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

Lotus 25

Lotus 25 1960s British F1 car

The Lotus 25 was all about innovation. It was designed by Colin Chapman - charismatic top man at Lotus. In a quest to lower the nose of the car - in the interests of aerodynamics - Chapman envisioned a one-piece chassis. The previous car - the Lotus 24 - had been built around space-frame steel tubing. That was the standard, in '61. The '25', though, allowed its aluminium shell to act as the frame. Not only was the 'monocoque' lower and narrower - it was stronger and lighter, too. Frame flex was substantially reduced. That also let the suspension function to better effect.

Chapman boxed clever! The '62 season started with the old Lotus 24 on the grid - complete with its space-frame chassis. Early, non-championship races were a perfect opportunity to pull the wool over rival teams' eyes. Come the Dutch GP, though - and the Lotus 25 was revealed! With master craftsman Jim Clark at the wheel, the new Lotus quickly established itself as the class of the field. It would have won the World Championship at the first time of asking - were it not for last-round reliability issues. The following season, though, saw no such slip-up. A record-breaking seven-win haul saw Lotus take its first world crown. They would repeat the feat, in '65 - with the wider-wheeled '33'. That was a great year for the Norfolk-based team ... Lotus also won the Indy 500!

The synergy, then, between the 25 and Clark was an automotive marriage from heaven. They lit up the F1 1.5-litre era. Colin Chapman - the arch-innovator - had done it again. Chassis and frame technology had morphed into the modern era. GP cornering would never be the same again!

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!

BRM H16

BRM H16 1960s classic F1 car

The BRM H16 was far from F1's most successful machine. But, it was one of the most unusual. And while points are not awarded to the most interesting cars, without them motorsport would be the poorer. For example, how about producing a V16 - conforming to F1's new 3.0-litre size limit - by linking two 1.5-litre V8s? That is precisely what Tony Rudd - BRM's engine designer - opted to do. Not the first idea that might pop into an F1 fan's head, perhaps - but, it was a logical step. After all, BRM - British Racing Motors - already had said V8s at its disposal. All Rudd had to do was shorten them a tad, place one on top of the other - and marry them up. Unfortunately, Rudd was not in a position to rid the engine of its excess weight.

Rudd was inspired to build the V16 by Napier Dagger's H24 aero engine. Rudd reckoned it was good for 600bhp, fully developed. Later, he would say he wished he had gone down the 12-cylinder route instead. But at the time, 16 cylinders seemed like the way to go. Gremlins got in from the get-go. Vibrations would be ironed out in one part of the engine ... only to re-appear in another! The upshot was that the H16 car did not make it onto the grid until the end of the '66 season. Reliability was duly improved For '67. Unfortunately for BRM, it came at the expense of power.

The H16's P83 chassis did not help. Like the engine it supported, it was heavy. A lighter 115 chassis replaced it - but that, too, was substantially heavier than its rivals. Jackie Stewart was a BRM driver, at the time. He did not exactly gush with praise for the H16. Its performance limits were too easy to find, he said. That made it hard for a driver to shine - even one of his calibre. At least the more challenging tracks - like Spa Francorchamps and the Nürburgring - levelled the F1 playing-field somewhat. The H16 motor did win a GP, though. However, it needed Lotus' help to do it. In '66 - while awaiting delivery of the Ford DFV motor - Colin Chapman hired the H16 engine to power the Lotus Type 43. Ironic, really, given Chapman's obsession with weight-saving. Heavy as the H16 was, Jim Clark eased the Type 43 to victory - at Watkins Glen, USA. And in '67 - for all his dislike of the H16 car - Jackie Stewart placed it second at Spa. And that was pretty much it, in terms of results. A real racing oddity, the BRM H16 made for great spectating. Driving it, on the other hand - as Stewart pointed out - was not always quite so much fun!

Lotus 79

Lotus 79 1970s classic F1 car

The Lotus 79 was yet another product of Colin Chapman's fertile mind. This time, the legendary Lotus boss trained his sights on 'ground-effect' - the process of aerodynamically 'pressing' the car to the race-track. In theory, it is said, an F1 car could be driven upside-down - so strong is the 'downforce' it generates. It was that kind of handling, then, that Chapman sought to incorporate into the new Lotus.

Lotus had started their ground-effect quest with the 78 - or, 'wing car'. Each side-pod housed an inverted aerofoil. 'Skirts' below the side-pods ducted air through a venturi. That created a vacuum - by slowing down, and then speeding up air through a bottle-neck. The skirt sealed in the air - which the aerofoil then used to 'suction-clamp' the car to the tarmac. The upshot was that the Lotus 78 had been the fastest car on F1's grid. The 78's speed advantage, however, had been offset by reliability issues. The 79 would sort them - or so Lotus hoped. The best parts of the 78 car were retained. Lotus then added a couple of updates. By placing the fuel tank behind the driver, the chassis could be narrowed. That helped the venturi do its thing - which was increasing the downforce. The side-pod skirts, too, had been upgraded. They now moved up and down, as required - providing a surer seal.

