Formula 1 Celebrates 1000th World Championship Race... Sorta?
Over the weekend, Lewis Hamilton, the defending F1 World Champion, jumped ahead of teammate Valterri Bottas at the start of the Chinese Grand Prix and never relinquished his lead to win the 1000th Formula 1 Grand Prix... well sorta. You see not every fan of the world's most elite racing series agree that the Shanghai race was actually Grand Prix number one thousand. Although most agree the first World Championship race was held in the United Kingdom in 1950 at Silverstone, the sanctioning body actually held a non-points formula race at Pau a month earlier for the single-seater racecars that were purpose-built to compete on dedicated road courses as well as make-shift tracks along city streets.
One thing we do know for certain, Formula 1 has been filled with controversy, turbulence, and turmoil for more than 69 years. Of the twenty models of cars that competed in the inaugural event at Silverstone, most were quickly forced out of the sport due to cost and the immediate dominance of the bright red Ferraris. But, several manufacturers made considerable technological advances and the added incentive of a constructor's championship was born in 1958. By the early 1970s, businessman Bernie Ecclestone had taken control of the sport's commercial rights and turned Formula 1 into a billion-dollar business for the global marketplace. Expansion continues to this day with many new racetracks being built in other lucrative markets.
For now, Formula 1 race teams leave the fast straights of the Shanghai International Circuit and head west to the tight streets of Baku City for what promises to be another exciting Azerbaijan Grand Prix. In 2018, Hamilton emerged on top of the chaotic street fight that saw Sebastian Vettel throw away his chance of winning while the pair cruised behind the safety car at a reduced speed around the twenty-turn, 3.73-mile street course. With the fast straights that makeup the Baku City track, Ferrari is again the favorite as drivers lace their way through the historic Maiden Tower before rocketing along the banks of the Caspian Sea.
If we've learned anything in sixty years of Formula 1 racing, never count out a "hot hand" and, nowadays, think twice before you bet against Mercedes. As for the rules, they will always be changing to help make the sport more competitive and, at the same time, affordable enough to fill the grid with competitive team cars.