Until the end of the Formula 1 World Championship season, the premier event in motorsport, the enthusiasm of spectators who have the chance to be live and viewers who are content to be in front of their posts, is always the same. But what do we know about these cars? How did they become racing cars? Who are the big names that have marked theHistory of Motor Racing ?
The first car race
10 years after the onset of first car, a first race was created in 1894 going from Paris to Rouen, over a distance of 130 km, with a break for lunch. In the spirit of rallying, the cars started individually and the winner was the one who took the least time adding all the stages. 102 competitors were registered, only 32 were at the start and only gentlemen!
With the spirit of competition still present, fashion being speed and technology, manufacturers began to develop more powerful engines from 1897. Different from passenger cars, these new cars were driven either with a lever, either with a handlebar, with solid tires, the mudguards and the cushions were gone.
But the population became worried at the sight of these cars rushing on roads populated by curious people. The first accident took place on the Paris-Nice race in 1898. Benz driver M. de Montariol waved his hand to his friend the Marquis de Martaignac. The latter let go of the rudder to answer, his car swerved and threw M. de Montariol's in the ditch which was lucky enough to be ejected but the mechanic died of a head trauma. The Marquis de Martaignac saw the accident before his car rolled over and disappeared as well.
The same year, the planned race between Paris and Amsterdam did take place, although the Prefect of Police fought to ban it.
The first international competitions
At the beginning of the 20th century, John Gordon Bennet, editor of British newspapers organized a race between the teams of the countries, but the French opposed it because the number of participants was limited for each country. So in 1904, the 1st Gordon Bennet race took place in Germany and had two successful years. But in 1906, France refused to organize it because it was preparing for the Grand Prix of the ACF (Automobile Club de France). It should also be mentioned that France had to face several disasters, including the Paris-Bordeaux-Madrid, organized by the ACF in 1903, which was canceled in Bordeaux: 3 million people gathered at the side of the roads, racing cars were embedded in the trees, the pilots being blinded by dust, or others not accustomed to speed (Mr. Renault made 105 km / h during the first stage). The 2 French and Spanish governments therefore stopped the race in Bordeaux.
Faced with this ever-growing enthusiasm, the French government again authorized the races, on condition that the roads were closed by barriers and that they took place in practically uninhabited places: this was the beginning of the closed circuits. The Grands Prix were born. Other races saw the light of day including the Beijing-Paris Raid, shortly after the Rallye Monte-Carlo in 1911, originally created to attract crowds of wealthy people. This race linked the participant's hometown to the Principality of Monaco during the winter. A little later, the famous endurance race the 24 Hours of Le Mans was born in 1923, a race dedicated to technical progress and the development of the car.
France dominated racing until its withdrawal in 1909 due to the economic crisis, as well as regulations introduced during protests.
On the other hand, in the United States, success is growing, America not wanting to be left out in relation to the rise of European cars. From this period dates the construction of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909 with the famous Indianapolis 500 Mile Race or Indy-car, becoming the benchmark in America, on a 2.5 mile quadrilateral circuit covered with bricks. Then, in the rest of the United States, roads or tracks, preferably 1 or 2 miles long, were created, quickly constructed and attracting people to a specific location. In 1917, the AAA (American Automobile Association) National Championship was born on an oval wooden track, this kind of track being very popular, but also very deadly. Much later, the Daytona 500 or Nascar will appear, a race reserved for stock-car style cars, always over a distance of 500 miles.
Motor racing could really flourish between the wars, the circuits became more curvy, the engines more powerful and the brakes more efficient. In the 1921 ACF Grand Prix, the Americans beat the Europeans. The latter set to work very hard, especially the Italians: Fiat was developing a high-speed engine, the cars were going to top 170 km / h and the brand dominated the races. Alfa Romeo not wanting to be left behind, also created a car and in 1925 won the Manufacturers' World Championship. But we already felt the crisis of 1929. To save money and avoid the unnecessary death of many drivers, the organizations decided to impose safety regulations, so in the USA were born the Stock-car races in Indianapolis from 1930 .
In Europe, more particularly in Italy, big names of drivers are at the rendezvous: Nuvolari, Varzi, Caracciola, Chiron. They will all be fighting to win races. After all these exploits, Alfa Romeo withdrew and passed the torch to Scuderia Ferrari ...
In Germany in 1933 the manufacturers Mercedes and Auto Union received subsidies from the Hitler government to increase the power, speed and spectacle of racing. As a result, the German teams dominated the races and the reputation of the Nurburgring was made, with 300,000 visitors, but the Italian drivers were there. German domination ended with World War II.
It was not until 1948 to see a car race again. In the meantime, the best riders were disappearing: Nuvolari's lungs were destroyed by inhaling toxic gases, Varzi was killed during a test session on a wet track at the Bern Grand Prix. A new rider appeared that same year, an Argentinian who won the Grand Prix de Pau: Juan Manuel Fangio.
The birth of the World Championships
The start of the world championships dates back to 1950. Initially, it was only for the pilots, then 8 years later, that of the constructors. These competitions were organized as Grand Prix in 6 European countries. The 1st Grand Prix was that of Silverstone in Great Britain in May 1950, circuit built on a former air base of the Royal Air Force. Alfa Romeo dominated, but Ferrari was biding its time. The following 6 years saw the duel of Ferrari and Maserati. A champion stands out: Juan Manuel Fangio with 5 titles.
Some Grand Prix have made history, while some circuits are legendary such as Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium which is the drivers' favorite. In Italy, Monza is the fastest, with riders reaching peaks of 365 km / h. The Canada circuit runs around a lake. That of Monaco remains the most prestigious, taking place in the city with its narrow streets.
As for the drivers, some big names stand out. Juan Manuel Fangio was the first to win races and titles and will remain the greatest champion in Formula 1 history. Born in Argentina, he won 5 championships and 24 races out of the 51 he attended. François Cevert, who died in the United States Grand Prix in October 1973, could have been the first French world champion ... a distinction which will ultimately go to Alain Prost. Jim Clark has as much notoriety as Fangio, but he disappears on the Hockenheim circuit in April 1968. Jackie Stewart, Scottish, marked by his delicacy of conduct. He is also committed to greater safety on the circuits. Graham Hill, nicknamed Mr Monaco, is the only one to have won the 3 big prestigious races: Formula 1, the 500 Miles of Indianapolis and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He tragically died on board his plane, returning from the test at the Paul Ricard circuit to return to England. Ayrton Senna, the prodigy nicknamed "Ayrton Magic", was killed in May 1994, his car crashing into a concrete wall at the San Marino Grand Prix. Closer to home, we will not forget Michael Schumacher and his seven world crowns - an absolute record.
- Secret stories of motor racing, by Bernard Spindler. Editions du Rocher, 2005.
- The great encyclopedia of Formula 1, by Pierre Ménard. 2006.