When was Formula 1 at its most competitive? It's a simple enough question, but one that does not lend itself to easy answers.
There are many ways to approach answering this, but the most logical method to use is qualifying. Not only does qualifying reflect the raw performance of a grand prix car, but it is also less prone (although not free of) the myriad factors that distort the data produced by looking only at race results.
Excluding the anomalous Indianapolis 500s of 1950-60, a total of 877 world championship races have been held. When referring to 'F1' in the following analysis, that can be taken to mean all of those points-paying races, including those held in 1952-53, when the world championship was run to Formula 2 regulations.