manufacturer with a huge advantage over Alfa Romeo.
Ferrari, having brought the new car into the championship towards the end of the 1951 season, threw the gauntlet down to Alfa Romeo. It worked, as the latter failed to secure funding from the Italian government to build a new car. With no choice left, they pulled out of the championship. The strongest manufacturer had now exited, and with poor competition from elsewhere, Ferrari would be untouchable.
Given Ferrari’s enterprise and the fact that the FIA had announced that 2.5-liter atmospheric engines would be introduced in 1954, the championship was effectively messed up for two years. With the Formula 1 regulations set to change, no manufacturer would dream of investing money into producing a new car for just two years. Formula 2 regulations were put in place for the two years up until 1954.
Alberto Ascari of Ferrari certainly didn’t mind, as he drove a light 4-cylinder powered 500s to the championship in ’52 and ’53. In 1954, Formula 1 regulations were reestablished. The 2.5-liter atmospheric engine saw Lancia and Mercedes-Benz enter the fray, with Ascari moving to Lancia and Fangio to Mercedes-Benz. This would signal another major change for Formula 1.
With Mercedes Benz now having arguably the greatest driver in the world in the seat of their car, things were really looking up for the Germans. The cars were something of a masterpiece for the time, boasting incredible features like desmodromic valves, fuel injection, and peerless “streamlined” bodywork. From the very first race in the championship, it was clear that they were miles ahead of the pack.A tragic incident caused by one of their cars at the Le Mans which led to 83 people losing their life saw Mercedes dropping out of the championship for forty years. This season would suffer another tragedy when Ascari’s Lancia crashed into the harbor at Monaco, only for the driver to be pulled out alive. Four days later, the driver would die when testing a car. Lancia also pulled out of Formula 1, passing everything they had to Ferrari.
Everything from their cars, engines, and knowledge was now inherited by Ferrari. 1956 would go down in the books as the year of Ferrari, with Fangio taking championship number four of his career. The following year, Fangio would win his fifth championship (for Maserati), setting a record that would last 46 years in total.
In 1958, sharing cars during a race was banned. This practice would signal a new approach to Formula 1 and preceded another set of rules that were also brought out that year. AvGas was introduced to cars instead of alcohol fuels, which marked a major development for the sport. Additionally, races were reduced from 500km or three hours to 300km or two hours.
Britain’s Stirling Moss won the first championship of his career – and the first to be won by a Brit – with a rear-engined F1 car. It took just two years before all vehicles in Formula 1 would adopt this design.
By the early 1960’s, Formula 1 was as competitive as it had ever been. Britain’s leading designs, such as the rear-engine car, would provide a little more interest to the Italian period of dominance. Moss’s victory had certainly given Ferrari some food for thought. The beginning of the decade certainly brought with it a lot of change, even if it seemed a little scattered at times.
Britain’s Lotus, Cooper, BRM – and a little later, McLaren Tyrell, and Williams – were setting the trend of creating teams to build superior cars. This was seen as revolutionary at the time and was certainly a threat to Ferrari and the status quo of Formula 1. In 1961, Formula 1 announced the introduction of the 1.5-litre engine formula in an effort to cut down on speeds. The championship was essentially back to Formula 2, once again.
The following year saw Lotus unveil their aluminum monocoque chassis, which is still regarded as one of the most important progressions in the history of F1. The design took over from the space frame and immediately caught the attention of everyone in the sport. Graham Hill won the championship in that year, but Lotus were on to something, as the next few seasons would show.
Jim Clark would win 2 titles in 3 years with Lotus. Another change came in the form of teh Lotus 33, although things did not run as smoothly as the manufacturer would have hoped. Ferrari was firing on all cylinders (pun unintended), and the title would be reclaimed by Ferrari and John Surtees. Honda, the first Japanese manufacturer in F1, had the campaign to forget in their maiden season.
1966 saw the championship adopt the 3-liter engine formula, which paved the way for even more advances in the field of manufacturing. Ferrari saw their star driver, Surtees, leave the company midway through the season following a dispute with management. Cars had more power but many were too heavy to compete, which led to a series of disappointing developments among rival constructors.
The following year saw The German Grand Prix as the first to be televised in color, which led to a number of new advertising opportunities for teams. In 1968, Lotus’ cars were branded with the logo of Imperial Tabacco, which led to a mass opening of sponsorship deals. The commercial success of Formula 1 was only starting to begin, and with more money would come greater technological advancements.
