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Grand Prix

The first Grand Prix was held over two days in June 1906 on the roads near Le Mans. The event had the desired effect of allowing French motor manufacturers more entries, and the Hungarian Ferenc Szisz gave Renault the honour of winning the first-ever such race, despite a strong challenge from Felice Nazzaro's Fiat.

Although an American event was organised in 1908, it was not until after World War I that other European nations followed suit. The format became established during the 1920s as circuits in Italy, Belgium, Spain, Britain, and Germany (albeit for sports cars) all staged GPs. The first GP World Championship for constructors' was held for three seasons from 1925.

The Economic Depression saw fields dwindle and works teams withdraw before new rules introduced in 1934 heralded an era dominated by the state-backed German teams, whose government hoped to reap political capital from sporting success. These years did, however, provide some of the best racing ever seen between legendary drivers such as Rudolf Caracciola, Bernd Rosemeyer, and Tazio Nuvolari. A European Championship for drivers' was also inaugurated in 1935 as a forerunner to today's World Championship.

Rather than face inevitable defeat in Grand Prix racing, Alfa Romeo turned its attention to Voiturette racing – the equivalent of the later F2, F3000 and GP2 categories. The supercharged 158 “Alfetta” began to win in that secondary formula in 1938, and after peace was restored to Europe, it was eligible for the new elite category, now named Formula 1 for the first time.