Single-seater racing is one of the most popular forms of motorsport, with cars designed specifically for high-speed racing. The wheels are not covered, and the cars often have aerofoil wings front and rear to produce downforce and enhance adhesion to the track. In Europe and Asia, open wheeled racing is commonly referred to as "Formula", with appropriate hierarchical suffixes. In North America, the "Formula" terminology is not followed with the exception of F1. The sport is usually arranged to follow an "international" format such as F1, a "regional" format such as the Formula 3 Euro Series or county-specific format such as the German Formula 3 championship
The best-known variety of single-seater racing, Formula One, involves an annual World Championship for drivers and constructors of around 18 races a year featuring major international car and engine manufacturers, and independent constructors, such as Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, BMW Sauber, Toyota, Honda, Renault, Red Bull Racing - in an ongoing battle of technology and driver skill and talent. The sport is one of the top five watched sporting events in the world, alongside the FIFA World Cup, the Olympic Games, the Super Bowl and the UEFA European Football Championship. Formula One is, by any measure, the most expensive sport in the world, with some teams spending in excess of $400 million per year. Formula One is widely considered to be the pinnacle of motorsports, with the F1 Drivers' Championship being one of, and the oldest among, only three World Championships awarded each year by the FIA (the others being the World Touring Car Championship and the World Rally Championship). What separates Formula 1 from all other forms of open wheel racing, is the basic premise of F1 revolves around the very important issue that each team is a "constructor". That is, the chassis of the car must be designed and manufactured in-house, and chassis can not be supplied to competitors on a "customer" basis. Engines are usually funded and/or developed by established major motor manufacturers, and can be supplied exclusively to just one team, or may be offered as "customer" engines, often to the smaller, lower-ranked teams.
In North America, the cars used in the National Championship currently the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series, and previously CART have traditionally been similar though less sophisticated than F1 cars, with more restrictions on technology aimed controlling costs.
Other international single-seater racing series are the A1 Grand Prix unofficially often referred to as the world cup of motor sport, and the GP2 formerly known as Formula 3000 and Formula Two. Regional series include Formula Nippon and Formula V6 Asia , Formula Renault 3.5 also known as the World Series by Renault, succession series of World Series by Nissan, Formula Three, Formula Palmer Audi and Formula Atlantic. Domestic, or country-specific series include Formula Three, Formula Renault, Formula Ford with the leading introductory series being Formula BMW.
There are other categories of single-seater racing, including kart racing, which employs a small, low-cost machine on small tracks. Many of the current top drivers began their careers in karts. Formula Ford once represented a popular first open-wheel category for up-and-coming drivers stepping up from karts and now the Formula BMW series is the preferred option as it has introduced an areo package and slicks, allowing the junior drivers to gain experience in a race car with dynamics closer F1. The Star Mazda Series is another entry level series.
Students at colleges and universities can also take part in single seater racing through the SAE Formula Student competition, which involves designing and building a single seater car in a multidisciplinary team, and racing it at the competition. This also develops other soft skills such as teamwork whilst promoting motorsport and engineering.
In 2006, producer Todd Baker was responsible for creating the world's first all-female Formula racing team. The group was an assemblage of drivers from different racing disciplines, and formed for an MTV reality pilot which was shot at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
In December, 2005 the FIA gave approval to Superleague Formula racing, set to debut in 2008. This will be open-wheel, single-seat stock car racing around Grand Prix racetracks. The teams will be owned and run by prominent sports clubs such as AC Milan and FC Porto. The race weekend will follow the GP2 format of Saturday qualifying and two Sunday races, one featuring a reverse grid.