Formula 1 curious: the craziest F1 racing cars

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D he wild times are over. The regulations are too tight. There is no more space for the other racing car. And if a designer found a loophole, then it is not bright minds that decide on the application, but the computer. Modern simulation tools demand mainstream. Because everything is invented anyway. Innovation only takes place in the details. It's called optimization. Any crazy idea would have little chance in the concept phase. Because in theory you can already check whether a step into the unknown is successful or not.

That was different in the analogous era of Formula 1. The designers were allowed to let off steam. Only the racetrack showed whether they were right. The most creative phase was probably in the 1970s. Red Bull star designer Adrian Newey speaks of an 'explosion of forms'. You tried it out. Wind tunnels were largely unknown. Projections for the lap time too.

Newey compares this era with the animal kingdom: “There were only small teams with two to three designers and very simple tools. They had great freedom from the rules, but very limited resources. So you had to make everything up in your head. The rulebook encouraged them to do so. That led to many forms and ideas. Later, with more tools and knowledge, it all came back together. This is comparable to evolution in the animal kingdom. It gave birth to so many different creatures in order to adapt to nature. ”

Today the craziest Formula 1 cars in history look like fossils from a bygone era. We looked for a few examples together.

Mercedes W196 streamlined, 1954-1955

The foundations of the Mercedes W196 were not an unusual racing car. Except that it was crammed with many technical features that were not the norm at the time. However, the sports car disguise was unusual. In the 1950s, the regulations still allowed disguised bikes. Or should we say better: They were not banned. There were just no rules about the body. At the debut in Reims in 1954, all three Mercedes competed with the streamlined body. At the next use in Silverstone too. When Ferrari won and the drivers complained that they could not aim precisely at the corners, Mercedes responded and built a GP version with free-standing wheels. From then on, the full fairing was only used on the fast routes.

FergusonP99, 1961

Ferguson built the first Formula 1 four-wheel drive in 1961. His fathers Fred Dixon and Tony Rolt came up with the idea. Designer Claude Hill built the car. The usual cigar with a 1.5 liter Climax four-cylinder in front of the driver. The tractor company Ferguson was happy to promote its all-wheel drive technology in a racing car. The power was distributed 50 percent on each of the two axles. The weight distribution of the car was also balanced.

The weak point was the heavy weight. At 485 kilograms, the Ferguson F99 was a whopping 35 kilograms above the minimum weight. The car made its debut at the 1961 British GP. On the Thursday before the race, Stirling Moss even got into the car and achieved a lap time of 2.00.6 minutes that would have been enough for 13th on the grid. Regular driver Jack Fairman was at least 20 th with 2.03.4 minutes. On the day of the race, with continuous rain, there were ideal conditions for the all-wheel drive vehicle. But Fairman had already been taken out of the ranking because the mechanics had pushed the car after a pit stop. At a Formula 1 race in Oulton Park that was not part of the World Cup, the Ferguson showed its qualities. Again in the wet. Stirling Moss won. After that, the Ferguson was never seen again.

Honda RA272, 1964-1965

The 1964 German Grand Prix event was Honda's first appearance. The Asians were marveled at like moon people. Driver Ronnie Bucknum was only known to experts. The American drove sports car races in his home country. The Nürburgring was not the ideal place for a debut for a new team and a driver who didn't even know the Nordschleife from hearsay. So it was no wonder that Bucknum took up last place on the grid, 56 seconds behind the leaders. And flew off the track after 11 laps in the race.

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The Honda RA272 carried its V12 engine across behind the driver. The engine with a 60 degree bank angle was tilted forward by 12.5 degrees.

Honda wanted to get into the car business and saw Formula 1 as a ideal advertising platform. The RA272 carried its V12 engine across itDriver. The engine with a bank angle of 60 degrees was tilted forward by 12.5 degrees. The six front exhaust manifolds snaked under the engine and past the gearbox and joined with the other six manifolds to form two imposing tailpipes that towered over the rear like jet engines. The six-speed gearbox from our own production was flanged lengthways behind the engine, which delivered its power via a central drive. The engine was the showpiece of the car. Already in its first version with 12 Keihin carburetors it delivered 220 hp. In its second season, the Honda RA171E-V12, which has now been converted to injection, rose to 230 hp at 13,000 rpm. This made Honda the best in its class. The persistence of the Japanese paid off. In the last 1.5 liter race in Mexico in 1965, Honda won with Richie Ginther at the wheel.

