When F2 and F1 Became One

No Championship F1 Races During 1952 and 1953

BRM’s failure to turn up as promised in 1950 and 1951 contributed to the switch

In 1951, the Grandes Épreuves were becoming poorly supported. At the Belgian GP, only two Alfa Romeos, three Ferraris and seven privateer Talbot-Lagos made an appearance. Later in the year, numerous entries were made by Simca-Gordini, Maserati and OSCA, but Alfa and Ferrari were the only works teams to commit to the whole championship. BRM had been working on a Grand Prix car for several years and finally got two cars entered into the 1951 British GP. Although they both finished, the cars were notoriously unreliable.

With Ferrari looking very strong that year, Alfa Romeo realised they could no longer continue using their ancient pre-war cars if they were to beat Ferrari in 1952 and went to the Italian government for a loan. The FIA had already decided in the final months of 1950 that there would be a new formula for 1954 and at a meeting in February 1951, they decided Formula 1 would support 750cc supercharged and 2.5l normally aspirated cars. However, Alfa Romeo could not wait this long and after the loan was turned down, they pulled out of Grand Prix racing.

This left Ferrari with no serious challengers. Fearing that people would lose interest in Grand Prix racing if Ferrari dominated unchallenged, the organising clubs decided to run the championship races as Formula 2 events instead. During this era, the organising clubs decided which rules to run their Grand Prix under and there was no obligation to run under Formula 1 rules.

It took a while for the clubs to change their minds and they certainly didn’t decide collectively. The ACF decided way back in January to run Formula 2 rules for their French race, while the Automobile Club Monaco and the RACB (Belgium’s race organisers) held onto their F1 events for as long as they could, but after BRM failed to appear at the non-championship Turin GP in April despite their promises, the resulting Ferrari walkover in the race convinced them to follow suit.

And so, with the exception of Indy, all events included in the FIA World Championship for Drivers were held under Formula 2 rules until the introduction of the new F1 formula in 1954. Formula 1 races were still run in 1952 and 1953, though none of them counted towards the World Championship.

Henri Pescarolo picked up 5th place overall in the 1969 German GP driving an F2 Matra

Although Formula 1 rules returned in 1954, Formula 2 cars continued to race with F1 cars in championship Grand Prix long after. Formula 2 engines were limited to 1-litre between 1964 and 1966, but this was increased to 1.6 litres for 1967 and this encouraged numerous F2 cars to appear on Grand Prix entry lists, such as Matra entries from Beltoise and Servoz-Gavin in Monaco and even one from Jackie Stewart in practice at Kyalami in 1968. For the 1966, 1967 and 1969 German GP, Formula 2 cars were allowed to race and points could be counted towards the F2 table but not the F1 table.

In the early-1970s, it was proposed that Formula 2 cars be entered into all championship Grand Prix and before long, the idea was kicking around to allow other categories to race in Grand Prix as well. A document produced by the organisers of the 1974 Swedish GP states that, should the entry for the Grand Prix be insufficient, F2, Indy, F5000 and Formula Atlantic cars be allowed to enter along with F1 cars, subject to permission by the FIA!

Of course, this was still a time when races were still self-governed by the the organising clubs. The climax of the FISA/FOCA war culminated in the end of the previous World Drivers’ Championship. The argument was over the way FISA “unprofessionally” ran the sport. FOCA, the body representing all the teams and run by Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley, threatened to break away and create a new series. The only way to prevent FOCA from doing this was to legally terminate the old World Drivers’ Championship and the new “FIA Formula One World Championship” was created. The power was transferred away from the organising clubs and no one else was allowed to stage F1 races except the FIA. Grand Prix racing would now be synonymous with Formula One.