Formula One:
pushing the envelope

Formula One: pushing the envelope 01

Ferrari 156 – beauty and power
Innovative, imaginative and simply beautiful – in short, a classic Ferrari design. In keeping with its aggressive appearance – it was dubbed the "shark nose" because of the glowering double "nostrils" of the front air intakes – this was a fuel-guzzling mean machine in terms of performance. Harnessing Ferrari’s state-of-the-art V6 engine, which dominated the field after a change in regulation from 2.5-litre to 1.5-litre units, Phil Hill became the first American driver to win the F1® championship in 1961. 

Brabham BT46b – the fan car
The Brabham BT46b – or "fan car", as it was widely known – was one of the most innovative vehicles in F1® history. Brabham, a company with a history of backing a wide range of new hi-tech manufacturing ideas, countered the dominant "ground-effect" cars of the era by incorporating a large fan on the back of the chassis. It helped cool the engine, which was legal, but also sucked air from beneath the floor and created huge downforce, which was not. The car may have looked mad, but it won a place in the record books for one amazing statistic: it retired undefeated. Niki Lauda won its one and only Grand Prix race at Anderstorp, Sweden, in 1978. Then it was banned...

Frank Williams FW07D – six-wheeler
For the 1979 season, Williams took Brabham’s six-wheel concept and made a more efficient version that looked much, much cooler. The tyres were all a similar size, with the four wheels at the back providing the huge traction and grip that Williams hoped would compensate for its lack of a turbo engine. The wheels also allowed a narrower overall profile that cut drag. Testing revealed the car had great promise despite its huge length and weight, but before it could race the sport’s governing body, the Federation Internationale de l’Autombile, announced F1® cars should have four wheels. Sadly, we will never know how good this car might have been – or whether the extra equipment would have filtered down into the wider market.

Formula One: pushing the envelope 02

Lotus 63 – four-wheel drive
The experimental Lotus 63 designed by Colin Chapman and Maurice Philippe for the 1969 Grand Prix season introduced a four-wheel-drive system in a bid to exploit its powerful 3-litre engine. With years of motor-industry experience behind him, the wily Chapman believed the sleek vehicle had stolen a march on the automotive competition. But although it had the speed it was also hard to handle. Graham Hill refused to drive it after a test lap towards the end of the design process. 

Ferrari 312T – chassis revolution
Four constructors' and three drivers' championships in five seasons (1975-79) prove the Ferrari 312T was in a class apart from the competition. Designer Mauro Forghieri knew an overhaul of its predecessor was essential to improve its handling. The result was a large front wing that hints at all the Formula One cars of today and a distinctive high air intake above the driver's head. Then there was a transverse gearbox – the T in the name – which transformed the handling. Combine that with the short, compact overall car-length and the 312T is an all-round motorsport classic.

Tyrrell P34 – six wheels
The Tyrrell P34, designed by Derek Gardner, was the first of the six-wheelers. In theory, replacing the two regular front wheels with four smaller ones would increase the total area of rubber in contact with the road surface and boost grip – as well as reducing the lift created by larger wheels. Drivers Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler recorded a one-two finish at the Swedish Grand Prix during the 1976 season, but the 1977 car struggled and the concept was dropped. In terms of technical design and development, however, the car has a special place in the pantheon of F1® racing.

Williams FW26 – the Walrus
With its short, stubby nose and sloping vertical pillars that looked a little like tusks, the Williams FW26 was inventive, innovative and intriguing – the most striking car on the F1® grid for the 2004 season. But in terms of performance, the revolutionary aerodynamic features of the so-called Walrus were a disappointment. The unusual components didn’t appear to work. It was not until the tusks were removed and a more conventional nosecone introduced towards the end of the season that the Williams power of the BMW 3.0 V10 engine – one of the best at the time – was revealed on the track.

Lotus 79 – ground effects
Black Beauty – as the Lotus 79 was fondly called for its graceful design, sleek profile and black and gold livery – was impressively fast on its debut at the 1978 Belgian Grand Prix. Mario Andretti took pole position by more than a second and won the race easily. The reason being that it was the first F1® car to develop ground-effect aerodynamics that sucked the vehicle to the ground and boosted cornering speed. An engineering triumph, it proved a prototype for the future of motorsports.

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