Grand Prix (translating from French as Great Prize) racing is a form of motorsport competition that dates back to 1890s France, where races were held on public roads beginning in one town with the finish line being in another.
This evolved into endurance racing over greater distances, but because these Grand Prix were held on public roads rather than purpose-built race tracks, accidents were commonplace, often resulting in the death of the drivers and members of the public.
The Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR) was established in 1904 to bring together the numerous national motor clubs that were formerly responsible for the organisation of each Grand Prix, and bind them to a single set of regulations to ensure fairness and consistency.
The AIACR would later become the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile or the FIA that we know today.
Each car would essentially represent their country of origin, and to differentiate between nations, each competing country had their own colour and all of its cars would be painted that colour.
|Britain||British racing Green|
|Germany||White (they’d later forgo painting their cars altogether in an effort to save weight, resulting in all of Germany’s cars being silver)|
French cars dominated from the inception of the Grand Prix until the 1920s when Italy came to the fore with Alfa Romeo and Maserati.
In the 1930s, the German Nazi party saw an opportunity to demonstrate the superiority of the Reich on foreign soil and threw huge sums of money into developing their two teams: Mercedes and Auto Union, who subsequently dominated Grand Prix racing up until the outbreak of World War II.
The first World Championship (although based almost exclusively in Europe for European manufacturers – the exception being the Indy 500) was held in 1925 and consisted of four Grand Prix – the French Grand Prix at Monthlery, The Indy 500, The Italian Grand Prix at Monza and the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps – the results of which would contribute to a championship to determine which manufacturer was that year’s champion.
The championship for drivers would be introduced post-war.
This format continued until the outbreak of war when all racing in Europe was suspended, with a gradual reintroduction of Grand Prix racing in 1946 shortly before the reforming of the AIACR/FIA.
The AIACR/FIA would soon announce the introduction for 1950 of a ‘Formula 1‘ world championship consisting of seven Grand Prix, again, predominantly in Europe, with points awarded for the first five places counting towards a drivers’ championship and another championship for constructors.
From that point onwards, Grand Prix racing and F1 have been practically interchangeable in their meaning and most commonly refer to the same thing (although there are some exceptions) – the series at the pinnacle of motorsport.