Formula One, also known as F1, has a rich and interesting history filled with the triumphs of passion and technology and the tragedy of lives that were cut short. Sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and owned by Liberty Media, its inauguration season took place in 1950 and is an annual event highly-anticipated by race car enthusiasts across the globe. Here are some interesting facts and trivia about the races that you may not know about.
The phrase “Grand Prix” has a rich and interesting backstory.
Formula 1 is also known as the F1 Grand Prix Races. The French term “Grand Prix” preceded the Formula 1 races by a good 50 years. A literal translation of the English term “grand prize,” it was the title given to races organized at a court in the ACF (Le Mans by the Automobile Club de France) starting from 1906. The ACF later gave a different name for the previous road races they had hosted. They called them “Grands Prix,” which listed different shows like the 1895 race from Paris to Bordeaux and back as the “I Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France.” There has not been an agreement about which show holds the title for the first Grand Prix.
The show is a logistical nightmare for participants and organizers.
Depending on where the race is located, there are three primary ways to ship the participating vehicles: roadways, waterways, and airways. The cars are broken down into their components and are then transported by articulated lorries painted with the cars’ team colors. The teams partner up with car shipping companies to help them get the most care for their vehicles. While the race cars are the top priority, these teams also have to consider all the computers, equipment, and other valuable tools required for rebuilding their cars in the venue. It’s a whole operation—and one that shows the organizers and participants’ dedication to the race.
There have been forty-three Grand Prix-related fatalities since 1952.
With such a dangerous sport inevitably comes accidents and even fatalities. There have been forty-three Grand Prix-related fatalities since 1952, including those that took place during practice, qualifying rounds, and the race itself. The first Grand Prix-related death took place in 1952 when British automotive engineer Cameron Ear took a test drive, and his car overturned. He died of a fractured skull.
One of the more recent deaths involved French motor racing driver Jules Bianchi, who succumbed to sustaining head injuries nine months after his car crashed during the Grand Prix in Japan in 2014. Unfortunately, he lost control of his vehicle in gloomy and rainy conditions and crashed with a recovery vehicle. He underwent emergency surgery, was placed under an induced coma, and remained comatose until he passed nine months later.
Formula One employs a lot of safety precautions in place for drivers.
When the race first started in 1950, there was no medical back-up and other safety measures and precautions in place in case of an accident. It wasn’t until the 1960s when helmets and overalls were first introduced and became mandatory. The FIA also assumed accountability and responsibility for the safety of everyone at the circuits. There were also a lot of changes made to improve the safety conditions of the race—cockpit openings were enlarged to give the driver more space and a fighting chance to escape quicker in case of an accident, and outside mirrors were also finally required. In the 1980s, the structure of the Formula One car was also changed to increase protection upon impact.
After another death in 1994, other safety precautions were introduced in an attempt to slow the vehicles down, like grooved tires, to reduce cornering speed. As time goes on, more and more safety precautions are continued to be introduced, like changing the circuits’ configuration, to help improve the safety of the drivers.
The vehicles that participate at Formula One races use a slightly different kind of gas.
The fuel that Formula One vehicles use is fairly similar to ordinary commercial premium petrol, but with a slight difference: F1 fuel is highly optimized for peak performance by the manufacturers. This means that the kind of fuel created by Shell is optimized and is crafted specifically for Ferrari, and wouldn’t allow the same level of performance for, say, a Mercedes. So while the chemicals and components that go into F1 fuel are similar to those of commercial petrol, as regulated by the FIA since 1996, the way F1 fuel is mixed is different in that it’s specifically customized to allow the cars to perform at their best.
Rich with History
Formula One is truly steeped with a rich history, one that fans should deep-dive into to enjoy the game further and see where it could lead in the future.