Showing posts with label F1. Show all posts
Showing posts with label F1. 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!

ATS Tipo 100

ATS Tipo 100 1960s Italian classic F1 car

Few F1 cars can top the ATS Tipo 100 for eyebrow-raising intrigue. In '61, Ferrari's race division was riding high. As F1's new 1.5-litre era dawned, prospects for the Italian marque looked rosy. The fire-engine red, shark-nosed Ferraris ruled the F1 roost. Enzo Ferrari - founder of the firm - was, doubtless, very happy. Not so, some of his employees. At the end of the '61 season, Enzo fell out with his top engineers. The outcome was that they picked up their spanners and left.

Ring-leader of the Ferrari rebels was Carlo Chiti. Rotund of build - and temperamental by nature - he was widely considered a design genius. He was also thought to be a thoroughly good egg. Chiti led his troop of dissident technicians to Sasso Marconi - near Bologna. In no time, he had set up his own factory/foundry. He had financial clout - courtesy of a trio of industrialists. Chiti was a man on a motor racing mission. Following the mass walk-out from Modena, Ferrari found they had a rival. Namely, ATS - or, Automobili Turismo Sport. There was now a new team on the Bologna block. And Carlo Chiti was the man in charge.

The V8-powered ATS Tipo 100 debuted at the '63 Belgian GP. It created quite a stir at Spa Francorchamps. In a piece of PR many a more modern team would be proud of, the ATS transporter was parked away from the paddock. F1 aficionados could talk of nothing else. When the Tipo 100s were revealed, the buzz was electric. Come the green light, however, the build-up was not backed up on the track. From the mechanics' perspective, the cars were far from ideal. To wit, their chassis had to be sawn, then re-welded - just to change the engines. Not really what an ex-Ferrari race engineer was used to! Certainly, two high-calibre drivers had been recruited to the ATS cause. Phil Hill was a former world champion. And Giancarlo Bhagetti had won the '61 French GP. As it turned out, though, even their combined talents could not stop the Tipo 100 under-achieving. Through '63 - and the following two seasons - results ranged from disappointing to dire. Over time, the ATS project petered out. Its gallant challenge to the force of Ferrari failed. Nonetheless, Chiti - and his renegade team - displayed courage and integrity. In the end, though, the small-scale ATS team - and the Tipo 100 - simply ran out of steam!

Honda RA302

Honda RA302 1960s Japanese classic F1 car

Honda's RA302 car was a while in the making. The Japanese giant arrived in F1 in '64. It brought with it a transversely-mounted V12 motor. A complex masterpiece of engineering, it was the talk of the GP world. It took Honda nearly two seasons to make it to the top step of the podium. The first win came in Mexico - in the final race of the 1.5-litre era. If Honda thought they had cracked it, they were ahead of themselves. In '66 and '67, results were lacklustre. At the time, all F1 engines were heavy. Honda's exotic V12, though, tipped the scales at 100lb more than its rivals. Not ideal!

Thankfully for Honda, John Surtees was on the driving roster. By the start of the '68 season, he had helped develop the RA301 car. It was tidier of design than its predecessor. It was also more powerful. Surtees was assured that a lightweight V12 was on its way. At that point, head honcho Soichiro Honda threw a spanner in the works. Well, it was his works, to be fair! Honda-san's priority was selling N600 saloon cars. Their engines were still air-cooled. Honda's increasingly successful motorcycles were also on Soichiro's mind. They, too, were air-cooled. For Mr Honda, bread and butter business trumped motorsport. He instructed the race department to come up with an air-cooled motor - to match the roadsters' powerplants. The lightweight V12 Surtees had been promised was mothballed.

In due course, Soichiro got his air-cooled F1 car. Parked in Silverstone's paddock, the Honda RA302 looked a dream. Light and compact, its 120° V8 sat snugly at the back of a monocoque chassis. When the time came to fire it up, Innes Ireland was at the wheel. The erstwhile Lotus legend was now a journalist. Ireland was about to take the RA302 out for its first test-drive. When he returned to the paddock, it was not with good news. Handling-wise, he said, the new car was all over the shop. Surtees' mood that day was already testy - and Ireland's report did not improve it. Surtees had not even known the car was coming, until the last minute. Never mind that it was already entered in the upcoming French GP. Surtees declined to have anything further to do with the RA302 - which was clearly way underdeveloped. Honda France duly stepped into the GP breach. Jo Schlesser - looking to move from F2 to F1 - would do the driving at Rouens. Come race day, the French weather was dreadful. Schlesser - and the RA302 - started towards the back of the grid. Surtees, meanwhile - driving the RA301 - was vying for the lead. On only the second lap, Schlesser's new air-cooled engine let go. The RA302 careened into a bank and caught fire. Tragically, the French ace died in the blaze. Later that year - in the Italian GP, at Monza - Surtees did finally drive the recalcitrant RA302. But, to no avail. At the end of the '68 season - perhaps chastened by the RA302 experience - Honda withdrew from racing. It did not return until the Eighties!

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 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!

