The roots of modern Grand Prix racing date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. From the first Paris to Rouen race in 1894 to the more organised races a held decade later, Grand Prix racing was built on a desire to assess the reliability of emerging automotive technology. Today, Grand Prix and Formula One (F1) are the standards by which all forms of auto racing are judged.
The fact that you are reading this article on the Grand Prix History website suggests you have a passion for the oldest form of auto racing in the world. Like other fans, you have your reasons. The one thing we share is the love of all things Grand Prix.
Ask 100 Grand Prix fans why they love it, and you are likely to hear a litany of answers. But there are certain things all racing fans have in common. Below are just 5 reasons people love Grand Prix so much.
1. Incredible Track Variation
The most visible difference between Grand Prix and other types of auto racing is the tracks themselves. NASCAR races on ovals, tri-ovals, and a few road courses. Dirt track races are conducted on circular or oval dirt tracks. In both cases, there is very little variation. Not so on Grand Prix circuits.
Grand Prix circuits offer an incredible amount of track variation. By definition, Grand Prix racing is supposed to simulate real-world road conditions as much as possible. That's why so many races are conducted on city streets. And where city streets are not used, purpose-built circuits throw just about everything at drivers – from hairpin turns to chicanes and long straightaways.
It is not hard to imagine circuit designers having the time of their lives coming up with new courses. Unlike an oval, designing a new circuit involves a lot more than throwing down some asphalt and marking the apron with a car park line marking machine. A lot of thought goes into each and every element.
2. Technologically Advanced Cars
From its earliest days, Grand Prix racing has heavily emphasised car performance and reliability. In fact, one of the earliest races in France was sponsored by a newspaper looking to test the reliability of the 'horseless carriage' as a replacement form of transportation.
Those who follow F1 know that successive generations of cars are more technologically advanced than previous generations. Manufacturers rely on F1 partnerships to test what they are currently working on. Everything from engine components to tyres gets a workout on the Grand Prix circuit.
Fans love that aspect of it. They appreciate the fact that the cars are always pushing the limits. Technology makes for exciting racing from lights to flag. And make no mistake, F1 cars can do things NASCAR engineers can only dream of.
3. Engineering Is Vitally Important
Automotive engineering in some other forms of racing isn't as critical to race day success as it is in the Grand Prix Word. The best F1 engineers oversee every fine detail from the moment a new car is conceived until it crosses the finish line for the very last time. They are constantly measuring, tracking, tweaking, and adjusting.
What makes engineering so critical in the F1 world? The sensitive nature of the cars. F1 cars are highly sensitive machines that require very delicate treatment. In light of that, F1 engineers have to be highly skilled and knowledgeable. Most of them treat their cars the same way parents treat newborn babies.
Of course, engineers have to work with race team members and drivers. The engineer-driver relationship is especially critical in that it often plays a crucial role in race-day success. The engineer and driver have to be on the same page. They have to think alike. When engineer-driver relationships do go south, the fallout only adds to the intrigue of the sport.
4. Drivers Are Endurance Athletes
Fans who truly understand the finer points of Grand Prix racing know that the people who sit behind the wheel are endurance athletes in every sense. Casual race fans tend to forget this because they associate driving a race car with driving a passenger vehicle down to the hardware store. The two are not even closely related.
It takes a tremendous amount of physical effort to control an F1 car at high speed. That says nothing of the mental focus and concentration. Moreover, drivers expend a tremendous amount of effort over several hours. You know how you feel after two or three hours of interstate driving? Take that same feeling and multiply it hundreds of times to account for the stress of F1 racing. That should give you an idea of how tough it is to be a professional driver.
Many of us love Grand Prix racing because our drivers are larger-than-life. We can only dream of doing what they do week in and week out. And given the opportunity, many of us would not risk our lives on a chance to compete in a real race. We prefer to watch and leave it at that.
5. Weather Is Part of the Game
Oval racing on slicks is fun in its own right, but it cannot be done in bad weather. It's not safe. Grand Prix racing is different. Not only is bad weather no excuse to stop a race, but it’s also actually part of the game. Racing teams prepare for bad weather. And when it strikes, they adapt in whatever way is necessary to keep their cars on the road. They have to. It takes thick fog or especially heavy rain to shut down a race.
This one feature alone ramps up the excitement on any Grand Prix circuit. Just imagine starting a race under blue skies and bright sunshine. An hour later the skies darken, and the clouds open up. Racing goes on. Yet a change in weather could completely change the outcome of the race. How cool is that?
Auto racing has been around since the very first car took to the roads. It is just something we humans do. If we are not racing cars, we are racing anything else we can get our hands-on. For some of us, the crown jewel of all racing forms is Grand Prix racing. It brings out the best in automotive engineering, track design, and athletic achievement.