So I thought for the last post this week I’d choose a modern F1 car, to show I’m not an old fuddy-duddy. But I am. I would have picked a McLaren from the last five years fyi, but instead I’ve picked a Renault. From the 80s. In the 80s, turbos were being splashed around everywhere. Saabs, Group B rally cars trying their best, and sometimes succeeding, to murder their drivers. But the pinnacle of turbo use in the 1980s came in Formula 1, and particularly in the two Renaults of Alain Prost and René Arnoux in the 1982 season (hmmm, that’s three Prost driven F1 cars in my list. Prost-crush?). The seating position of the Renault, as with most F1 cars of this era, thrust the driver right to the front, whilst a twin-turbo 1.5 V6 projected it very quickly towards walls, armcos etc. It was dynamic in the way that a sledgehammer is dynamic, and hugely exciting to watch. Turbos were eventually banned in 1989, but not before Formula 1 had seen some of its fastest, scariest racing to date. And the pick of the bunch: the Renault RE30B.
This car effectively ushered in the beginning of my conscious mind reacting to Formula 1. With McLaren having a rough year in 1993, this was THE car in that season, winning Prost his fourth and final Formula 1 championship and highlighting the potential of the young Damon Hill. It also persuaded Ayrton Senna to leave McLaren and, fatally, to join Williams in 1994 (well he’d have left McLaren earlier if Prost hadn’t had it in his contract that under no circumstances was Senna allowed to be his team-mate). The Williams team was also sponsored by Sega and the decal of the design, with the footwells and steering looking like Sonics the Hedgehog’s legs and hands, only sold me more. This blog is intended to be about subjectivity, and subjectively, you don’t get more important to me in F1 than the Williams FW15C.
Third on the list this week is another Ferrari, the 641. Built as a modification of the John Barnard designed 640 that was used in 1989, it was piloted by the rather epic partnership of Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell in 1990. I’ve loved the look of this car ever since I watched a video my uncle had called “Mansell and Ferrari,” in which a film crew followed the moustachioed one through his final year at the team. The fact that Mansell only won a solitary race that whole year must have meant that the director cursed his luck a bit. Nevertheless, it’s a great looking car, don’t you think?
OK, so clearly, anything with Martini racing colours gets automatic kudos in motorsport. Lancias, Porsches, whatever, it all looks better if you cover it in Martini colours. The Brabham BT44B was no exception. Designed by Gordon Murray, he of the McLaren F1 road car fame, the shape was, like Murray cars to this day, beautiful and clean. The BT44 was introduced in 1974, with the 44B used for the first time in the 1975 season. Both incarnations enjoyed only modest success at the hands of Carlos Reutemann and Carlos Pace. But like I said, Martini colours have a Midas touch, so here it is Ladies and Gentlemen, the gorgeous and evocatively monikered Brabham BT44B. In Martini colours.
So this week, I’ve decided to serialise my 5 favourite Formula 1 cars of all time. I’ve loved Formula 1 for as long as I can remember, so hopefully my choices will be a fitting tribute. I won’t bother doing them chronologically, I’ll just see how I feel. I’m afraid that I can’t and won’t get too technical about these cars. If you want that you can just look it up on Wikipedia, because that’s all I would have done! I mostly just love the way they look….
So first up, it’s Ferrari’s 312T4, raced by a partnership of Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve in the 1979 Formula 1 season. I love the lip that runs around the front of the car’s chassis and the tractor loader that was obviously lying around in the Maranello factory which they decided to screw onto the front to form a wing. It’s just such a dynamic looking thing in a slightly awkward way. And it won the 1979 Constructor’s and Driver’s Championship for the team, neither of which Ferrari would win again until the advent of a certain M. Schumacher.