Bugatti T251

Bugatti T251 1950s French F1 car

The Bugatti T251 was designed by Gioacchino Colombo. He had formerly worked for Ferrari. Fifties F1 cars were front-engined. Or, they were until Columbo came along. His T251 broke with that tradition. Its straight-eight engine was placed behind the driver. The 5-speed Porsche gearbox - and final drive - were unitary with the motor. That allowed for weight distribution ahead of its time. It all sat in a tubular space-frame chassis. Which was, in turn, hitched up to deDion axles. The fuel tanks flanked the driver. Another harbinger of F1 things to come.

The catalyst for the T251 was Jacques Bolore. He had recently married into the Bugatti family. It was not long before Bolore was influencing the way Bugatti was run. Since founder Ettore Bugatti's death - in '47 - the firm had put racing on hold. Bolore, though, had visions of Bugatti back in F1. Enter the T251! It was unveiled in late '55 - at an airfield, close to Bugatti's Molsheim base. It was there, too, that the car was first put through its paces - though not until March of the following year. Tester was Maurice Trintignant. The T251 was duly entered for the French GP, at Reims. Not, however, without qualms. T251 testing had revealed flaws. Designer Columbo - and driver Trintignant - maintained that more development was needed. But, Bolore's mind was made up. He wanted to go racing. And - in terms of executive clout - Bolore was now in Bugatti's driving seat.

Two 251s were taken to Reims. As the race got underway, the cars' avant-garde layout seemed on the money. Traction was noticeably improved - especially out of slower corners. High-speed handling, on the other hand, was hairy. The 251 had qualified 18th out of 20 starters. Ironically, it was to retire after only 18 laps. The pretext Bugatti gave was that the throttle was sticking. But, it was clear - to anyone with eyes to see - that the T251 was way off the pace. And - with Bugatti's coffers depleted - there was no more money for development, anyway. All a bit of an anti-climax, then - as far as Bugatti's return to top-flight racing was concerned. Sadly, Jacques Bolore's beloved T251 project turned into something of a damp squib!

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!

Ferrari 312T

Ferrari 312T 1970s Italian F1 car

The 312T won the '75 F1 World Championship. Ferrari were cock-a-hoop. It had been eleven long years since the last one. Having the great Niki Lauda as driver helped, of course. But, Lauda would have been first to acknowledge the contribution of a fellow member of the Ferrari team. Namely, Mauro Forghieri - who designed the 312T's engine.

The Ferrari flat-12's motor had slimmer bores than those of the V-configured layouts of other teams. That allowed them to rev higher. Increased engine speeds meant more horsepower. It also meant more fuel consumption - so the 312T hit the grid heavier than its rivals. Thus, it fell to Ferrari's strategists to erase that handicap as the race wore on. They obviously made a good fist of it. Lauda won three consecutive races - 5, 6 and 7 - in Monaco, Belgium and Sweden. He had added two more by season's end. Deservedly, then, he took his first World Championship. Small wonder he described it as 'the unbelievable year'! To be fair to their competitors - not least, Brabham - Ferrari's car was head and shoulders above the rest.

Engine man Mauro Forghieri's masterstroke was his positioning of the 312T's gearbox. The horizontally-opposed flat-12 set-up meant the motor's mass sat lower. The result was better handling. Still a bit twitchy - but a big improvement on the Ferrari 312B3's understeer. Forghieri took weight distribution a step further. By placing the gearbox behind the engine, mass was not just lowered - but more centralised, too. The 312T now manoeuvred as well as it moved. At the start of the '76 season, the 312T was to win another three back-to-back GPs. But, '75 had been the car's finest hour. Niki Lauda - alongside team-mate Clay Regazzoni - had done the Tifosi proud. The Scuderia Ferrari fanatics had seen their team restored to the upper echelon of world motorsport. So, on top of being one of the most iconic race cars ever built, the 312T was a terrific all-round package. As such - in terms of technology - Ferrari pointed the way to the fully-integrated future of F1.

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!

Renault RS01

Renault RS01 1970s F1 car

The Renault RS01 never won a race. But, it was one of the most important F1 cars ever built. That is because of what it brought to the sport ... money! In the Sixties, the cash-stoked spectacle of today's billion-dollar industry, was but a glint in a banker's eye. Then, F1 was about gas, grease - and the spirit of racing. The cars on the grid were not so far removed from those that could be viewed in any well-appointed showroom. Souped-up, of course - but not radically different on a technical level. For better or worse, the Renault RS01 changed that status quo for good. In the Seventies, grease started going global - and not just in the cinema queues. Grease - as in the glamour of GP racing. For a financier - and his suit - that was worth risking the odd oil stain!

The Renault RS01, then, was a catalyst. The Gallic giant's commitment to F1 forced fellow manufacturers to do likewise. Alfa Romeo, Honda, BMW et al - they would all want a piece of the F1 pie! It was the mid-'60s when Renault spotted a shot at the big time. A 'blue riband' 3-litre Formula was in the offing. Motorsport's governing body gave the green light to super- and turbo-charged cars. So long as they had no more than half the capacity of their normally-aspirated rivals, they were good to go. In engineering terms, Renault saw a chance to position themselves at the cutting edge. They chose to go the turbocharged route. The Renault team were already in F2. As a result, they had a tidy two-litre V6 at their disposal. Pared back to 1.5-litres, as per the regulations - and duly turbocharged - the V6 was ready for F1. Especially when it had been slotted into a super-stiff chassis - designed by Andre de Cortanze and Jean-Pierre Jabouille. Hey, Jabouille even doubled up as driver!

