Looking Back on Formula One



When the Mexican Grand Prix finished on October 24th with Richie Ginther in first place, driving a Honda V12, it saw the end of a five-year period in motor racing that should pass into the annals of history as an important era. It was the end of the 1.5-litre Formula for Grand Prix racing, set up in 1958 and which took effect on January 1st, 1961. It started on rather a dull note, with a lot of people saying it was doomed to failure because an engine limit or 1.5 litres was too small, and some drivers even predicted that it would be dangerous because the cars would be underpowered and there would be no reserve of power to get them out of difficult situations. One well-known driver of the time even went so far as to say he would not take part in the 1.5-litre Formula races. Needless to say he did when the time came. A number of people who had tried hard to get the Formula stopped and were therefore not prepared when it came into being in 1961, started a counter movement for an Intercontitental Formula, having grandiose ideas of British and American racing interests overriding the power of the F.I.A. That idea was a complete flop, and the few races held for these 3-litre cars were a waste of time and attracted only a miscellaneous collection of out-of-date cars. Meanwhile, when Formula One got under way, with its maximum engine capacity of 1,500 C.C. (1.5 litres) and minimum weight of 450 kilogrammes (990 lbs.) the only team that was ready was Ferrari, for all the British teams and the lone German team of Porsche had only modified 1960 Formula Two cars available to race, with the result that Ferrari had an easy win at Siracusa when a new driver, Giancarlo Baghetti, beat the cream of the existing Grand Prix drivers, all having engines with far less horsepower. By the time of the first Grande Epreuve, at Monte Carlo, Ferrari had a new engine ready to race, it being the 120-degree V6-cylinder and in the F.I chassis it was undoubtedly the fastest car, but the prowess of Stirling Moss was something that could not be reckoned with, and driving what was in effect a 1960 Formula Two Lotus-Climax 4-cylinder, Moss beat the Ferrari team on driving alone. Although various estimates gave this new Ferrari engine a power output of 190 b.h.p., it did in fact give 178 b.h.p. at 9,500 r.p.m. on its first outing, which was nearly 30 b.h.p. more than the 4-cylinder Coventry-Climax or 4-cylinder Porsche engines were giving at the time.

Such was the state of things in the early days of the Formula, in 1961, that even B.R.M. were reduced to fitting Coventry-Climax engines to their cars, the chassis being developed from their 1960 2.5-litre Grand Prix cars, with the result that it was too heavy. Lotus and Cooper were using what were virtually 1960 Formula Two cars, and during that first season an enormous number of people attempted to get into Grand Prix racing. All manner of sports-car engines were being installed in Cooper chassis frames, while small manufacturers such as Emeryson and de Tomaso were building ears that complied with the new Formula, but which could only hope to compete while there was a lull before real Grand Prix cars were built, with new multi-cylinder engines, and new chassis techniques. In that first year more than 70 different drivers tried their hand at Grand Prix racing, and nearly 20 different makes appeared on the starting grids at various times. Just as most of the drivers did not make the grade once the racing scene sorted itself out, so did most of these variegated makes fall by the wayside, many of them having been cobbled-up in small workshops from obsolete components in order to get into Grand Prix racing while there was a lull. Few people Seemed to appreciate that you do not build Grand Prix cars from obsolete or existing components; you design the cars, engines and gearboxes from scratch. B.R.M. and Coventry-Climax were both hard at work on new power units, both being V8-cylinder units, with double overhead camshafts to each bank of cylinders, and the Coventry firm got theirs finished; first it appeared in a works Cooper driven by Jack Brabham, at the German Grand Prix in August. The Bourne firm did not have theirs running until September, when it appeared for practice at the Italian Grand Prix. All this time Ferrari had been having things all his own way, with a 1-2-3-4 at the Belgium Grand Prix, a 1-2 in Holland and 1-2-3 in Great Britain. However, in the German Grand Prix on the Nuburgring the driving of Stirling Moss once again triumphed and he brought his obsolete Lotus-Climax 4-cylinder, entered by Rob Walker, home in first place, ahead of the Ferrari team. In Holland, the third member of the Ferrari team was given a had time all through the race by a new name in Grand Prix racing; this was Jim Clark, driving a very sleek Lotus-Climax 4-cylinder, and whereas in this first year Coventry-Climax were giving first support to Jack Brabham and Cooper, as a result of their Championship wins in 1959 and 1960, by the end 01′ the Formula it was Jim Clark and Lotus who were receiving all the attention of Coventry-Climax.

