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Formula 1 through the Years

3rd July 2015

This weekend the Formula 1 Championship comes to the UK as the ninth race in the 2015 Formula 1 season takes place at Silverstone. This year's championship is currently being led by two time winner Lewis Hamilton followed by his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari's Vettel in third place. The race is sure to be as thrilling as always on one of the most exciting and historical circuits in the world.

To get us in the mood for the Grand Prix this weekend we have taken a look at Formula 1 through the years from its beginnings in the 1950's to today's highly commercialised races. We also take a brief look at some of the greatest drivers in Formula 1 history and see what impact they made on the world of Grand Prix racing.

The beginnings

Grand Prix racing began in 1901; with the first ever race at the famous Le Mans course which was won by Ferencz Szisz in a Renault. It wasn't until 1946 that it was officially given the name Formula 1 by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile). The very first Formula 1 race took place at the Pau Grand Prix on the 10th April 1950 and was won by Jaun Manual Fangio. A month later the first world championship race took place at Silverstone and was the beginning of the British Grand Prix.


The first race at Silverstone in 1950 was won by Giuseppe Farina (pictured right) in an Alfa Romeo 158, Giuseppe and Fangio went on to become the two biggest stars of the first years of Formula 1, with Farina taking the first ever world championship title later that year.

The following year Jaun Manual Fangio won the title before fellow countryman Alberto Ascari took it in 1952. Fangio went on to win a further four world championships marking his name in the Formula 1 history books as one of the greatest. The first Englishman to win at Silverstone was Stirling Moss in 1955. Moss went on to be known as the best driver never to win a world championship. During the 1950's the main manufacturers included the likes of Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Maserati and Mercedes-Benz. The constructor's championship wasn't introduced until 1958, and was won by Vanwall.

Sadly the first decade of Formula won was marred by numerous tragedies both on and off the race track. The first ever British winner Mike Hawthorn took the title in 1958 three years after winning at Le Mans during the 1955 disaster where over 80 people were killed. Sadly Hawthorn never got the chance to repeat his first victory as he died a year later at the age of 29 when his car skidded off the road. Cars in the first decade where front engined and had either a 2.5 litre supercharged or 4.5 litre normally aspirated engine. Formula 1 safety regulations came into force in 1954 and limited engines to 2.5 litres. Rear engine cars came into force in the 1960's.


The 1960's saw a surge of British and Commonwealth drivers winning races, with the likes Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham and Jackie Stewart. In the years 1962-1973 British and Commonwealth drivers won a total of nine driver's championships and ten constructors championships.

Australia's Jack Brabham was the most successful driver of the 1960's winning in 1959, 1960 and 1966.

Graham Hill was also successful in this decade winning the championship in 1962 and 1968, before tragically losing his life in a plane crash in 1975. His son Damon would go on to follow in his father's footsteps winning a world championship decades later.

The 1960's also saw the introduction of advertising on race cars, with Lotus being the first to carry it on theirs.


The 1970's saw a massive change in the way Formula 1 was run, Bernie Eccelston who was the manager of Jochen Rindt and Graham Hill rearranged the commercial rights. Eccelston went on to become the President of the Formula One Constructors' Association and changed it into a multi-million pound business. Scots Jackie Stewart was the hero of this decade winning two championships making it three overall. Stewart was also a massive campaigner for driver's safety in Formula 1 after he witnessed the death of his friends Jochan Rindt and Piers Courage.

The 1970's saw many one-time winners such as Jochen Rindt, James Hunt and Mario Andretti take the championship. It was also the decade that we were introduced to one off the greatest and most courageous drivers of all time Niki Lauda. Lauda was hailed as saving Ferrari by winning their first championship in over a decade in 1975. In 1976 Lauda had a horrific crash at the Nurburgring ring which many thought he wouldn't survive; six weeks later though he was back racing against rival James Hunt.


The 1980's was one of the most exciting decades in the sport as we were introduced to legends such as Alain Prost, Aryton Senna, and Nelson Piquet. The first championship was won by Alan Jones in a McLaren in what would be the first of many constructors' championships for McLaren during that decade. Piquet won the first of three championships in 1981 with Brabham, in 1982 he struggled with the new turbo engine that was introduced, only managing to win one race all season. Piquet soon recovered though and went on to win the championship in 1983 and 1987.

Niki Lauda won his last championship the following year by a half point before his teammate Alain Prost went on to dominate winning four titles in less than ten years. Prost's dominance ended though when his younger teammate, Brazilian Aryton Senna took the title in 1988 by eight wins to seven from Prost. This began what was to be the biggest feud between drivers in Formula 1 history.


This decade was dominated by McLaren and Williams winning 16 titles a piece, and was where we first got a glimpse of the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time Michael Schumacher. Ayrton Senna won the first two championships in 1990 and 1991 before British driver Nigel Mansell took the title in 1992. Prost also won his final championship in 1993 before he retired.

Michael Schumacher who was driving for Benetton at the time won his first of seven world championships in 1994 and again in 1995.

In 1994 Senna moved away from McLaren and joined Williams in what would be his final season. At the San Marino Grand Prix Senna's Williams car went off the track and hit a concrete wall head on, Senna died instantly. This led to massive changes in Formula 1 safety standards, and since no driver has lost their life during a race.


The first half of the 2000's were all about Michael Schumacher as he got back into a winning streak which eventually saw him win a record seven world championships. Schumacher won with Ferrari four years in succession from 2000-2004 before he retired in 2006.

Schumacher and Ferrari's dominance caused the sport to lose a lot of viewers as there weren't many new drivers giving Schumacher competition. It wasn't until after his retirement that we began to see new and exciting drivers emerge such as Lewis Hamilton who won in 2008, and the youngest driver to ever win a championship Sebastian Vettel.


In the last ten years Formula 1 has become a much more open sport and has saw young drivers take centre stage. Sebastian Vettel won three world championships back to back from 2010-2013 and went down in history as the youngest driver ever to win.

We have also seen Britain's most successful driver for more than 40 years, Lewis Hamilton win the championship in 2008 and 2014 and is hoping to secure his third title this year and cement his place as a Formula 1 legend.

Next : Formula 1 Legends