Formula One (also Formula 1 or F1) is the highest class of single-seater auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and owned by the Formula One Group. The FIA Formula One World Championship has been one of the premier forms of racing around the world since its inaugural season in 1950. The word “formula” in the name refers to the set of rules to which all participants’ cars must conform. A Formula One season consists of a series of races, known as Grands Prix (French for ‘grand prizes’ or ‘great prizes’), which take place worldwide on purpose-built circuits and on public roads.
The results of each race are evaluated using a points system to determine two annual World Championships: one for drivers, the other for constructors. Drivers must hold valid Super Licences, the highest class of racing licence issued by the FIA. The races must run on tracks graded “1” (formerly “A”), the highest grade-rating issued by the FIA. Most events occur in rural locations on purpose-built tracks, but several events take place on city streets.
Formula One cars are the fastest regulated road-course racing cars in the world, owing to very high cornering speeds achieved through the generation of large amounts of aerodynamic downforce. The cars underwent major changes in 2017, allowing wider front and rear wings, and wider tyres, resulting in cornering forces closing in on 6.5g and top speeds of up to approximately 375 km/h (235 mph). As of 2019 the hybrid engines are limited in performance to a maximum of 15,000 rpm and the cars are very dependent on electronics—although traction control and other driving aids have been banned since 2008—and also on aerodynamics, suspension, and tyres.
While Europe is the sport’s traditional base, the championship operates globally, with 11 of the 21 races in the 2018 season taking place outside Europe. With the annual cost of running a mid-tier team—designing, building, and maintaining cars, pay, transport—being US$120 million, Formula One has a significant economic and job-creation effect, and its financial and political battles are widely reported. Its high profile and popularity have created a major merchandising environment, which has resulted in large investments from sponsors and budgets (in the hundreds of millions for the constructors). On 8 September 2016 Bloomberg reported that Liberty Media had agreed to buy Delta Topco, the company that controls Formula One, from private-equity firm CVC Capital Partners for $4.4 billion in cash, stock, and convertible debt. On 23 January 2017 Liberty Media confirmed the completion of the acquisition for $8 billion.