Formula One racing uses the fastest one-seater cars developed for road racing, deriving most of their speed from the fact that they can take corners with immense speed and create aerodynamic push that further bolsters their velocity. All vehicles in Formula One races must follow a set of standards first devised in 1946 before several revisions.
These 1946 standards led into the first Formula One events, namely the 1950 race at Pau in southwest France and subsequent world championship at Silverstone. From there, interest was piqued, and seasons started in earnest – the big developments in this era were mostly derived from alterations to the vehicle models.
Early races saw domination by Italian manufacturers like Alfa Romeo and Ferrari, and although the former managed to outspeed the competition during the 1950 season, Ferrari soon developed a new methodology that gave them a massive advantage over the competition.
Enzo Ferrari realized that increasing the engine power of their super-cars would mean lowered fuel efficiency, and that the resulting time spent refueling would ultimately neutralize any advantage from their more powerful cars. As a result, he equipped the Ferrari Formula One team with V12 4.5-litre 375s that saw nearly four times the miles per gallon and decreased pit time hugely.
Things changed again in 1958 when Stirling Moss breezed across the finish line in the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix, marking the first major win by a driver whose engine was mounted behind the driver’s seat. The British had realized that rear-mounted engines could give their cars better handling and weight, putting them at a sizable advantage over the formerly titanic Italian teams.
Dozens of minor alterations and changes to the platform continued until the late 1960s, when a new issue arose – the ever-growing speeds at which drivers moved meant that crashes were often fatal, and safety became more of a focus than it ever had before. Changes to the supercars led to better handling and more focus on protecting drivers.
Over the next several decades, titans rose and titans fell – names like Niki Lauda, James Hunt and John Watson proved their skill on the road and made Formula One racing a titan of world entertainment.