The World Championship for drivers began in 1950 and each year thereafter, a select number of events (usually one from each country) were bestowed with Championship status.
For the first half of the decade, machines featured powerful front-mounted engines in unsophisticated tubular-framed chassis, their designs being heavily based on thinking that went back to before the Second World War. With the arrival of Mercedes Benz in 1954 a new level of technology to came into the sport and other famous manufacturers such as Maserati, Ferrari and Vanwall raised their game to compete. However, it was the little Cooper marque that revolutionised Formula 1 by producing a car that placed the engine behind the driver. This became the template for single-seat cars henceforth, and by the end of 1960 front-engined machines were as dead as the dinosaur.
The outstanding driver was undoubtedly Juan Manuel Fangio. The Argentine won five World Championships and always seemed to have the upper hand on his rivals His greatest challengers were the Italian Alberto Ascari and later the brilliant Stirling Moss, surely the greatest racing driver never to have won the championship crown.
The 1961-65 seasons of the Championship ran to the 1.5-litre engine formula that saw the introduction of small nimble machines with drivers lying almost prone in a small tube-like chassis. Lotus became the decade's true innovator with their introduction of a monocoque chassis in their Type 25 car.
1966 saw the return to power with the introduction of the 3-litre formula and a year later came the greatest racing engine of them all, the Ford-Cosworth DFV. This beautifully conceived and constructed unit set a new benchmark for performance. But crucially, its' universal availability allowed new teams such as McLaren and Tyrrell to be able to compete on equal terms with the established giants of the day.
Following the enforced retirement of Stirling Moss through injury, Jim Clark emerged as the decade's greatest talent, but many other outstanding drivers such as Graham Hill, Jack Brabham, and John Surtees all contributed greatly to a golden era. After Clark's tragic death at Hockenheim in 1968, Jackie Stewart became the man to beat.
The dominance of the Cosworth engine stretched across the whole of the seventies (and beyond), with the notable exception of Ferrari, who managed to take the constructors' championship on three occasions. With the proven DFV power plant ultra-competitive, a whole rash of new teams emerged. March, Wolf, Shadow, Surtees, Hesketh, Penske and Copersucar were amongst many who had their moments, but it was Williams who became the front-line team that were to make an indelible mark on the sport.
Technically, much of the decade was saw speed gained from the progress of tyre technology including the introduction of slick or treadless rubber rather than aerodynamic advances, but the outstanding Lotus 79 'wing car' of 1978 influenced a whole new breed of Formula 1 machine. Renault also brought radical engine change with the introduction of their turbocharged challenger, and both of these advancements were to influence racing massively in the early eighties.
Stewart, Fittipaldi and Lauda were two-time champions, but such was the competition none could retain his crown after his championship season.
The Eighties saw the spectacle of the turbo era with massively powered cars and ever-escalating speeds. All of this was initially overshadowed by a power battle between FISA (The governing body) and FOCA (The constructors), led by Bernie Ecclestone. After two seasons of acrimony, stability returned. The introduction of pit stops changed the pattern of racing into shorter sprints, but a refuelling ban in 1984 brought about a more strategic approach as driver's sought to preserve their fuel loads.
The turbo revolution finally brought to an end the participation of Cosworth DFV and Honda began their era of engine dominance in partnership with Williams and McLaren.
Alain Prost took three championship titles, (it could easily have been five), although the brilliant Frenchman's status at the top of the tree was soon challenged by the precocious talents of Ayrton Senna.
With speeds and costs spiralling, turbocharged engines were banned and replaced by 3.5-litre normally aspirated units in 1989.
Initially, the decade began with a plethora of teams who attempted to establish themselves in Formula 1. Inevitably, the majority of them fell by the wayside, with only Jordan and Sauber surviving in the long-term as major car manufacturers began to buy into the sport.
The death of Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994 brought immediate changes with the issue of safety an overriding factor. For 1996 engine capacity was reduced to 3 litres and major revisions were made to the cars particularly in respect of driver protection took place.
With the loss of the Brazilian, Michael Schumacher became the man to beat, but the German driver's switch to the struggling Ferrari team, temporarily at least, kept him out of the title hunt.
Renault was the nineties' pre-eminent engine manufacturer, but after their withdrawal, the Mercedes-Benz and McLaren partnership took over at the top.
Ferrari dominated the first half of the decade. Michael Schumacher scored five consecutive championships and the opposition was unable to break the Italian team's vice-like grip on proceedings until the arrival of Fernando Alonso and Renault who managed back-to-back titles, halting the red tide of Maranello.
The massive costs of competing in Formula began to bite hard, and at one point, grids shrank to just twenty cars, with the less well-funded teams struggling to survive without the assistance of an engine manufacturer. Unhappy with the distribution of the sport's finances, the major manufacturers seriously considered the possibility of running their own Championship from 2008, but in the event, an equitable settlement was reached, giving the competitors a better return on their massive investments.
The decade begins with the 2010 season, the 61st Formula One season.
The reigning Driver's Champion, Jenson Button, has joined McLaren, and the reigning Constructor's Champions, Brawn GP, have been bought by Mercedes-Benz and renamed Mercedes GP Petronas. The season will see the return of the most successful driver in the sport with Michael Schumacher coming out of retirement after a three year absence.
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