Formula Vintage: The era Grand Prix; the precursors of the Formula 1


Melbourne, Australia, march 20, 2016. Just a few days ago, the capital of the state of Victoria gave the starting signal for the season to 67 in the history of Formula 1, to 8 months of excitement, fun, controversial, overtaking, glories, miseries… Formula 1, with capital letters. Many of the new fans that, today, we are thrilled with the exploits of Hamilton, Alonso or Vettel, they are unknown to the battles, the stories, the careers and the legends that have made the Formula 1 in the discipline reigns of the engine. Or, in the best of cases, are very distant in time. are Unaware of the wars on four wheels that fought the Fangio, Moss, Brabham, Hill, Clark, Fittipaldi, Lauda, Piquet, Senna… are Unaware of the rich past that germinated the current Formula 1 and which, by the way, few times was of the color of roses. Many things have changed, but others never will, because it is part of the DNA of the pilots, and their own careers. Like any story, this one has a beginning, must go back in time a few years, even more than you might think. 122, to be exact.

Paris, France, July 22, 1894. The capital gala was a witness to the dawn of motor racing, the first event considered as a ‘career’; a test of point-to-point along 126 miles between the cities of Paris and Rouen, organized by the journal Le Petit Journal and is called a ‘Competition for horseless carriages’. By that time, the purpose was to test the reliability of the newly developed motorized transport and to promote it among a public that looked at these strange machines with a mixture of enthusiasm and puzzlement. The marquis Jules-Albert de Dion was the fastest, taking 6 hours and 48 minutes to complete the trip at an average speed of 19 kilometers per hour, but his vehicle was not fit for the victory to be powered by coal. The judges were looking for a winner “not dangerous, easy to drive and cheap during the journey”, and gave the win to the fourth, René Panhard, which took half an hour more.


Soon the cars began to exceed the barrier of 100 miles per hour (160 kilometers per hour), and began to be held racing on long circuits employing public roads, a practice that was maintained until the 50’s, with a few exceptions that confirmed the rule, such as Monza, Indianapolis or the british circuit of Brooklands. Years after the end of World War I, several european countries took to the celebration of what began to be referred to as ‘Grandes Épreuves’, or ‘Grand Prix’, events that give name to this era of motorsports in historical terms. Italy was the first country to cast so large to organize these runs, which joined France in 1921, and Spain in 1923. In the united States, everything had been organized around a championship solely based on racing circuits, an oval of land, but in Europe, it was deslavazada, without common rules.

Between 1925 and 1927, the AIACR (the International Association of Automobile Clubs Recognized), the germ of the current AIF, he joined the most prestigious to create the World Championship of Brands, the first ancestor of the Formula 1. Began contesting the Indianapolis 500 and grand prix of Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps), France (Monthléry and, in 1926, Miramas) and Italy (Monza). The following year, left Belgium, but they were joined by the Uk (Brooklands) and Spain, at the circuit de Lasarte, a path of 17 miles in the vicinity of San Sebastian. As its name indicated, the championship only rewarded marks, and not to the pilots; therefore, Alpha Romeo, Bugatti and the French Delage were the first champions. While the first championship was not a dominating clear in what we pilots are concerned, Jules Goux and Robert Benoist were the main architects of the success of their respective brands. Here the first steps were taken to set limits on the weight and the consumption of gasoline, which resulted in the conviction of the contest after only three years.


Before, during, and after the first championship, numerous Big Prizes continued to be challenging, in particular in Italy and France, before spreading through Europe. So, in 1929 was held for the first time the Grand Prix of Monaco, which introduced a regular feature in the united States. The grill of a Grand Prize is used to decide by lot, but, in the 1933 edition, held a qualifying session for the first time in Europe. The Italian Achille Varzi was the first man to pole in his Bugatti, beating the Alfa Romeos of the local hero Louis Chiron. The concept of the championship was revived in 1931 and 1932, with little success, in careers that, by regulation, should last between 5 and 10 hours. The italians Ferdinando Minoia and the legendary Tazio Nuvolari, both in Alfa Romeo, were the winners of the first European Championships, which were recovered in 1935.

by then, the German brands Auto Union (today Audi) and -in particular – Mercedes began to impose its hegemony on the French and Italian, in the midst of the era of fight for the nazi Germany. Although never included more than 5 Major Awards per year, the European Championships were the first well organized at the european level, with circuits like Spa, Nürburgring (in their fearsome versions of 14 and 22 km, respectively), Monaco, Monza or the own Lasarte, among others. By that time, there was a curious system of points ‘to the reverse’, which gave 1 point to the winner of a race, 2 the second, 3 the third, between 4 and 7 depending on the percentage of career completion, and 8 if the pilot is not competing in that event.

In the first season, Tazio Nuvolari gave one of the exhibits most memorable in the history of motorsport. After being rejected by Auto Union, the Italian raced with a Alfa Romeo from the Scuderia Ferrari in the German Grand Prix. On a rainy day, and despite the fact that his car was slower and out of date that the 5 Mercedes and the 4 Auto Union, Nuvolari beat all of them, overtaking in the last lap included. No one else could make shadow to the German brands in what remained of the year, and the German Rudolf Caracciola took the championship. Mercedes missed the mark with the car the following year and failed to win the title, which was to stop the great rival Caracciola, Bernd Rosemeyer, in an Auto Union.


Caracciola took revenge in 1937, but his last battle was away from the circuits: both faced separately in the Autobahn of germany in January 1938 trying to beat speed records on prototypes designed specifically for this purpose (Caracciola rose to 432 kilometers per hour), but Rosemeyer lost control of his car and the life. The simplicity of the technical regulation, which only stipulated the minimum weight, had caused the engines to reach the whopping 650-HP, so that limited the cubicaje for security reasons to 1938. Auto Union was made with the services of Nuvolari, but Mercedes dominated with comfort the championship, in the same way that they would do many years later, and Rudolf Caracciola won his third and last wound.

The outbreak of World War II in 1939 to the lack of a race prevented to crown a final champion. Officially, the title went to Hermann Paul Müller, Auto Union. Despite the discrepancies between the scoring system existing, and a French system of maximum similar to the present, Muller led both classifications. However, nazi Germany chose to consider champion Hermann Lang, who had previously been accused in private by Caracciola receiving favoritism on the part of Mercedes. Those disputes were never resolved, the whole time that the war halted the races at the global level.

When the noise of guns ceased in the Old Continent, the roar of the engines returned to feel with more force than ever. The AIF is constituted as such, and defined in 1947 the concept of Formula 1 as the main class of cars, subjected to a series of rules that everyone should abide by and follow. The Big Prizes classic returned to be held in the second half of the 40s. Many of the great pilots of pre-war had been killed on the track or in the war, were retired or in the downhill, and the French Jean-Pierre Wimille was considered the man to beat, until his death in early 1949 in Buenos Aires. All in all, it was only a matter of time to blend criteria to form a championship unique. So, in 1950, would dispute for the first time a World Championship of Formula 1, the beginning of a long story that he had not done more to start…