Formula One (F1), type of racecar used in Grand Prix automobile racing. Capable of speeds exceeding 230 mph (370 kph), the technologically sophisticated F1 cars are low-slung, open-wheeled, single-seat vehicles with powerful mid-engines, air foils, electronic aids, special suspensions, and large tires. They are usually smaller and more maneuverable than similar "Indy-type" racecars. Grand Prix races are usually held on special closed-circuit racetracks, although some (e.g., Monaco Grand Prix) take place on closed streets in and around cities. The design of the F1 cars and rules of F1 racing are under the control of the Paris-based Fédération International de l'Automobile (FIA). The first Grand Prix auto race was held in France in 1906, but it was not until after World War II that F1 racing was born; it soon became one of the world's most popular—and most expensive—sports.
Today's Grand Prix races feature national teams and a standard racing circuit. F1 racecars are usually made by major automobile manufacturers called constructors—Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz (Daimler), Renault, Toyota, and others—and are maintained by full-time teams. The teams are usually sponsored by large corporations, often in cooperation with an automobile company; some are sponsored solely by car companies. F1 racing was traditionally centered in Europe, but F1 Grand Prix races are now held worldwide. Since 1950 the FIA has declared an annual F1 world champion constructor and driver. Among the best-known drivers are Argentina's Juan Fangio (1950s), Britain's Jackie Stewart (1960s–70s), America's Mario Andretti (1978), Austria's Niki Lauda (1970s–80s), France's Alain Prost (1980s–90s), and Germany's Michael Schumacher (1990s–2000s).
See S. Arron and M. Hughes, The Complete Book of Formula One (2003); P. G. Wright, Formula 1 Technology (2003); B. Jones Complete Encyclopedia of Formula One (2004); D. Tremayne, The Science of Formula 1 Design (2004).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.