Lotus 43-BRM, 1966

Once again, the focus was on the engine. It was a 16-cylinder B.R.M. The two flat eight-cylinders were mounted one above the other in the shape of an H. B.R.M. stated an output of 425 hp for the monster. The three-liter engine with 32 valves weighed an impressive 232 kilograms, which drove the total weight of the Lotus 43 to 580 kilograms. That alone will have made the lightweight fanatic Colin Chapman sweat on the forehead. Because of the considerable length of the engine, Chapman built an extremely short monocoque. The Lotus B.R.M. was basically an emergency solution because Lotus had not found an engine partner quickly enough for the new three-liter era. Despite all the bad omens, Jim Clark won the US GP in 1966.

Lotus 56B, 1971

Lotus boss Colin Chapman had promised his star driver Jochen Rindt in mid-1970: “Next year will win you with your left hand the world championship. With our turbine car we're driving everyone's ears. ”Chapman wanted to dissuade Rindt from his planned resignation. And was partly successful. Rindt promised to think about it. After the Austrian had a fatal accident in Monza, Chapman pushed the project all the more fanatical.

The Lotus 56B was built on the foundation of the Indy racer from 1968. The wedge-shaped car was powered by a gas turbine from the Canadian manufacturer Pratt & Whitney driven. The power was distributed to an all-wheel drive that was already in use in 1969. The jet engine delivered 520 hp. That was well above the 450 hp of a Cosworth V8. But the turbine also had decisive disadvantages. It took up to two seconds for the engine to respond. And because the engine did not brake, Lotus had to install oversized brakes. The Lotus 56B only appeared at the Grand Prix of Holland, England and Italy and did not get beyond extra places. Chapman then stopped the project and concentrated on the Lotus 72.

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March 711: front wing like a tray.

March 711, 1971

March designer Robin Herd was one of the first designers to seriously consider aerodynamics. For March 701 he built side boxes with a wing profile. The successor model 711 carried the front wing like a tray over the nose. So the wing was better flown. The car was a success. Ronnie Peterson became vice world champion in 1971 with it.

Ligier JS5, 1976

For three races, the Ligier JS5 wore its powerful air scoop over the Matra V12 engine. From the Spanish GP in 1976, a new height restriction banned the towering suction snorkel. Ligier installed a flat airbox that was integrated into the roll bar. The tower-high intake shaft was at least not a flop. Jacques Laffite came 4th with this version at the GP USA-West in Long Beach.

Tyrrell P34, 1976-1977

When we heard about it, everyone thought it was a joke . A car with six wheels? Impossible. “They just told me that we were developing an unusual car there. I didn't find out about the six bikes until later, ”Jody Scheckter remembers. The otherwise conservative Tyrrell racing team came up with a technical sensation. The P34 had six wheels, four of which were ten-inch on the front axle. That should reduce drag and understeer. And offer more safety in the event of a flat tire.

But the unusual concept also had undesirable side effects. The front brakes wore out faster because the small wheels turned faster. In addition, there were cooling problems. The oil cooler was then transferred from the side pods to the nose. The hoped-for top speed gain did not materialize, and it was not always easy to find the optimal setup. The P34 surprised and disappointed at the same time. With one win, ten podium finishes and third place overall in the constructors' championship, the curious car actually proved to be competitive. But the hoped-for secret weapon against Ferrari and McLaren did not become. Tyrrell's millipede sparked a six-wheel hysteria in winter. Ferrari tried twin tires on the rear axle. Without success. March tested a 2-4-0 project, with four driven rear wheels in series. A racing mission failed onheavy weight. Tyrrell also went bankrupt. In the second year, the six-wheeler remained pale. The wide track at the front, the longer wheelbase, the relocation of the oil cooler and the full fairing fizzled out. The improvements made weight. In the end, the car was 70 kilograms too heavy. Goodyear also stopped developing the small 13-inch front tires due to a lack of interested parties. That was the death sentence for the Tyrrell idea.

Brabham BT46B-Alfa Romeo, 1978

The idea was not new. Chaparral caused a sensation with his 2J sports car for the CanAm series when two two-stroke engines were used in the rear to extract air from under the car in order to increase the contact pressure. The area under the vehicle had been sealed with aprons. The chaparral was quick but unreliable. Six years later, Brabham dug up the idea again and integrated it into the Brabham BT46, which then became the B version.

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The Brabham BT46B disappeared back into the museum after a race .

