FORMULA 1 RETRO
Wright: “An aircraft’s wing twisting
and bending causes flutter. If it hits a
frequency that is structural, it breaks. On
a racing car you have bending, which is
‘heaving,’ and twisting, which is ‘pitching.’
If they couple with the aerodynamics at
a particular speed, you get flutter and
the whole car ‘porpoises.’”
The Williams team countered that
effect with an aluminum honeycomb
monocoque and a sharper understanding
of structural engineering than Chapman’s
brain trust. The result, 1979’s super-stiff
FW07 (a better Lotus 79 in all but name)
was the benchmark for ground-effect
cars for the next two seasons.
Lotus, meanwhile, attempted to tame
the porpoising by less elegant means...
“We went stiffer and stiffer on springs
until the porpoising stopped – and the
driver could no longer keep his feet on
the pedals! So that’s when we came up
with the twin-chassis car.”
Ah, yes, the twin-chassis Lotus 88.
Here comes the politics bit...
The FIA’s newly created Fédération
Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA),
Balestre, reckoned that the increasing
power and influence that Brabham-owner
Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One
Constructors Association (FOCA) had
earned through hard work and shrewd
negotiating ought to be theirs, by quirky
historical right rather than financial
involvement or detailed understanding.
War was inevitable and battle lines were
drawn. It was mainly about money, but for
our purposes it was grip vs. power. FOCA’s
garagisti could not afford to develop
turbo engines, while FISA’s manufacturer
grandees lacked aero expertise.
When Walter Wolf Racing designer
Harvey Postlethwaite introduced the
ultimate sliding skirt – a spring-loaded
carbon-honeycomb “board in a box”
attached to a sidepod’s inner face,
guided by rollers and tipped by a ceramic
rubbing strip (copied from Lotus) – at
Monaco in 1978, and it wasn’t declared
illegal as a movable aerodynamic aid,
F1’s near future was sealed.
Convinced that it was going to
L-over-D in a handcart – and, of course,
to assert his alpha-male authority –
Balestre announced in Sept. 1979 that
sliding skirts would be banned for ’ 81.
As that deadline loomed, FOCA formed
the World Federation of Motorsport and
threatened a split. It even ran the 1981
South African GP in its own image; its
result, however, was expunged from
FW08, was nothing
out of the ordinary –
but it could have
been. It was conceived
as a six-wheeler, until
FISA hurriedly closed
a rules loophole.
disappear with its
ban from F1 in
1983 – far from it.
Most notably, Indy
cars continued to
run skirtless venturi
tunnels, and today’s
Dallara DW12 is
equipped with spec
venturis, which are
not included in the
list of parts that
change on their
own aero kits.
GP2 cars (BELOW)
also use venturi
tunnels, which makes
it easier to run in a
car’s slipstream –
something F1 would
hope to emulate if it
switches back from
its turbulence-generating diffusers.
IT DIDN’T JUST
GO AWAY IN 1983
“We went stiffer on springs
until the porpoising stopped –
and the driver could no longer
keep his feet on the pedals!”
The Williams FW07 (ABOVE, in its
1980 title-winning “B” spec) took
the Lotus 79 concept and made it
stiffer, simpler and more efficient.
BUILDING A BETTER LOTUS