May 15, 2015
The Evolution Of Formula 1
The advent of Formula 1 racing took place in 1950, with just seven races and 76 registered drivers taking part. Decades later, the concept of Formula 1 is still very much the same - fast cars racing around a track with winners and losers - but that is where the similarities end. Today, Formula 1 is a very different affair from its early origins. Technology has come on in leaps and bounds over the years, changing the design, safety and speed of the vehicles, while rules and regulations have also altered significantly, too.
When Formula 1 first came about, it was a case of anyone could take part if they had the right type of vehicle. Often this included wealthy drivers who could afford a Formula 1 car, where they could race as privateers. The rules changed in 1978, however, and it was only those who held a Formula 1 Super licence who were then eligible for taking part in this prestigious race. By 1981, private cars were completely banned from taking part altogether.
Advances in technology have shaped the cars used in Formula 1 racing over the years. In the early days, cars were not limited by weight and usually consisted of turbo-charged engines located at the front of the vehicle. Over time, however, the engines moved to the back of the car and in 1968 aerodynamic wings were added. Carbon fibre chassis were invented in 1981 and heralded a new breed of racing car.
Technology is still very much the driving force even today for all of the vehicles used in Formula 1 racing. In more recent times, smaller turbo engines have been introduced to vehicles, while kinetic energy recovery systems are fuelling the rise towards the use of hybrid vehicles that are low on fuel consumption. Cars used today are lower with a narrower front wing. Regulations are constantly changing in the industry, as laid out by governing bodies representing the sport. These relate to aspects such as technology, safety and speeds.
The changes in technology have also transformed the style of racing prevalent today and the endurance and strength aspects, although the competitive nature of the sport is still the same as it always has been. What has also changed significantly is the financial element of Formula 1. It has become an increasingly expensive business, like many other sporting events today. It is estimated that elite teams spend roughly $375 million every year, with some teams spending a staggering $1 million per day.
Commercial sponsorship, which was introduced to Formula 1 in 1968, has helped contribute financially, but it is believed that teams rely on their revenues for around 80% of their income. Even a new racing driver just starting out is expected to bring in revenues of around $15 million. To help curb the ever-increasing problem of spending, rules were introduced in 2014 to limit this, with a budget cap of $250 million a year. Finding funds to finance racing has always been an element of Formula 1, so even challenging economic times are not likely to dampen the popularity of this much-loved sport.