The then team manager Herbie Blash explains how the BT46B took shape: “There was an external consultant named David Cox. He spoke to Gordon Murray about this concept. We knew how it worked from Chaparral. The big problem was sealing the sides of the car. We did two tests with it at Brands Hatch and kept it a secret until almost the end. Nobody knew about the first test. During the second test, one noticed that we were covering something in the rear with a garbage can lid and that the car moved when the engine was stopped. When we showed up with it in Sweden, we couldn't give the impression that our car was superior. We drove with full tanks in the qualification and were still on the grid positions 2 and 3. “

Niki Lauda won the Swedish GP with one hand. The Brabham rolled through the curves as if on rails. The large fan in the rear also threw stones and dirt at the competition. That was the starting point for a protest, led by Lotus boss Colin Chapman. Although the FIA ​​declared the Brabham legal, Bernie Ecclestone voluntarily withdrew the car after a race. He didn't want any trouble with themother team bosses. Even then he had the big picture in mind.

Lotus 80, 1979

The Lotus 80 was to become Colin Chapman's answer to the many Lotus 79 copies in the field. And the next step in the Groundeffect concept. The Lotus 80 should get by without a front wing and with a low-lying rear wing as a continuation of the fully clad rear. Chapman planned to generate all of the downforce by car. The curved side pods started right behind the front wheels and gave the hint of a bottle neck shape at the back. All suspension elements were stowed inside the vehicle, the radiators in the side boxes and the wide nose protruding as far as allowed over the front wheels. With a small flipper on top for trimming. Even in the test phase, Chapman had to renounce his principle of the wingless car. The Lotus 80 got two flaps at the front and a decent wing at the rear. Mario Andretti tried the car three times, finished 3rd on the debut in Jarama, but then Lotus withdrew the 80s and tried to develop the old 79 model.

Fittipaldi F6, 1979

The Fittipaldi F6 looked like the Concorde on wheels, but was nowhere near as successful. Like many of their colleagues, Ralph Bellamy and Giacomo Caliri made a terrific crash landing when trying to optimize the ground effect principle. The idea of ​​flexible textile aprons didn't work. Thus, the sealing effect to the side fell away. In a first comparison test, the F6 was six seconds slower than its predecessor. It was then converted into the F6A. Emerson Fittipaldi finished 8th, 8th and 7th at the end of the 1979 season.

Ensign N179, 1979

Another flop of the late 70s. Ensign mounted the water and oil coolers in front of the cockpit on the nose. That grilled the drivers. And it didn't pay off aerodynamically either. Team boss Morris Nunn quickly made a U-turn and traditionally installed the coolers in the side pods. Ensign cost dearly for designer Dave Baldwin's ambitious project. At the end of the season there was a 0 on the point account.

Toleman TG183, 1983

From 1983, ground effects and aprons were banned. The sub-floor had to be level between the axles. That is why a wild phase of experimentation broke out in 1983. Seldom have there been so many different concepts. The designers tried it out. Simulation tools were still unknown at the time. Toleman equipped his TG183 with a sports car nose in which all the coolers were housed. Because the heavy assembly moved at high speed, chief designer Rory Byrne replaced it in 1984 with a conventional nose. Byrne had mounted two rear wings, one behind the other, in the rear. They should help bring the power of the Hart four-cylinder turbo onto the road. The knot opened in the second half of the 1983 season. Derek Warwick and BrunoGiacomelli scored the first points for the team. Ayrton Senna made it onto the podium three times with the successor model.

Williams FW26, 2004

Williams started the 2004 season completely atypically with a risky project. The nose of the FW26 was 20th Centimeters shorter than usual. Lateral supports held the front wing, which was supposed to produce downforce without interacting with the nose. The front suspension was suspended from a double keel. The exhaust moved forward, the side pods shrank by five centimeters in height, the transmission was equipped with seven gears for the first time, and the engine weighed only four kilograms more, although it had to last twice as long. And BMW got 940 hp from ten cylinders. The walrus nose flopped because there was not enough ballast in the lower position and because the aerodynamics were sensitive to inclined flow and cross winds. At the Hungarian GP, ​​the Williams FW26 looked just like any other car up front. The nose and front wing had their traditional shape again. The results were promptly better.

auto motor und sport is celebrating the 1,000th. Formula 1 races this season with a large series in 100 parts. In the daily countdown we provide you with an exciting story and interesting video features from the history of the premier class. You can find all previous articles on our >> Overview page for the big anniversary Grand Prix.

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