Further experimentation carried on throughout the late 1960’s. The last major tragedy of the decade occurred when former F1 double World Champion, Jim Clark, lost his life in an F2 race. This led to heavy investment in securing cars and ensuring that drivers were protected as much as possible.
Lotus’ star driver, Jochen Rindt, lost his life during qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix in 1970. Rindt was a star performer that year and was leading the championship prior to his death. At the end of the season, Rindt was declared the winner, becoming the only man to have ever won the F1 World Championship posthumously. Rindt’s death reignited the debate surrounding the safety of drivers.
In 1973, the Canadian Grand Prix saw the first ever safety car used. It became a permanent fixture from that point onwards. In that same year, Lotus had looked to have fire in their hands following their championship victory in 1972. The winner, Emerson Fittipaldi, became the youngest champion in the history of F1, much to the surprise of many fans and critics.
That same year, Francois Cevert was killed in a crash at the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. The Frenchman had crashed during Saturday practice. Tyrell’s drivers withdrew from the championship and Lotus was declared the winner, for the second year running. Fittipaldi moved to McLaren, citing his desire to be the lead driver of a team for inspiring the switch from Lotus.
In 1974, McLaren – buoyed by Fittipaldi – won the championship in a real nailbiter of a season. There was hope once again for Ferrari, who had performed incredibly well in comparison to the previous season. Ferrari took the Constructors’ Championships from 1975 to 1977, marking a reemergence for the former Italian powerhouse. Their statement of intent would be something to build on as the decade began to close out.
The first ever Grand Prix in Asia was held in 1976, which opened up an even greater range of opportunities, in a commercial sense. It also seemed to indicate that Formula 1 had once again outgrown itself and was set for another radical change. In 1977, Renault’s innovative turbocharged car certainly added to this sense of change. Lotus’ experiments only solidified the view that things were set to change yet again.
As you can probably tell at this point, Lotus was at the forefront of many of the leading technological advancements of Formula 1 for the past decade. The Lotus 78 took things one step further with their wing-profiled sidepod design. The sidepods were sealed to the ground, generating more downforce with a lot less drag. Their design was a key part of Lotus’ five Grand Prix wins in the 1977 season.
The following year saw Bernie Ecclestone taking the helm as the president of the Formula One Constructors’ Association (FOCA). With Eccelstone’s involvement, things would again change for Formula 1. One of the more ironic things to happen around this time was the medical car – introduced for the first time hitting a curb on the track before bouncing into midair.
The innovation, new presidency, and formation of the Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA) closed out one of the most interesting decades in the existence of F1. As the 1980’s approached, F1 was set to become even more refined and a hell of a lot more advanced than anyone had anticipated.
While the 1970’s were seen as the glory days of F1, the 1980’s was set to blow it all out of the water. As the new decade dawned, many considered that the sport had hit its peak and there was little more that could be done to improve on the innovations of the time. The next ten years would be pivotal for auto sports, with Formula 1 reaping most of the benefits of engineering excellence and precision.
The 1970’s was set to be left firmly in the shadows by this new era of the turbocharged engine. Paying for these engines would require the big names like Renault, BMW, Ferrari, Porsche, and Honda to get involved in this new stage of evolution. What was not expected was the radical overhaul of cars. F1 said goodbye to aluminum, with McLaren throwing down the gauntlet with their MP4-1, fresh with carbon fiber on the coattails.
Funding this new revolution was the sponsors backing the teams. This led to a complete overhaul of the sponsorship and commercial side of the sport, with more money behind the big players who would take things to a whole new level. This certainly worked for the standout team of the decade, McLaren. Rob Dennis’ entrance certainly made things a lot easier for the British outfit and their results throughout the 1980’s would prove this.
The first race featuring turbocharged cars was the 1984 Austrian Grand Prix. The race laid the foundations for the dawning of a new era in F1. The 1980’s turbocharged era was in full swing, bringing with it power on a whole new level. This was F1 on steroids, if steroids were not just legal, but encouraged, readily available, and everyone was on them.
While ground effect underbodies were essentially outlawed in 1983, this did not really matter when power was at the top of the tree. 1982’s tragic death of Gilles Villeneuve in the powerful Ferrari 126C2 would prove to the world that the combination of this raw, unbridled power and downforce was dangerous, to say the least. This tragic episode was, like many of the tragic events beforehand, instrumental in the evolution of Formula 1.
