Since the inauguration of the modern Formula One World Championship in 1950, there have been many occasions when the governing rules of competition have been stretched, or even broken, by entrants. From the mid to late 1960s, the advent of sponsorship offering pots of money to the most successful teams accelerated both innovation and exploration of the many loopholes in the regulations. Over the years, in a zealous effort for victory, Grand Prix teams, designers and drivers have more than eclipsed E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey with their smudging, bending and, in some cases, downright cheating. This was affirmed to me some years ago when I asked John Barnard how one would go about winning an F1 World Championship. His very frank and forthright reply came instantly, “Cheat!”
While there are those who bend the rules, there are also those who innovate within them, or their interpretation of particular directives. Cooper’s move against the standards of the day with its T43 blew the opposition away with a revolutionary, small, mid-mounted engine car, which saw developments through the T45 and T51 models and led Sir Jack Brabham to winning two World Championships. It also changed the whole face and thinking of the sport. With a background in aviation, Colin Chapman could be referred to as “Mr. Innovation” as his Lotus F1 cars brought many things to the table—the Lotus 25 broought the advent of the monocoque chassis, the Lotus 49 incorporated the Ford DFV engine as a stressed member of the chassis and over many models of GP cars, he explored aerodynamics from the crude high wings to the evocative cars such as the Lotus 72 and the ground-effect Lotus 78 and 79 cars. Brabham’s Gordon Murray went one stage further with the Brabham 46B, or “fan-car,” but after winning one race, team principal Bernie Ecclestone elected to withdraw the car prior to a ban being imposed. Tyrrell, through the pen of Derek Gardner, was the famous exponent of six-wheeled racing cars with the P34. Although winning the Swedish GP, the innovation faded due to Goodyear subcontracting out the making of the small front tires to another company, but failing to supply state-of-the-art rubber compound to the contractor. In the final races of the P34 era, the rear tires were two seconds a lap faster than the fronts! Advanced and improved technologies are all part of motorsport, it’s how designers, teams and drivers explore the competitive boundaries—even though they may sometime overstep those boundaries. However, when the governing body uses these grey areas to manipulate the rules, that’s another matter.
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