Showing posts with label 1970s British F1 Cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1970s British F1 Cars. Show all posts

Tyrell P34

Tyrell P34 1970s British classic F1 car

To have described the Tyrell P34 as radical would have been understatement. After all, six-wheeled cars are not exactly two a penny - on road or track! Over time, other F1 constructors would also try six-wheelers on for size, however - 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 wheels and tyres on Formula 1 cars do tend to be rather large, do not forget! The result was more than merely improved aerodynamics - deeply desirable though that was. Grip, too, was substantially upped - especially on turn-in to corners. Having four front wheels took the P34's traction to a new level. Aesthetically, it may have been open to doubt. Functionally, though, there was no doubt at all.

The 'P' in P34 stood for Project. To begin with, it was to be no more than a prototype. Boss Ken Tyrell was dubious that the car would make it from test-bed to race-track. But when the 'project car' was put through its paces, it was found to be formidably quick. Quick enough, in fact, to give the then current car - the Tyrell 007 - a run for its money. Ken Tyrell's reservations rapidly vanished. A no holds barred racer was duly green-lighted.

The P34 took to the grid in '76. By season's end, the car had fully justified the faith placed in it. In the constructors' championship, Tyrell was bested by only Ferrari and McLaren. In the drivers' title chase, Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler placed third and fourth respectively. Scheckter took pole, then won in Sweden - with Depailler not far behind. There would be several more second-place finishes. Two fastest laps had been bagged - Scheckter's in Germany, Depailler's in Canada. So, things looked good for '77. Ronnie Peterson replaced Scheckter. Sadly, though, P34 momentum was not maintained. Tyrell lagged behind in development terms. Tyre supplier Goodyear had issues of its own. It was facing stiff competition from Michelin. The P34's one-off tyre requirements were becoming a drain on Goodyear resources. It soon became clear that the end was nigh for the P34. Both March and Williams subsequently toyed with six-wheelers. They were both stymied by transmission issues. In due course, six-wheeled systems would be banned. During its brief time in the sun, however, the Tyrell P34 was on the front foot in pushing F1's technical envelope!

Williams FW07

Williams FW07 1970s F1 car

The FW07 moved Williams into F1's major league. Its precursor - the FW06 - had already nudged the team firmly in that direction. Patrick Head was chief designer. Key to the FW06's success was 'ground effect'. Lotus first introduced this piece of GP game-changing wizardry. Aerodynamic skirts 'sucked' the Lotus 78 to the tarmac. That groundforce helped the car corner. So much so, that it had rendered the Lotus nigh on unbeatable. But, the 78 had a chink in its armour. The car's structural strength - or lack of it - limited the amount of downforce that could be used. Fast-forward to Williams again - and the FW07 featured a robust monocoque chassis. In layman's terms, it could take as much 'vacuum-suck' as the venturi could chuck at it!

The '79 season was well underway by the time the FW07 was launched. It did not take it long to get up to speed, however. Come the mid-point of the campaign - and the FW07 was flying! Clay Regazzoni took its first win. Fittingly, for Williams, it was at Silverstone, England. By season's end, Alan Jones had added a further four wins to the tally. Next time around - in 1980 - and the FW07 was there at the start. Jones went on to win Williams' first World Championship. In doing so, he pipped Nelson Piquet to the post - in his Brabham BT49.

In '81, it was more of the same. Carlos Reutemann topped the podium for most of the season. '82, though, saw the curtain come down on the FW07. The car's final Act was staged at Long Beach, California. Keke Rosberg finished second - giving Williams another world title. Ground effect - in the form of the FW07 - had generated more than just downforce. It had provided Williams with their first - but not last - taste of F1 dominance!

Lotus 72

Lotus 72 1970s F1 car

The Lotus 72 had a legendary engine. Lotus had led the way with the Cosworth DFV. Its winning streak started in '67 - when it was fitted in the Lotus 49. Graham Hill and Jim Clark were the first drivers to reap the rewards. The 'Double Four Valve' V8 would go on to become the gold standard Formula One engine. Unfortunately for Lotus, their rivals were quick to seize upon the source of their success. Not exactly unknown in F1! By the end of the '60s, it seemed like every car in the paddock had a DFV engine. That was great for the sport - since it fostered close, competitive racing. But it was not entirely to Lotus' liking. They had acquired a taste for leading GPs. The ubiquity of the DFV was eroding that lead.

Cometh the hour, cometh the F1 car! Hitting the grid with the 1970 season already underway, there was much that was new about the Lotus 72. Most obviously, cigar-shaped bodywork - previously de rigueur - had morphed into a wedge. Inboard suspension and brakes made the 72 more aerodynamic than its predecessors. They also served to reduce unsprung weight. Suspension was via torsion-bar. Oil and water radiators were laterally placed - centralising weight distribution. The result of all this innovation was higher grip levels. F1 handling had come on leaps and bounds.

Lotus had their lead back! Driver Jochen Rindt duly won four races on the spin. He then crashed in qualifying for the Italian GP, at Monza. He was fatally injured. Remarkably, Rindt still went on to win the 1970 World Championship. That is how dominant he had been, up to that point! Team-mate Emerson Fittipaldi likewise took a drivers' title - in '72. Indeed, he was the youngest driver to do so, at the time. He was just 25 years of age. In '73, Ronnie Peterson - also in a 72 - amassed a record nine pole positions in a season. From 1970 to '75, then, Lotus ruled the F1 roost. Their early adoption of the Cosworth DFV had paid huge dividends. The Lotus 72 was the chief beneficiary!