August 22, 2012

Gentlemen, Lift your skirts.

Williams FW07C, by Anthony Fosh

If you followed F1 "non news" during the summer break you may have caught an interviews with Adrian Newey where he admitted changes in regulations affected Red Bull performance significantly,  particularly rules against "flexy-wings" and blown exhausts.     Earlier in the year you may have caught Helmut Marko complaining of a conspiracy against Red Bull's dominance.

It's the old story in racing, someone comes up with a better mouse trap, or a better way around it,  and others complain.   Balancing innovation vs competition, cheating vs cleverness is essentially impossible so governing bodies usually just err on the side of money,  big money preferably.

The late 70 and early 80 is hailed as a "golden era" in F1, all Villeneuve Arnoux at Dijon, six wheeled  and fan cars and all  but it was also a time of shockingly lax safety and standards.  It was a time when it seemed, anyone could go F1 racing with a few bucks.  Remember Beppe Gabbiani?  How about Ricardo LondoƱo?  Chico Serra ring a bell? Brian Henton, Ricardo Zunino, Slim Borgudd?   They were all Formula 1 drivers in 1981.  F1 was a big ball of fail with pre qualifying, constant political fights, driver strikes and mechanical breakdowns.

It was also the last gasp of the struggle for F1's soul,  would the future be about innovation from sheds in the British countryside or mega money effort from big manufacturers, Renault, Fiat, BMW?     Ironically it was one of those same "Garagistes" who eventually had the stones to kick everyone in line with the promise (and delivery) of big,  no wait, enormous money.

Even more ironically, F1 in the 21st century is mostly big manufacturers paying the same people in those ex-sheds in the British countryside to build the cars for them.

If you have 45 minutes to spare today, have a look at this BBC documentary from 1981.  Highlight of the show has to be Williams trying out their FW07 without any suspension in effort to "skirt" the regulations.

(thanks to Alex Cogan!)


  1. Fascinating stuff! The way engines are assembled is surpassingly similar to today's procedures... Let's hope we'll hear about the "Powerful Renault" again in 2014 ;)

    1. The piece is typically very anti French, but the reality is that F1 desperately needed major manufacturers , you could not have F1 dependent on by then an almost 20 year old engine. Renault, BMW later Porsche breathed new life into what was becoming amateur hour.

  2. A little sad seeing Frank Williams walking around in that video...


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