Some of the most innovative vehicles in F1 history
Often known as the technological pinnacle of racing, Formula 1 began in 1946 with the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile’s (FIA) rule standardisation.
This single-seater category was initially defined by the engine capacity of the cars. The various eras of Formula 1 are influenced by this and changes in aerodynamics.
Engineers often scrutinised the rulebooks to find loopholes to gain an advantage.
The cars featured here are among some of the more interesting engineering innovations that the F1 world has come across.
MARCH 711 (1971)
Nicknamed the Spitfire and the tea tray, the awkward-looking contraption raised eyebrows on track.
The potential advantages of having a front wing to generate downforce was a relatively new concept.
Instead of having small winglets to guide the air around the car, engineer
Frank Costin used a full wing design and made an aerodynamically streamlined body.
Driver Ronnie Peterson emerged runner-up in the Driver’s Championship in 1971 with this car.
TYRRELL P34 SIX WHEELER (1976)
One of the more experimental and bizarre creations was the Tyrrell P34 six-wheel car. Four 25.4cm wheels increased the front-end mechanical grip with more contact with the road. The front nose almost covered the front tyres, creating a more streamlined shape and enhancing its aerodynamics.
Cut-outs in the car body, known as portholes, allowed drivers to observe locking of the wheels and to monitor tyre wear.
The P34 got a 1-2 finish in the Swedish Grand Prix.
HOW IT WORKS
The front wheel design had more grip, allowing the car to tackle corners with more stability.
MODERN ERA F1 CARS (2014 TO DATE)
The current crop of F1 cars had its most recent regulation change in 2014 and the cars run on V6 turbocharged 1.6 litre engines. It is the first time that turbocharged engines have returned since 1988.
The engine output is also supplemented by an Energy Recovery System.
There are two main components: The MGU-K (Motor Generator Unit-Kinetic) which harvests energy under brake and the MGU-H (Motor Generator Unit-Heat) which harvests energy which is expelled from the exhaust pipe.
The current cars produce around 900 brake horsepower.
HOW IT WORKS
BRABHAM BT46A (1978)
Known as the fan car, the BT46 first appeared in Formula One during the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix.
Brabham’s designer Gordon Murray strapped a giant fan onto the car. Air from the bottom of the chassis channeled via sideskirts allowed the car to generate enormous suction forces to keep it glued to the track.
Driver Niki Lauda noted that he had to keep his foot on the throttle during corners to keep it grounded.
The performance advantage and clever circumvention of the rules caused unhappiness among other teams. The car was pronounced illegal after its first outing.
HOW IT WORKS
Air is channelled below the chassis and exits via the fan, creating a strong suction force that keeps the car grounded.
EIFELLAND FORD (above, left)
Team owner Guenther Hennerici had a company that made caravans and decided to enter F1 in 1972. The car was designed by Luigi Colani, who had no prior experience developing single-seater racecars, and the result was a car that looked fast but had problems with reliability and overheating.
LIGER JS-5 (above, centre)
The Liger team entered F1 in 1976, a year which featured air boxes that boosted engine power. The engineering solution that Liger developed was extreme on aesthetics and was dubbed the Flying Teapot. Despite its appearance, it was able to claim second place.
ARROWS A22 (above, right)
In an attempt to generate more down force, the designers at Arrows mounted a front wing contraption to claw back grip. But the design was deemed a safety hazard and was banned.