Formula One Scene
I have always said there is never a dull moment in Formula One, and if there is it is of your own making. With teams from all over the world involved, drivers from Brazil to Japan and Australia to Finland taking part as well as an equal mix in all parts of the periphery of Formula One it has little hope of being dull. Shambolic it may be at times, dangerous it certainly is, riotous and noisy as well, so it is hardly a socially acceptable activity for normal people. For anyone in the thick of it and up to their eyebrows, it is a wonderful and magical world, totally selfish, self-contained and having little in common with the real world outside. Needless to say I love it.
The past season had its ups and downs, but the progress on the mechanical and racing front has been most impressive considering that the present Formula for cars with normally aspirated 3½-litre engines has only just finished its second year of existence. Turbocharged engines seem to be from an era in the dark ages, and though I regretted their passing the 3½-litre age has been stimulating and there is much more to come. With the dust barely settled since the last race of the 1990 season there is much happening already and much more the offing for 1991.
Engines are the keynote for the future and if a team has not got an exclusive deal with an engine manufacture or engineering concern there is not a lot of hope for them. The appearance on the scene of Porsche and Yamaha, and the Ilmor engine which is a Chevrolet by another name should keep Honda, Renault, Ferrari, Cosworth and Lamborghini on their toes. Gone are the days when Formula One contestants could buy a ready-made racing engine and build a car around it, as they did in the `kit-car-Cosworth’ days before the turbocharged era of racing. Nowadays it is a case of the chassis, suspension and aerodynamic designers working closely with an individual engine manufacturer to design a really homogeneous car, and the end result is all the better for it. Today’s Formula One cars are really beautiful looking projectiles, and if you don’t believe me just look at the Lotus 49 for example, or the first Tyrrell. Racing car design has really made big strides since some serious engineering concerns have got into the business.
McLaren are well under way with test sessions for their new Honda engine, a V12 this time, while Honda are letting Tyrrell have the latest versions of the 1990 V10 engine for next year’s Tyrrell 020. Like Honda the Regie Renault’s racing arm never rests, the development of the French V10 for the Williams team being a continuous process.
In 1992 they are planning to supply engines to the Ligier team, but in the meantime Guy Ligier has done a deal to use Lamborghini V12 engines. Why Lamborghini have terminated their engine supply to Gerard Larrousse’s team is not very clear, especially after all the efforts that have gone into the Lola L90 Lamborghini V12, and the performances this past season of Bernard and Suzuki. They may not have won any races, but with Prost and Senna, and Ferrari and McLaren about the place there is not a lot of chance for anyone else to do much winning, but the Larrousse cars have been a roaring success compared to the Lotus 102-Lamborghini V12 which has been a total disaster. It was no surprise that Lamborghini have dropped Team Lotus and I am not sure that Ligier will do a lot better than Larrousse.
Just where Team Lotus are going is anyone’s guess, and at the last Grand Prix there was a lot of guessing, so we will have to wait and see, but talk of using 1990 Judd V8 engines sounds a rather desperate measure, like a drowning man without a lifebelt.
Two teams that have not achieved very much during 1990 are Arrows and Brabham, but on the face of things both are going to get their big chance next year, but they are going to have to pull their socks up. The Arrows A11B never looked at all promising, being a bit of a hash-up of the 1989 car that appeared to be worse at the end of the season than it did at the beginning. Neither Alboreto nor Caffi qualified for the Australian Grand Prix, and that is bad news in anybody’s book. Their Cosworth DFR engines were prepared by Brian Hart’s firm, in the same way that he prepared the DFR engines for the Tyrrell team, and Alesi showed consistently that there wasn’t much wrong with a Hart-prepared DFR, while even Nakajima got some good results in the second Tyrrell. The Arrows firm was taken over by the Japanese Footwork concern, who are involved in all manner of domestic business in Japan, and they have done a deal with Porsche for the German firm to design, build and supply engines for 1991. The Porsche Weissach research centre produced a V12 engine in a remarkably short space of time, which has already passed its initial testbed running, followed by test track running in a modified A11B chassis and has now been seen out in public on serious track testing at Silverstone. The A12 chassis designed around the engine and in conjunction with Porsche should be out on test well before the season starts in 1991. The name Arrows has been dropped from the project and the Milton Keynes team are now officially called Footwork, and at the Stuttgart end of the alliance Porsche have taken on Max Welti to supervise the Formula One project. The Swiss Welti was part of the original Sauber-Mercedes sports car team, and when Mercedes-Benz took over the whole Sauber project and painted the cars silver with a three-pointed star on the nose, Max Welti was taken on as team manager. Since that day the silver Mercedes-Benz sports/racing Group C cars have never looked back. Will Porsche follow in their footsteps eventually, in Formula One? Before they do they will need two better drivers, unless Caffi turns out to be another Moreno, which is quite possible, but Michele Alboreto has had his days of glory.
