Formula One

Timeline of the History of Formula One. From the origin of the first Formula One race to the latest modern automative races. View the complete timeline of Formula One.


The First World Championship of Drivers race is held.

The 1950 British Grand Prix at Silverstone became the first race held by the World Championship of Drivers as a Formula One race. Nino Farina started at pole position and won the 70-lap race for the Alfa Romeo team.

Giuseppe Farina wins first Formula 1 title

Giuseppe Farina for Alfa Romeo made history as the first winner of the World Championship for driver after defeating his teammate Juan Fangio. The first season consisted of six Grand Prix races and the Indianapolis 500.

Juan Fangio sets 45-year record

Despite the popularity of Formula 1 racing, some records stand the test of time – or at least decades. Juan Fangio won the second Formula 1 race and was the second world champion in 1951. He would repeat title wins in 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957. The record of five World Championship wins held up for 45 years until Ferrari-racer Michael Schumacher won his sixth title in 2003.

Formula 1 adds constructors’ championship

To honor the work of Formula 1 constructors, the constructors’ championship was launched as a companion competition to the world championship in 1958. Over the years, Ferrari has earned more titles than any other constructor, but Mercedes holds the record for consecutive wins with eight.

Last front-engine car competes in a Formula 1 race

Evolving designs for race cars and technological developments are the hallmarks of Formula 1 racing. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, mid-engined cars started to take over, and most competitors made the switch by 1961. The last entry with a front engine was a Ferguson P99 entered in the 1961 British Grand Prix.

Sponsorship on cars makes an appearance

Sponsorship was introduced to Formula 1 racing in the late 1960s when Team Gunston started running cigarette sponsorship on their cars in 1968. Later the same year, Lotus added tobacco livery, and the ad trend continues to this day though tobacco products no longer receive billing.

Bernie Ecclestone becomes president of the Formula One Constructors’ Association

Bernie Ecclestone is credited with turning Formula One racing into a multi-billion dollar enterprise after taking the helm of the Formula One Constructors’ Association as president in 1978. He had gained a seat on the board in 1971. Prior to changes he helped institute, circuit owners managed team income and negotiated with individual teams. Through collective negotiation with circuit owners, circuit owners could take the races as a package in exchange for the trackside advertising. 

The Big Four dominate Formula 1

For 24 years, the drivers’ championship and constructors’ championship in Formula 1 rotated among the four major teams at the time – McLaren, Williams, Renault and Ferrari. Between the four teams, every constructors’ championship from 1979 to 2008 was claimed, and their drivers secured every world championship title from 1984 to 2008. Brawn upset the mix in 2009 with Red Bull and Mercedes finding their way to dominance from 2009 onward. Historians cite the rising costs of competition and the associated financial burdens as a reason many independent teams could no longer compete and often struggled to stay in business.

FIA experiments with rule change to control costs.

In an effort to level the racing track, the FIA experimented with frequent championship rule changes in the early 2000s to improve action on the track and cut costs. FIA also banned team orders during the 2002 season – a fixture of Formula 1 racing – to limit race manipulation. Additional adjustments were made to the points system, technical regulations and qualifying. 

Manufacturer’s return to Formula 1 racing

For the first time in nearly 20 years, manufacturers started to invest in Formula 1 racing again in the early 2000s. Ford purchased Stewart Grand Prix to form Jaguar Racing and later sold the team to Red Bull in 2004. In 2006, five manufacturer teams ranked in the top 6 of the constructors’ championship, making a stunning change from the Big Four days.

Global recession halts Formula 1 progress

As the global recession rocked the economy in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the auto manufacturers folded up shop starting in 2008 and left Formula 1 racing. Private companies picked up the pieces and started a return to exclusivity in Formula 1.

Hybrid power takes over

In a major shift, the rules in 2014 replaced a 2.4-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine with 1.6-litre turbocharged hybrid power unit. With the change Mercedes was able to conquer a Red Bull streak as the top team and started an eight-year streak of constructors’ championships.

COVID-19 forces changes to Formula 1

In 2020, a new Concorde Agreement was signed by 10 Formula 1 teams. Each committed to the sport through 2025, and a $145 million budget cap was instituted for car development with the goal of making competition more equal. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed back planned technical changes to the 2021 season to 2022, and teams raced using the 2020 chassis in 2021. Part modification was also limited by a token system. Through 2020 and 2021, races were delayed and rescheduled regularly to accommodate best safety practices and many took place with minimal personnel and no crowds.