If the series we know today has always been “Formula 1”, then why was the Indianapolis 500 on the championship calendar until 1960? Why were only Formula 2 cars eligible to enter the 1952 and 1953 championships? How have two-seater Porsche RSK sportscars, dirt-track sprintcars and Formula 3 cars been able to start “F1” races?
This article will demonstrate how the media have malformed your understanding of what Formula 1 actually is. They have oversimplified the history of Grand Prix racing to the extent it has become a lie. It is not a matter of simple semantics.
It began in 1949 when the CSI – a sub-division of the FIA – were given the job of organising a championship featuring the most prominent Grand Prix races from around the world. After a lengthy meeting in Paris late in the year, they released a ten-race international calendar for the 1950 FIA Championnat du Monde des Conducteurs (or “World Championship for Drivers”). Beginning at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in May, it would consist of events across Europe and end with the Czechoslovakian GP on the streets of Brno in September. Later this was reduced to six events.
Grand Prix races were not an invention that came with the World Championship for Drivers. The inaugural Grand Prix was held in France in 1906, with the full title of Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France. It was a standalone race organised by the l’ACF and the Grand Prize available was 45,000 Francs. Thereafter, ‘Grand Prix’ was used to describe many races around the world. Soon after, Britain would hold their own Grand Prix, Germany would have their own Grosser Preis, and Italy their Gran Premio. Much smaller, local events too could be called Grand Prix – some held in cities, like the Rome Grand Prix, some at individual circuits like the Grand Prix of Pau.
Beginning in the early-1920s, the AIACR (early title for the FIA) also released an annual list of what they considered to be the most historic, most internationally-recognised, most celebrated races from around the world. These were the events which really stood out on top of the pile. The AIACR labelled them Grandes Épreuves (meaning “Big/Important Events”) and gave them exclusive dates on which no other major international motor races could take place. Additionally, only one Grande Épreuve could be nominated for each country. For 1950, the FIA decided that they would award points at these selected Grande Épreuve and once all races were run, they would tally the points and declare a champion. And so the World Driver’s Championship was born.
So what makes a championship Grand Prix held between 1950 and 1980 different from those held since 1981? Well, the fundamental difference is that the FIA are now the sole organising club for the event and they set the rules. Before 1981, the FIA did not have this power. Each and every race on the World Championship calendar had been in the hands of the country’s respective national racing club – the British GP was organised by the R.A.C, the French GP by the Automobile Club de France, The Italian GP by the Automobile Club di Milano, the German GP by the ADAC…and so on. It was the local club’s responsibility to organise the event, chose a date and the select the eligibility of the entry. Then when all was agreed, the FIA sanctioned the event (declared it official).
So what is a Formula car and what does the word mean?
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