In theory, the RS01 should have been setting the pace. It made substantially more power than its rivals. In practice, though, things were not so straightforward. The car's Achilles heel was poor reliability. Add to that, 'turbo lag'. Its 'kick-in' was far from light-switch sharp. That unpredictability made the RS01 a real handful - even for a driver of Jabouille's talent. Improvements were made - but still, the RS01 'Did Not Finish' too many times. Fourth place points did eventually come - at the '78 US GP. A year later, Jabouille even put the RS01 on pole - at Kyalami, South Africa. To be fair, that was largely because the non-turbocharged cars were suffering a case of high altitude sickness! At any rate, the pole did not convert to victory. Jabouille would go on to win - but that was in the Renault RS10, complete with 'ground effect' aerodynamics. No, the RS01's claim to fame was that it was a game-changer. It spawned a succession of rivals with turbocharged power. Those cars - and their constructors - reaped rewards the original did not. The price of innovation! The turbocharged-era cars would, in due course, have their wild wings clipped. But not before the excitement - and money - they generated, had percolated worldwide. F1 moved up a gear. The Renault RS01 had set a trend!

Mercedes-Benz W196

Mercedes-Benz W196 1950s German F1 car

In the mid-'50s, the W196 marked a welcome return to GP racing for Mercedes-Benz. As it was, they would only be back for a couple of years. In '54 and '55, Mercedes left the opposition for dead. No great surprise, really. They did, after all, have Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss on their books. Behind the wheel of a W196, both men were in their element. Past masters of their craft, they now had machines to match.

But, there was more to the W196 package - even than Fangio and Moss. Engineer Rudolph Uhlenhaut was likewise at the peak of his powers. While rival teams' technicians trod water design-wise, Uhlenhaut took risks. No parts barred streamlining was key. At first, that included the wheels. Originally, they were fully enclosed. As a result, however, handling was wayward - especially, near the limit. No worries! Uhlenhaut uncovered the wheels again - and the W196 was back to its sure-footed best.

Fangio won first time out in the new car - at the '54 French GP. That was the first rung on the ladder to his second driver's title. That season, there were just two races the W196 did not win. The '55 campaign arrived - and it was the same story. Well, almost. This time around, there was only one race victory it did not take! Sure enough, Fangio soon held aloft his third World Championship trophy. Uhlenhaut's car was packed with cutting edge spec. Its straight-eight engine, for instance, was rotated through its 'default' position. That gave a lower centre of gravity - optimising handling. The motor's valve-gear was desmodromic. Valves were opened and closed via cams. Having no bouncing springs improved efficiency. Plus, it was fuel-injected - almost a decade before that became standard GP practice. In terms of engine and bodywork, Uhlenhaut had gambled and won. Monte Carlo or bust, so to say! A consummately-crafted car, and - in Fangio and Moss - two of history's greatest drivers. Truly, the Mercedes-Benz W196 was a motor racing marriage of man and machine!

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!

Maserati 250F

Maserati 250F 1950s F1 car

The 250F was from a strong stable. Maserati was a red-blooded équipe, if ever there was one. Founded in '26, it took the team just eight years to become the world's biggest builder of single-seater race cars. For the first twenty years, Maserati was devoted solely to racing. So, by the time it got round to building production cars, it had learned a thing or two!

The 250F hit the grid in '54. It was fully prepared for the challenges ahead. Its straight-six motor came with three twin-choke Weber carburettors. Like most other GP cars of the era, its engine was front-mounted - and powered the rear wheels. Top speed was 185mph. Engine capacity was 2,490cc. The chassis comprised a tubular steel frame, independent wishbone/coil spring front suspension, and a de Dion rear axle. In '57, Maserati unleashed an updated 250F. It was fitted with a 5-speed gearbox and fuel injection. Power had been upped to 270bhp. Bodywork had been revised. The new frontal area was stiletto-sharp. Braking, too, had been improved. The 250F was now at the peak of its development cycle.

Juan Manuel Fangio was Argentinian. He was also a driving ace. When he climbed into the 250F's cockpit he was already a motor racing legend. The beefed-up version of the car would bring him his fifth World Championship. En route to that, his win in the German GP - at the Nürburgring - has gone down in folklore. Peter Collins - in a Ferrari - was the hapless victim of a genius at work. The Ferrari had been way out in front. But that was before Fangio decided to turn up the wick. Four-wheel drifting his 'Maser' - with robotic precision - he caught up with Collins. As he duly went by him, it was as if man and machine melded. It was the greatest performance either of them ever gave. Motor racing as science. Sporting endeavour of the highest order. Fortunate, indeed, were those in attendance that August day, in Germany. The Maserati 250F - piloted by possibly the best driver of all time - had scaled rarefied racing heights!

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!