What are some of the major rule changes that have been made to Formula One over the years? Although safety was not a priority at early Grand Prix Championships in the 1950s, circuit deaths and concerns over driver and public safety led to increasing rules and regulations over what cars could include, as well as the lay out of tracks, and the protective features available to drivers. It’s worth looking at how these rules have changed in some more detail.

The first years of Formula One in the 1950s saw safety being considered as more of an after thought than a key part of rules and regulations. Car sizes and engines received loose rules over size, with compressor-enhanced engines typically having a 1500 cc maximum. However, circuits did not have strict rules for racing, and often had very little padding or features to prevent accidents. Moreover, while crash helmets were made compulsory in 1952, they were basic at best. A move in the late 1950s to include commercial petrol only was also motivated more by standardization than safety.

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More rules and regulations were introduced, though, in the 1960s, as concerns over driver safety grew alongside the increasing popularity of the sport. Some notable rule changes included the reduced use of compressors, a focus on pump fuel, and the introduction of roll bars, improved seat-belts, and fire resistant driving suits. Greater investments were also made in creating rules for flag signalling on circuits, as well as in the the enforcement of rules limiting aerodynamic features that could overturn a car.

Continued accidents into the 1970s, however, put more pressure on the FIA, Formula One’s governing body, to tighten up on driver and circuit rules. The result: shorter circuits and major renovations to older tracks, as well as the creation of new circuits like the Hockenheimring. Concerns were also raised over the impact of ground effect cars in the late 1970s, as well as for rules over medical air being made available as soon as possible after an accident.

Major rule changes during the 1980s included the introduction of turbocharging, and its subsequent banning by 1989 as accidents and safety levels fell. Other rule developments included the use of highly resistant carbon fibre technology for cars, as well as the banning of diesel engines and ground effect cars. Rules were similarly introduced to allow for routine medical inspections and the availability of helicopters to air lift injured drivers from circuits.

The death of Ayrton Senna in 1994 cast a further cloud over the effectiveness of Formula One’s rules and regulations; experiments with electronic steering and braking technology were made and then later clamped down on, while efforts were made to reduce rear tyre widths, and to impose speed limits on pit stops. More cockpit protection, and narrower tracks were also developed as a way to increase driver and public safety.

More recently, the FIA have passed rules on reintroducing controlled versions of electronic steering, while also banning tactical team orders, and ruling out tuned mass damper systems. Attempts to curb spending and debt for Formula One teams have also aimed to better regulate a lucrative but often unstable industry, with Grand Prix F1 Merchandise and the intellectual rights to the sport being hotly contested. Small annual changes to regulations in Formula One have recently been combined with more significant ones, including the decision to introduce 1.6 litre turbocharged V6 engines from 2014, replacing 2.4 litre V8 versions. This move is intended to make Formula One cars safer and more eco friendly.

Author Bio: Jane is a Formula One fan who has been a regular face in the crowd at the British Grand Prix for 20 years. She’s also a collector of Grand Prix F1 merchandise, and recommends finding an official dealer to avoid scams.