While the Ferrari works team was intact it was almost unbeatable, due entirely to superior power units, all three team cars having the 120-degree engines, but if anything went wrong, or they did not enter, then the issue was wide open. At the French Grand Prix the whole Ferrari team ran into trouble and the last phase of the race lay between Baghetti, in a privately entered earlier Ferrari, and the 4-cylinder opposition, and it was a memorable dice which the Italian won by mere inches. At Solitude there was a similar battle between Lotus and Porsche, which Innes Ireland just won for the Cheshunt team, it being one of the hardest fought races ever seen. This racing to the bitter end became a feature of the new 1.5-litre Formula racing; and whereas in the past the last stages of a Grand Prix usually saw one car out on its own cruising round to finish, we now saw groups of cars battling away right to the end, with the result that race average speeds improved over previous years, and fastest laps were proving to be very close to those of the extinct 2.5-litre Formula cars.

Before the season finished most of the doubters had been won over, and with the appearance of 180 b.h.p. V8-cylinder engines from Coventry-Climax and B.R.M. and the knowledge that Porsche were well advanced with a fiat 8-cylinder engine the future looked very good. The season was marred by a crash at Monza when Wolfgang von Trips, the young German nobleman, lost his life, and though Phil Hill and Ferrari won the Championships for 1961, they won them sadly. During the season there were a number of interesting happenings, among them the appearance of the Ferguson P99 racing car with 4-wheel-drive, and in spite of a convincing demonstration during the British Grand Prix, and an even more convincing victory in the Oulton Park Gold Cup race, it not lead design trends along the lines it could have done. The P99 was using a 1.5-litre Coventry-Climax 4-cylinder engine like all its rivals, but was far in advance of them as regards road-holding, braking and aceeleration. At the end if the season the Harry Ferguson research team offered the 4-wheel-drive project to any of the British teams that might like to take it up, as they themselves had no intention of indulging in a full racing programme and had only competed in order to demonstrate their 4-wheel-drive principles. Unfortunately no one took up the offer, and everyone carried on with the rear-engine, rear-drive layout that had been well and truly established by Cooper during 1959 and 1960.

By the beginning of the second season of the new Formula everyone was completely absorbed in it and had accepted that it was not so bad as predicted, all thoughts of counter movements now being forgotten. B.R.M., who had never intended to do anything else but take part in the 1.5-litre Formula, were very well advanced with their V8 engine and began to reap the rewards of hard work. Lotus were getting into their stride, and Jim Clark was proving to be a rapidly rising star, while Jack Brabham left Cooper and started to build his own car, and John Surtees, another rising star, had formed a team with Erie Broadley to build Lola Grand Prix cars, using Coventry-Climax V8 engines. The Coventry firm were now hard pressed to supply engines to Lotus, Cooper, Lola and Brabham, and loyalties were torn as to who should get first choice, so that there was quite a bit of dissatisfaction among the customers. For the first Grande Epreuve, at Zandvoort, Colin Chapman produced his master stroke, the Lotus 25, with its stressed monocoque construction, a design which was soon to be copied by a lot of constructors. The 8-cylinder Porsche also made its first appearance at this race, but was rather overshadowed by the Lotus 25, for the German car was fairly orthodox in its construction and was big and bulky compared with the pencil-slim Lotus, in which the driver was practically lying horizontal, and even Clark took some time to get used to the prone driving position. The whole aim was low frontal area, and this was achieved so that new standards of performance began to appear, while road-holding and handling techniques were improved over the previous year, and these were coupled with advances in tyre design by Dunlop who had a monopoly in Grand Prix racing. The new Lola project looked promising, but failed to achieve great success, having only one win in a minor race at Mallory Park. It was not for want of a driver, for John Suttees was ranking among the top four of the year. The season had started on a sad note for Stirling Moss crashed a Lotus-Climax V8 and his injuries put him out of racing for ever, so we were looking for new champion drivers.

