To describe the Tyrell P34 as 'radical' would be understatement. After all, six-wheeled cars are not exactly two a penny! A few other F1 constructors did, however, follow suit - so Tyrell cannot have been that far out on a limb. Derek Gardner designed the car. His primary aim was to reduce frontal area. Four 10″ front wheels helped do just that. The result was more than merely improved aerodynamics - deeply desirable though that was. Grip, too, was substantially upped ... especially on corner turn-in. The four front wheels took traction to another level. In terms of physical form, the P34 may have been questionable. In terms of function, though, it fared much better.
The 'P' in P34 stood for Project. It was - to begin with, at least - a development car. Team boss Ken Tyrell had doubts that it would make it from test-bed to race-track. But when the prototype was put through its paces, it was formidably quick. Quick enough, in fact, to give the current car - the Tyrell 007 - a run for its money. Ken Tyrell's doubts disappeared. A full-on racer was duly green-lighted.
The P34 took to the F1 grid in '76. By season's end, the car had fully justified Ken Tyrell's faith in it. In the constructors' championship, only Ferrari and McLaren bested it. When it came to the drivers' title, Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler placed third and fourth respectively. Scheckter took pole, then won in Sweden - with Depailler not far behind. Indeed, there would be several second-place finishes. Two fastest laps had been bagged - Scheckter's in Germany, Depailler's in Canada. Things were looking good for '77. Ronnie Peterson replaced Scheckter. Sadly, though, P34 momentum was not maintained. Tyrell lagged behind in development. And tyre supplier Goodyear had issues. It was facing competition from Michelin - who were hot on their technical heels. The P34's one-off tyre requirements were a drain on Goodyear resources. It became clear that the end was nigh for the P34. Subsequently, both March and Williams toyed with six-wheelers. Transmission issues, though, stymied them. In due course, six-wheeled set-ups were banned. During its brief time in the F1 sun, however, the Tyrell P34 pushed the envelope in the most entertaining of ways.