The net result of these changes was precisely as Lotus had planned. The 79 car was streets ahead, in the '78 season. Mario Andretti drove the car to five F1 wins - enough to take the World Championship. Team-mate Ronnie Peterson also won - and was runner-up in the final standings. And Lotus-Ford took the Constructors' Championship, at a canter. Chapman - and the Norfolk-based team - were ecstatic. But - as is so often the case in F1 - it was not to last. From the start of the '79 season, it was clear Lotus' competition had come prepared. Almost to a team, they were armed with their own takes on the ground-effect phenomenon. Indeed, some of the engineers had twigged that yet more downforce could be served up - so long as parts of the car were strengthened to cope. Lotus was duly outstripped by its beefed-up rivals. But, that would never obscure the fact that - during its brief season in the F1 sun - the Lotus 79 had put the opposition well and truly in the shade!

Lotus 56B

Lotus 56B 1970s British F1 car

The 56B was another example of Lotus pushing motor racing's technical envelope. Saying that, boss Colin Chapman knew no other way. Powered by a turbine engine, it was a new first for F1. Said motor was supplied by Pratt and Whitney. The car had its genesis in Indianapolis, America. Lotus had entered the STP-Paxton turbo car in the '67 Indy 500. It performed well. Driver Parnelli Jones would have won the iconic race - had he not broken down, just yards from the flag. Nothing daunted, Chapman returned to Indy in '68. With backing from STP's Andy Granatelli, Chapman hired Maurice Phillipe to design the Lotus 56. Sadly, Chapman was to experience an unpleasant case of déja vu. Pilot Joe Leonard again broke down, with victory as good as in the bag.

Shortly after Lotus' streak of bad luck, American motorsport banned turbine-powered cars. Chapman decided it was time for F1. Sticking with the turbine power the 56 had pioneered, the 56B was readied for the '71 season. Lotus had intended to unveil the new car the previous year. Tragically, the death of driver Jochen Rindt - at Monza - upset the 56B's development schedule. In due course, however, it rolled onto the grid at Brands Hatch - for the Race of Champions. Emerson Fittipaldi was at the wheel. It did not go well. The 56B bottomed out so much, the suspension snapped. Subsequently, it crashed out at Oulton Park. Next stop Silverstone - and the International Trophy. The 56B started on the front row. In the first heat, the suspension again gave up the ghost. Second time out, though, Fittipaldi finished third. Things were finally looking up, it seemed!

Thankfully, these early outings were non-World Championship events. F1 'friendlies', so to speak. The 56B's first race that mattered was the '71 Dutch GP. Driver Dave Walker started from the back of the grid - on a wet track. By the fifth lap he was up to tenth - notwithstanding turbine throttle lag. Sadly, it was not to last. Walker slid off the track - at the Tarzan hairpin. Next, to Monza - a year on from Rindt's fatal accident. The 56B placed eighth. At Hockenheim - albeit in another non-championship race - Fittipaldi finished second. And that was pretty much it for the Lotus 56B. In truth, its points tally was unremarkable. What fascinates aficionados, though, is that it was the first of F1's fabled 'turbo cars'!

Cooper T51

Cooper T51 1950s F1 car

The Cooper T51 is one of the most radical racing cars ever built. John Cooper - and his small-scale team - took the prevailing motorsport wisdom of the time, and turned it on its head. In '59, it was a given that a racing car's engine sat at the front. The Cooper équipe set about querying that status quo. In so doing, they would revolutionise race car design. The T51 would be rear-engined - with all of the technical turnarounds that entailed. They were well worth the effort, though. At the wheel of a T51, Jack Brabham took the '59 F1 drivers' title.

It was the Cooper-Climax, though, that first sowed the rear-engined seeds. Last time around - in '58 - it had won two GPs. Admittedly, they were towards the start of the season. Notwithstanding those wins, the Cooper-Climax was taken less than seriously. A case of beginner's luck, as it were. Its early success was attributed to its squat dimensions - rather than engine location. So, it was only quick at 'twisty' circuits, it was said. And, it was true that the Cooper was down on power, compared to its competitors. But, there was good reason for that - which the Cooper-Climax's detractors neglected to take into account. Its motor was from F2 - albeit, enlarged to 2.2 litres. The front-engined brigade had 2.5-litre powerplants, at their disposal. In F1, of course, small fractions can make a big difference!