There is a reason why the McLaren-Honda MP4-4 is held in such reverence by Formula 1 fans. It was an exceptional machine that is simply the greatest achiever in the history of the championship. In 1988, the car won the team every single race of the season, bar one, which was due to an accident in the Italian Grand Prix. Gerhard Berger won that race, and dedicated it to the recently departed pioneer and legend, Enzo Ferrari.
Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost almost completed a clean sweep. Senna captured the first of his world titles and one of five that McLaren would win in the decade. The car is still remembered to this day for its incredible design and power. It symbolized what many consider to be the golden age of F1. The decade certainly opened up many of the doors to lead Formula 1 to the forefront of racing for years to come.
The 1980’s was the era of pure power on the track and off it. With more financial clout, faster engines, better cars and a world of opportunity driven by commercial interest, the 1990’s would have its work cut out topping what had come before it.
The 1990’s began as it the 1980’s had ended: Senna was still the king and it looked like it would remain that way for as long as he remained active. Senna claimed back to back championships in 1990 and 1991, with McLaren-Honda sending a strong message to the world regarding its intentions for the decade. With Renault coming back into F1 in 1989 – and teaming up with Honda and Adian Newey – their dominance was under threat.
British driver Nigel Mansell certainly showed just how revolutionary Williams’ FW14, featuring a whole host of impressive features such as improved steering, traction, and active ride, could be. The Brit claimed the crown in 1992, announcing Williams as a real force to be reckoned with. The FW14 was now the standard bearer in F1 and there was a queue of drivers wanting a shot at the sleek and explosive car.
One driver who was clearly interested in jumping ship was Senna, who had been at loggerheads with McLaren’s bosses. There was talk that Senna was eyeing up a move to IndyCar racing, but had also flirted with Williams, claiming that he would waive his fee to sign for the British team. However, with Mansell moving on, Prost would be signed to Williams in 1993, having been sacked by Ferrari.
Prost won the 1994 championship in the FW15C and retired from the sport. Senna took over in 1994, joining Williams in a partnership that had looked to be as good as gold.
Things were not as seamless as many had imagined them to be for Senna and Williams. With further developments came the FW16, which proved to be a tricky car to drive, even for the star driver in F1. Senna appeared to grow frustrated with the car while simultaneously taking figuratively frequent glances over his shoulder at the new star pupil of the sport, Michael Schumacher.
Germany’s Schumacher was driving what many considered to be an illegal car in the form of the Benetton-Ford B194. Unlike the FW16, which had lost the majority of significant electronics following safety rules that had been brought in. Driver’s aids were out the window, with supercharged engines also being made illegal. Given that speeds had drastically improved since the last F1 fatality in 1986 (Elio de Angelis), the sport was becoming dangerous once more.
Despite electronics also been outlawed, Schumacher’s B194 was found to have a launch system hidden in the car’s software by the FIA. However, there was no way of proving that this was indeed intentional or that it had even been used. A pit fire at Benneton drew even further attention that year, which left many other teams holding their nose in suspicion that something was amiss. The B194 was simply unbeatable, or so it seemed.
During qualifying for the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, Roland Ratzenberger tragically lost his life. The death was the first in F1 for eight years, but it would not be the last. The following day, Senna’s FW16 went off track with one of the detached front wheel wishbones freakishly piercing his helmet. Senna was the second death in two days for F1, which signaled the darkest period in the history of the sport.
What made Senna’s death even harder to digest for many was his alleged belief that he was pursuing what he believed was an illegal car (the B194). Was the Brazilian taking risks to try and catch up with Schumacher, or was this just the rumblings of clearly distressed and devastated peers and fans?
While Schumacher was a highly-motivated and professional driver, there were many that were left a little speechless at just how ruthless he could be. Following Senna’s death – and the fixing of the FW16 in B-spec – Damon Hill was close to snatching the championship for Williams. Hill, just one point behind his German rival heading into the last race in Australia, was confident that he could capture his first title.
Schumacher, also in chase of his first title, engaged in a bitter rivalry with the Englishman, both on and off the track. The culmination of this head to head saw Schumacher knock Hill off the road in the final Grand Prix of the season, taking his first title as a result. Schumacher now had his first championship, although his seemingly intentional act of sabotage did not go down well with race fans, or Hill, for that matter.
