The modern era of Formula One Grand Prix racing began in 1950. Formula One, also known as Grand Prix racing, is the highest class of auto racing defined by the Federation International Automobile (FIA), motor sport's world governing body.

The "formula" in the name is a set of rules which all participants and cars must meet. It is a set of technical regulations for single seater racing cars which is published annually by the FIA. The regulations specify maximum and minimum dimensions, engine capacity, what is permitted technically and what is not permitted and, perhaps most important of all, a large number of safety measures to be incorporated in the car with a view to protecting the driver. A car built to these regulations is a Formula One car.

Automatic gearboxes are prohibited by the technical regulations. However, all the cars are equipped with semi-automatic gearboxes: to change gear, the driver no longer has to modulate the clutch or throttle pedals at the same time as the gear lever.

The F1 world championship season consists of a series of races, known as Grands Prix, held usually on purpose-built circuits, and in a few cases on closed city streets.

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