A1 Grand Prix (often abbreviated A1GP) is an open-wheel auto racing series. It is unique in its field in that competitors represent their nation as opposed to a constructor, which is traditional in most formula racing series including Formula One. As such, it is often promoted as the World Cup of Motorsport. The series is ratified and regulated by the FIA, and races (collectively known as A1 Grands Prix of Nations) are held in the traditional Formula One off season, the northern hemisphere winter.
The nation-based A1 Grand Prix concept was forwarded by Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum of Dubai, initially in 2004. Once the series had received the backing of the FIA in 2005, a management structure including new executive directors Brian Menell and Tony Teixeira was appointed to oversee the sale of franchises for the operation of international teams. Thirty franchises were made available; twenty-three of them were restricted to specified nations, while the other seven were opened to tender for nations that had not been initially targeted.
In total, twenty-five of the franchises were purchased in time for the 2005-06 A1 Grand Prix season, which began on September 25, 2005 with the A1 Grand Prix of Nations Great Britain at the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent, United Kingdom. The first season was planned for 12 rounds (24 races, with two each weekend); however the cancellation of a race scheduled for Curitiba, Brazil in January 2006 reduced this number to 11. Nelson Angelo Piquet won the inaugural race of the series for A1 Team Brazil. However, their winning form was not to continue. Wins at Estoril saw A1 Team France build up a sizeable gap. By the start of the winter break, France had run away with the lead with A1 Team Switzerland 28 points behind. At the final race of the season in Shanghai, A1 Team France were crowned the first-ever A1 Grand Prix world champions with 172 points. Switzerland were second coming in 121 points and A1 Team Great Britain third with 97 points.
A number of changes were made for the 2006-07 season to race durations and distances to improve the spectacle for attendees and TV viewers. The 2006-07 schedule was released on July 7, 2006, with the first race at Circuit Park Zandvoort on 1 October 2006, and the last race at Brands Hatch on 29 April 2007>. New teams A1 Team Singapore and A1 Team Greece have joined the competition but A1 Team Turkey failed to secure funding for this season. A1 Team Austria, A1 Team Japan, A1 Team Portugal and A1 Team Russia did not return for the second season.
On 29 September, Sheikh Maktoum announced he was resigning his position as chairman and chief executive of the series, seeking to have his place taken by increased shareholder interests.
“I am happy that I have built the series with fans in mind. I feel like I have fulfilled my promise to them by bringing A1GP from concept to reality and am confident that the World Cup of Motorsport will go from strength to strength. Having devoted all my efforts to making A1GP the success it is today, this transaction will allow me to devote more time to my Dubai International Holding Company which currently manages a substantial portfolio of assets and new ventures and which continues to actively pursue other significant investment opportunities.”
Maktoum has now confirmed his resignation from A1GP.A1 Grands Prix of Nations take place over a three-day period, from Friday to Sunday. The teams are given five sets of dry weather slick tires, and two sets of wet weather treaded tires per weekend. However, if the weather is extreme, the team can be given more wet weather tires at the expense of the slick tires. The race weekend starts with two one-hour practice sessions held on the Friday, and then another on the Saturday morning. A two-hour qualifying session takes place on Saturday afternoon, and two races take place on Sunday. Primarily, the three practice sessions are for car setup and track familiarisation before the official competition begins with Saturday qualifying. Three different drivers may participate in the three practice sessions; the driver elected for qualifying or for one of the races must have taken part in at least one such practice session.