The supremacy of Ferrari during the previous season was not repeated in 1962, for his rivals had caught up and the Maranello firm had nothing new with which to combat the attack. Also the team management had undergone a major change, and the chief engineer and team-manager had left, to join a rival concern backed by some wealthy Italians who thought they could beat Ferrari at Grand Prix racing. This new project was called A.T.S. but it was the end of the year before any signs were seen of the car, and then only at a Press reception. A new Italian car did appear briefly at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, this being the 8-cylinder de Tomaso, a flat-8 engine not unlike the Porsche but liquid cooled, and mounted in a tubular space-frame. Like so many projects it looked promising but came to nothing. Another 30 or so drivers tried their hand at Grand Prix racing, and six new makes appeared during the season, but the pace was beginning to get very fast and furious and only the good drivers made the grade and the best engineered cars kept up. The Lola-Climax and the Brabham-Climax seemed to have come to stay, while Joseph Sitfert and Peter Arundell joined Grand Prix racing from Formula Junior racing with every justification. By the end of the season fuelinjection made its appearance on the Coventry-Climax engine, and Graham Hill and B.R.M. won the Championships, after a close battle with Jim Clark and Lotus.

Apart from the works teams of Lotus, Cooper, Brabham and Lola, many other people wanted to use Coventry-Climax engines, for there were various private teams using these chassis, and Climax were inundated, if not overwhelmed, and before the end of 1962 they said they would have to give up their racing interests. However, the motor industry, in particular Lucas, persuaded them to continue, but in the meantime B.R.M. had set up a sales service for their V8 engines, so a great many people visited Bourne. Coventry-Climax were able to change their minds about withdrawing and return with only the works teams to support. However, John Suttees abandoned Broadley and the Lola and joined the Ferrari team in 1963, and Coventry-Climax development began to show a distinct bias towards Lotus and Jim Clark, which was obviously a race-winning combination. The works Porsche team now gave up in despair, having won only two races, the French Grand Prix in 1962, and a small race at Solitude, but their place was taken by the newly formed A.T.S. team, which proved to be a complete and utter failure and the ruin of Phil Hill’s Grand Prix Career. The British Racing Partnership, owned by Alfred Moss and Ken Gregory, now forged out on their own, having previously run teams for the Yeoman Credit and United Dominions Trust hire purchase companies, and they now produced their own B.R.P. car, a monocoque Lotos-like Chassis, powered by a B.R.M. V8 engine. Another team that joined in with its own chassis powered by B.R.M. was the Sirocco-Powell team, an American financed affair that was doomed to fail and disappeir. Without question 1963 was a Jim Clark and Lotus year, the Lotus 25 with all the latest developments of Coventry-Climax to propel it was virtually unbeatable, and Clark won seven out of the ten major Grand Prix races of the year. B.R.M. were still well in the picture, while Ferrari and Brablaim could not be ignored, but Cooper was now no longer in the running, but still competing nevertheless. Once again some 30 new names appeared on the starting lists of Formula One races. which were taking place in all sorts of places, so that many of them were local lads having but one go. However, the names of Amon. Anderson and Hulme were to remain:

Before the season finished Ferrari produced new cars showing very obvious British influences, dictated by Surtees using his knowledge gained with Lola, and the red cars took on a sleeker and lighter aspect. Dunlop still had a tyre monopoly and in 1964 introduced a 13-inch diameter Grand Prix tyre, that was to transform the Grand Prix car, making them even lower and endowed with previously undreamt-of road-holding. The pace both at racing and at development was by now at a very high pitch and Ferrari. B.R.M., Lotus and Coventry-Climax were giving no quarter. Brabham and Casper were tailing along as best they could. though the Brabhum team had the advantage of Dan Gurney as their number one driver, and he often made up for engine or chassis deficiencies, as Moss had done in 1961, but whereas the prowess of Moss had been victorious, Gurney was only able to keep up with the pace set by the leaders, who were invariably Hill. Clark or Surtees. B.R M. had gone over to a full monocoque chassis. after a wasted effort with a part stressed-skin and part space-frame chassis, a layout oddly enough used by the Japanese, for 1964 saw the appearance ot the Honda car in Grand Prix racing. This was a landmark that had no immediate consequences, and to date has not, but the future might hold more in store.