Schumacher would win the championship in 1995, too, now powered by Renault. Ferrari had clearly seen enough from the German master to secure his talent. The Italians believed that he was the man to rejuvenate the former giants and the 2000’s would prove that they had made the right decision. Hill would get his first title in 1996, with Jacques Villeneuve winning in 1997.
One man that certainly does not get the credit he deserves for his efforts in the 1990’s is Adrian Newey. The British designer was the mastermind behind cars that won six of the Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships of the decade.
It was fitting that Michael Schumacher would win the first race of the new millennium. It is even more fitting that this win came at the race where he won his first championship, the Australian Grand Prix. The German was simply unbeatable in this era, winning five straight championships, setting a record which will take some beating. While Schumacher’s success would slightly fizzle out, he did win the 2009 championship.Ferrari had reportedly paid Schumacher $60 million in his first two years to join the team. According to reports, he was the highest paid sportsman at the time. The success of Ferrari certainly seemed to indicate that their investment was a very wise one. While rules changes to tire changes in 2005 certainly ended his spell of dominance for a couple of years, there was no doubt that he still had the talent.
As Schumacher had emerged in the tragic circumstances of Senna’s death, the German was now witnessing fresh talent challenge his legend. Fernando Alonso won back to back titles in 2005 and 2006, and the following year saw the emergence of a new superstar in the making, Lewis Hamilton. Kimi Räikkönen brought the title back to Ferrari, although it appeared that his heart wasn’t really in it after that. Hamilton came close to that title, however.
Hamilton would win the driver’s championship the following year while representing the rebirth of McLaren, with fellow-Brit Jenson Button taking the 2009 crown with Brawn GP. Their double-diffuser seemed to be just the ticket that Brawn needed to claim the crown, yet there was a new talent emerging in the Red Bull-Sebastian Vettel partnership.
Red Bull won their first Constructors’ Championship in 2010, ending an exhilarating season full of twists and turns. Sebastian Vettel, who took the crown with a win in the last race of the season, became the youngest ever championship in the 60-year history of F1. The final race of the season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, had three genuine contenders for the crown at the start of the race.Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton all lined up for a shot at glory. Schumacher – who had come out of retirement following a three-year hiatus – would also make his presence known with Mercedes. All in all, the season went down as a roaring success, despite changes to the point system and various regulations.
2011 saw Vettel defend his title with Red Bull, with a win in the Japanese Grand Prix. The season featured five separate World Champions on the grid and was also memorable for the first-ever Indian Grand Prix and the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix. The following year saw Vettel claim three in a row, with Red Bull-Renault taking the Constructors’ Championship.
2012 was a record-breaking season in many regards. Six world champions took part in the championship that year, with Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Räikkönen, and Michael Schumacher all starting the season. 2012 also saw controversy with Vettel’s alleged yellow flag infraction threatening his World Championship, although this was resolved and he kept his title.
Vettel won his fourth Drivers’ Championship in a row in 2013, with Red Bull-Renault taking the Constructors’ Championship again. The year was the last time that the 2.4-litre V8 engine was used, with the 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 taking over in 2014. Lewis Hamilton would make the best of the situation to take the title in 2014 with Mercedes, repeating the Hamilton-Mercedes double the following year.
In 2016, Nico Rosberg was the champion, with Mercedes once again winning the Constructors’ Championship. The grid was expanded to 22 cars in 2016, with Haas F1 joining the pack. Renault – who had been absent for four years – overtook Lotus to take part in the Constructors’ championship this year. The return of the German Grand Prix extended the racing calendar once more.
In 2017, Lewis Hamilton claimed his fourth championship, joining an illustrious group of drivers in the process. Nico Rosberg bowed out of F1 in the same season, retiring in December 2016. The end of the 2010’s saw major competition between drivers and constructors, with greater technology and efficiency in the hands of designers. It will go down as one of the most important decades in the history of F1, without any doubt.
With great inventions came great tragedies, with faster engines came moments of caution, yet, without F1, the world would certainly slow down a little. The sport continues to evolve at a speed that can sometimes feel overwhelming. Through the age of standout drivers to the development of smarter and more ingenious cars, the past tells us that the future can only get better. That is just the way we want it.