At any rate, the T51 was fitted with the full 2.5-litre unit. Cooper's engine supplier - Coventry Climax - had increased its stroke, to make up the difference. The new Cooper kicked out 230bhp. That was still less than its rivals. Its compactness-based handling advantage, however, was enough to see them off. The rear-engined set-up had knock-on positives. With no prop-shaft now needed, the driver could sit lower - with all the streamlining pluses that brought. Weight-saving, too, was a beneficiary. It was more than just junking the prop-shaft. With engine and final drive directly linked, the transmission could be less robust. That meant less weight. Overall, the T51's mass was more centrally-aligned. That made it even more manoeuvrable than it already was. In turn, tyre wear, too, improved. And, that was just the car. When it came to the T51's driving roster - it was impressive, to say the least. As well as 'Black Jack' Brabham, Stirling Moss and Bruce McLaren were on hand. Both the Monaco and British GPs fell to the Cooper, that year. Indeed, it was en route to winning the World Championship - at the first time of asking. That spoke volumes, regarding the impact the T51 made. In effect, John Cooper's team - and its 'front-to-back' engine ideas - re-wrote the F1 tech spec. And, in ways which would never be reversed!

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!

McLaren-Honda MP4/4

McLaren-Honda MP4/4 1980s F1 car

The McLaren-Honda MP4/4 is, arguably, the most successful F1 car in history. Then again, it could not have had two more able drivers. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost were at the peak of their considerable powers at the time. Throughout the '88 season, the pair extracted the max from the MP4/4. Well, almost! Between them, they won 15 times from 16 starts. The Italian GP was the one that got away. Senna got bamboozled by a back-marker. With Prost also out, victory at Monza just was not to be.

McLaren began the '88 campaign with mixed emotions. In the plus column, they had secured Honda as an engine supplier. The year before, the Japanese giant had helped arch-rivals Williams win the World Championship. But, in the minus column, McLaren had lost ace designer John Barnard. Given that he had sculpted every McLaren since '81, he would inevitably be sorely missed. In his stead, Steve Nichols and Neil Oatley stepped boldly up to the high-tech plate. The previous year's car - the MP4/3 - had been powered by Porsche. The Honda motor that replaced it was also a V6 - and similarly configured. That meant it slotted neatly into the MP4/3's tried and trusted aerodynamic package. The only visible change to the bodywork was a narrower cockpit.

The '88 season would be turbocharged engines' last hurrah. The F1 powers that be had decreed that thereafter they would be banned. Notwithstanding that their engine would soon be obsolete, Honda in no way took their foot off the gas. They wrung every last drop out of the new V6. Indeed, they went so far as to build alternative versions - the XE2 and XE3. They could be toggled by McLaren, according to the circuit layout. Because of the extra prep, McLaren were late for pre-season testing. If that made their rivals chuckle, the mirth was short-lived. McLaren duly fired up the new engines - and sent the cars out. They left the opposition for dead. Come the first race - and it was more of the same. So it stayed for the rest of the season. Proof was provided by that near-perfect win tally. Senna and Prost, then, were nigh on unbeatable ... stymied only by that Monza back-marker. That made the McLaren-Honda MP4/4 the greatest GP car of them all ... well, statistically-speaking, at least!

Williams-Renault FW14B

Williams-Renault FW14B 1990s F1 car

The Williams F1 team has proffered many an exotic race car over the years. Few, though, have had quite the allure of the FW14B. From the moment its designer Patrick Head picked up his pen, the '92 World Championship was decided. But, there was another key FW14B factor. The legendary Nigel Mansell! For, he was in sync with the car to an uncanny degree. Are certain drivers born to certain cockpits? Who knows! One thing is for sure. No-one else was going to be winning that year's titles. That is how far ahead of the field Mansell and the FW14B were.

The key component in the FW14B package was 'active-ride' suspension. Lotus had already blazed a trail for the new set-up. Williams followed suit, in '87. In '88, too, they continued their 'active-ride' mission. Patrick Head's faith, though, was shaken by reliability issues. Nothing daunted, Adrian Newey - Williams' chief aerodynamicist - had done enough wind tunnel testing, to be sure that 'active-ride' was still the way to go. The idea was to keep the FW14B uniformly upright - or, as close as possible, given the humungous forces to which it was subjected. Newey badgered Head into giving active-ride one last chance - reliability gremlins, notwithstanding. Come '91, and the system was duly slotted into the Williams FW14 chassis. The motor racing gods must have been smiling. This time around, everything gelled.

Immediately the FW14B dropped off the blocks, it hit the ground running. It won the first five GPs. Four more victories would follow - as Mansell grabbed the '92 season by the scruff of its neck. There were just two races at which he and the Williams did not start from pole. The car's Renault V10 engine performed perfectly, while using far less fuel than its main rival - the McLaren-Honda V12. There was nowhere to hide for the opposition. Williams had covered all bases. Even the FW14B's paint scheme outshone its competitors! With those bold primary colours careening round circuits, spectators were treated to a rich visual feast, too. Of course, that iconic livery will be forever associated with the great Nigel Mansell. A pundit was once asked who was the most determined F1 driver he had ever met? 'Oh, that's an easy one', he said. 'Nigel Mansell would've driven a car through a brick wall to get something done!' But - with the FW14B - he did not have to. Head and Newey had made his life easy … well, relatively speaking, anyway. One of the most iconic cars ever to lap a track, the Williams FW14B was miles ahead of its rivals. Something that makes an F1 driver very happy. Even Nigel Mansell!