After no development work, and retention of the V6 engine for too long, the Ferrari team suddenly got involved in a welter of development with new V8 and flat-12-cylinder engines. as well as revised chassis frames, and by reason of the failing of Coventry-Climax engines in Clark’s Lotus the Ferrari and Suttees were able to annex the Championships. It had been known that Honda were entering Grand Prix racing with a V12-cylinder engine for some time, and they approached Lotus and Brabham with a view to using this power unit in their cars, but the two British teams were loath to abandon British products and appealed to Coventry-Climax for something new to combat this menace from the East. The result was a crush programme of design and building and the Coventry firm produced a flat-16-cylinder engine that was nearing completion as the 1964 season ended.

B.R.M. were still well in the picture, with Graham Hill leading the team. and development work continued at Bourne with an eye to the future. From 1962 chassis components they built a 4-wheel-drive car, with the assistance of Ferguson Research, and ran it purely as a mobile test-bed from which to gain knowledge. At the end of the season the bankrupt A.T.S concern had a brief new lease of life when one of the cars appeared under the sponsorship of Derrington-Francis, but it was no more successful than the original car. Sixteen new drivers tried their hand at Grand Prix racing, in assorted cars. but only Gardner, Attwood, Rindt and Hawkins made the grade. With B.R.M. supplying engines to customers, and numerous early Coventry-Climax engines being on the market, the combination of engines and chassis frames became quite complex and Lotus-B.R.M. was one that did not at first ring true.

By the time the last year of the Formula started, which was 1965, the Grand Prix scene had become well settled, with the major part of any entry list made up of works teams, and only very strong private teams or private owners being able to compete in the more important races. This was a situation that appears normal in Grand Prix racing, and Grandes Epreuves are the-domain of factory teams. The battles between Lotus, B.R.M., Ferrari, Brabharn, Cooper and Honda proved to be intense, and the introduction of Goodyear Grand Prix tyres on Brabhum and Honda cars, enlivened the scene greatly. Since the beginning of the multi-cylinder era in 1961 power outputs had gone up to 210-215 b.h.p. and engine speeds had risen continually, more than 11,000 r.p.m. being quite normal. The Coventry-Climax 16-cylinder engine failed to leave the test-bed, but they did produce a new version of the V8-cylinder engine, having four valves per cylinder, and this proved alternatively successful and fragile, but successful enough to allow Clark and Lotus to win the Championships once more. The V12 Honda engine also used a 4-valves-per-cylinder layout, and turning over at 12,000 r.p.m. a power output of 230 b.h.p. was claimed, while the fiat-12-cylinder Ferrari gave 22b.h.p. and the five seasons of Formula One under a 1.5-litre rule saw good progress once it got under way. The competition between the factory teams at the end of the Formula was as strong as Grand Prix racing has ever seen, while driving standards were equally high. Of the seven newcomers in 1965 the names of Stewart and Bondurant have come to stay.

With the end of the Formula we also see the end of participation by Coventry-Climax, as racing engine designers and constructors. and though Lotus won the manufacturers Championship twice. it was thanks to the support of’ the Coventry engine firm. Equally, they lost the Championship in 1962 and 1964 at the last moment due to failures of those engines. These two failures allowed wins for B.R.M. and Ferrari, both of whom were strong challengers throughout the five years of the Formula.

The Champion drivers of those five years were: 1961 Phil Hill, 1962 Graham Hill, 1963 Jim Clark, 1964 John Surtees, and 1965 Jim Clark. Altogether more than 150 drivers took part in varioas races run under the 1.5-litre Formula, of which a mere handful made the grade as top Grand Prix drivers. Before the Formula began many people said that the little 1.5-litre cars would be so easy to drive that any Tom, Dick or Harry would be a Grand Prix driver. Tom, Dick and Harry tried to become Grand Prix drivers, yet it would be hard to make a list of 12 first-class Grand Pris drivers. The list would run short at six. Driving a Grand Prix car is one thing, but racing it and winning with it is very different, as this Formula has shown. In just the same way many people demonstrated during the five years that it was not difficult to build a Grand Prix car, but many of them found out that it was indeed difficult to build a successful Grand Prix Car.

Far from being the disaster and failure that was predicted is many people, the 1.5-litre Formula provided interesting, competitive and exciting, racing, as well as a lot of technical development, which is the main object of Grand Prix racing.—D. S. J.