Formula One racing has come a long way since the sport’s first world championships in 1950. Although much of the sport remains the same now as it did back then, there have been a number of significant rule changes throughout the years, mostly regarding safety, that has developed the sport into what it has become today. The rules and regulations of Formula are defined by the sport’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), who review the rules every year to see if there is any room for improvement.
Nowadays, Formula One’s rules and regulations change on a season by season basis, however, back in the 1950’s when the sport celebrated its first world championships, rule changes were very infrequent. A large part of this is due to the comparatively slow development of technology. The most significant rule change during the 1950’s was the compulsory switch to petrol from alcohol-based fuels.
When the 1960’s arrived, a little more thought was given to the safety of the drivers. It’s amazing to think that the signalling flags, safety inspections and protective drivers helmets that we are used to today were only introduced in the years between 1961 and 1965 – fifteen years after the sport’s first world championships.
As Formula One started to establish itself as a major world sport, the FIA started to think of ways to improve the safety of the drivers. A number of near fatal (and fatal) accidents during the late sixties and early seventies saw a need to introduce certain safety measures to the sport’s regulations. In addition to new guidelines on how the engines could be built, there were also a lot of practical measures introduced, such as the “12 meter staggering” on the starting grid and an increase in distance between the spectators and the track. Circuits were also required to offer full medical facilities, while crash testing was introduced as a necessary part of a car’s testing.
After the tragic death of Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna in the early nineties, the world’s eyes were on the FIA would react. With Formula One’s TV viewing figures rising, it became imperative for the sport to keep the number of crashes down, while also keeping the level of excitement up. In regards to safety, more testing was required on each car before it was allowed to enter a race, while protective guards in the cockpit were made mandatory. Also, a number of rules regarding the size of engines were introduced in an attempt to limit the speed in which a car could travel. This, in addition to decreasing the chances of drivers losing control of their vehicles, also made for a much more even playing field, and small constructor teams were able to compete with the likes of Ferrari and McLaren once again.
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