Formula racing is a term that refers to various forms of open wheeled single seater motorsport. Its origin lies in the nomenclature that was adopted by the FIA for all of its post-World War II single seater regulations, or formulae. The best known of these formulæ are Formula One, Formula Two, and Formula Three. Common usage of "formula racing" encompasses other single seater series, including the GP2 Series, which replaced Formula 3000 (which had itself been the effective replacement for Formula Two).
Categories such as Formula Three and GP2 are described as feeder formulæ, which refers to their position below Formula One on the career ladder of single seater motor racing. There are two primary forms of racing formula: the open formula that allows a choice of chassis and/or engines; and the control or "spec" formula that relies on a single supplier for chassis and engines. Formula Three is an example of an open formula, while Formula BMW is a control formula. There are also some exceptions on these two forms like Formula Ford where there is an open chassis formula but a restricted single brand engine formula.
The first racing formulæ
In the process of reviving Grand Prix racing after the end of World War II, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile's Commission Sportive Internationale was responsible for defining the standardised regulations of Formula One in 1946. The first race to be run to the early Formula One regulations was a non-championship Grand prix at Turin in September 1946. The first officially recognised Drivers' World Championship was held in 1947 and the Formula One World Championship was inaugurated in 1950. This was the first example of formula racing.
Formula Two and Three
The Formula Two regulations were first defined in 1947 as a form of B-class below Formula One.<ref>Formula Two From formula2.net. Retrieved on August 28, 2007.</ref> It was not unusual for some Formula One events to include a number of F2 entries in the same field and the entries in the World Championship seasons of 1952–53 comprised exclusively F2 cars for reasons of cost. F2 had a patchy history until the inauguration of the European Formula Two Championship in 1967. F2 was an open formula that allowed the use of any chassis that met the prescribed regulations; it was well supported during the 1970s, with chassis from Tecno, March Engineering, Toleman, Ralt, Matra and others. The European championship ran continually until the creation of its successor, Formula 3000, in 1985.<ref>F2 From oldracingcars.com. Retrieved on August 28, 2007.</ref>. In 2008 it was announced by the FIA that Formula Two would return in 2009 in the form of the FIA Formula Two Championship.
Formula Three has a longer history, with at least ten active championships around the world. It was created by the FIA in 1950 as the low cost entry point to single seater formula racing. In 1959, it was replaced by a technically similar formula called Formula Junior, before Formula Three was reintroduced in 1964.<ref>British F3 Champions From motorsportsetc.com. Retrieved on August 28, 2007.</ref> Like the other FIA-derived formulæ, F3 is an open class that permits a choice of chassis and engines. Notable championships include the Formula Three Euroseries, the British Formula Three Championship, and the Formel 3 Cup.
The FIA-sanctioned category directly below Formula One has been subject to two significant evolutions in its history. The first occurred in 1985 when the FIA Formula 3000 International Championship was launched as a modern successor to Formula Two. Formula 3000 retained the open chassis approach, but used a single engine supply of 3.0 litre V8s from Cosworth. The formula later adopted a single chassis supply from Lola with engines that were built by Judd and supplied by Zytek. The second major evolution came in 2005 when Formula 3000 was replaced by the GP2 Series. This uses a single chassis from Dallara and a Renault-badged 4.0 litre V8.
The Ford Motor Company was the first car manufacturer to become involved in the creation of an eponymous single seater formula when Formula Ford was developed in the United Kingdom in 1966–67. The cars made their race debut in July 1967.<ref>FFord History From bmrc.co.uk. Retrieved on August 28, 2007.</ref> Formula Ford is and always has been an open formula with for chassis suppliers. Current suppliers include Van Diemen, Mygale, and Ray.<ref>British FFord Constructors' Standings From britishformulaford.co.uk. Retrieved on August 28, 2007.</ref> Various specifications and capacities of 4-cylinder Ford road car engines have been used; the current cars are equipped with a 1.6 litre "Duratec" engine in Europe or the 1.6L "Kent" engine in the U.S.
Renault quickly followed Ford's lead by devising the national Formula Renault championships in France in 1971.<ref>History of Formula Renault From renault-sport.com. Retrieved on August 28, 2007.</ref> Since then, Formula Renault has expanded to include championships in the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Brazil and many other countries. There is also a European championship. Renault's increased involvement in motor racing resulted in the creation of a second European series for larger V6-powered cars. The Formula Renault V6 Eurocup ran for two seasons before folding in a reorganisation of Renault's motor racing activities. The company took control of the Spanish-based World Series by Nissan and developed it into the World Series by Renault.
BMW developed Formula BMW in Germany in 2001–2002, after supplying engines for its predecessor, the Formula ADAC championship.<ref>Formula BMW History From formulabmwusa.com. Retrieved on August 28, 2007.</ref> Formula BMW now comprises four championships in Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and East Asia, as well as an annual World Final at which the best drivers from each championship are invited to compete.
Formula-style single seater racing can be found around the world in countries that have not adopted the career ladder of the common European formulae. Japan's highest level single seater championship is Formula Nippon, which is equivalent to GP2 and its predecessors. It began in 1973, using Formula Two regulations, and then adopted Formula 3000 regulations from 1987 to 1996. Since then, it has used chassis and engines that are built to its own proprietary ruleset. It now uses a single chassis from Lola and two engine options from Honda and Toyota.<ref>2007 Formula Nippon Entry List From speedsportmag.com. Retrieved on August 28, 2007.</ref>
The United States, too, has unique feeder formulae of its own. Since 1974, the most common route to top-level single seaters was Formula Atlantic, which is now known as the Atlantic Championship. It was later joined by the Firestone Indy Lights Series, first ran by CART and later revived by the Indy Racing League (IRL). Atlantic joined its rival in support of the IndyCar Series after the latter's merger with Champ Car in 2008. Below this level sits the Star Mazda Championship, which is approximately equivalent to Formula Three.
East Asia's racing culture is relatively young, but it already has its own Formula BMW championship and a Formula Three series. The cars that were built for the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup are now used in Formula V6 Asia and the GP2 Asia Series takes place since 2008.