The V12 Porsche engine is different to other V12 engines in that the four overhead camshafts are not driven from the crankshaft by a drive at the front or at the back, but from a drive between cylinders 3 and 4 and 9 and 10. In other words at the centre of the engine. This has not been done just to be different, but must be in the interests of torsional vibrations, which suggest that the engine is designed for very high rpm. As Honda and Ferrari are already running at 13,000 rpm the Porsche must be aiming for nearer 14,000 rpm. By having the drive in the centre of the crankshaft the engine becomes like two very short and stiff V6 engines bolted back to back, though it is not quite so simple as that, but shafts are very short. The Porsche initial announcement did not tell much in the way of details, apart from acknowledging that the engine existed and had been running on the testbed; it is a project that will be watched with great interest, not just because I drive a Porsche car, but I have always had a great respect for things that come from the Weissach Research and Development centre in Germany.
The other team who is going to have a ‘moment of truth’ next year is the Brabham team, for they have a three year contract with Yamaha for the supply of engines, and the Japanese giant has produced a V12 engine using all their patented 5-valves-per-cylinder technology and much more besides. Once again I shall be watching this project with great interest, somewhat biased because I have a pretty fast Yamaha motorcycle that I cannot fault as a sports bike, and anyone who follows motor cycle racing knows that Yamaha are a serious force to be reckoned with. We all know that Yamaha appeared in 1989 with an enlarged Formula 3000 V8 engine in the rather unsuccessful Zakspeed, but anyone who thought Yamaha were doing that probe into Formula One to learn about V8 engines needs to think again. One day we may get a full report on Yamaha racing which tells us what they learnt with Zakspeed, but apart from ‘feeling the temperature of the water’ my guess is that they were learning a lot about materials for the inside of a racing engine, and what they learnt has gone into the new V12.
The Ferrari V12 engine has been a 5-valve-per-cylinder layout since its conception, and I am told that Fiat pay royalties to Yamaha for the more subtle details of the patent. Regardless of what the drivers say to journalists, there is not much wrong with the Ferrari engine and it has been the only one to challenge the Honda V10 seriously. While the Germans and Japanese release a limited amount of information about their engines Ferrari say nothing, barely admitting that they actually have a V12 cylinder unit, and as far as their press information is concerned it could be a two-stroke or a rotary unit, except that such engines are barred from Formula One. When Enzo Ferrari ran the team this reticence was understandable as he never trusted the outside world and back in the 1950s was always afraid that Maserati would steal his ideas. These days, with Fiat louder and clearer than Ferrari it never ceases to surprise me that so little is given out by the team officially.
Another engine project that is due to appear next year is the one from Ilmor Engineering, due to go into the Leyton House cars for Ivan Capelli and Mauricio Gugelmin. Ilmor was started some years ago by Mario Ilien and Paul Morgan who spent their formative years at Cosworth Engineering with a lot of experience of the Cosworth DFX turbocharged Indianapolis engine. They produced a new V8 engine for Indycar racing that literally swept the Cosworth V8 off the board and attracted support from Roger Penske and through him, also from Chevrolet. So successful was the Ilmor V8 Indycar engine that it is now called a Chevrolet V8! Just as Enzo Ferrari learnt his trade with Alfa Romeo and then went away on his own to beat them, the Ilmor pair did with Cosworth. Their entry into Formula One holds much in store.
Leyton House may seem a strange name for a Formula One car, but it came from March cars, which was also a strange name for a Formula One car, back in 1970. The process of changing the name of a team seems to be growing, particularly now that Japanese interests are spreading. It makes sense to come to Europe and buy a ready-made racing team, rather than starting from scratch, and there are plenty of not very successful teams who would jump at the chance of cutting their losses and selling out. In 1991 we will have cars called Footwork to race alongside the Leyton House. While we are on names, next year will see a real tongue twister for the Minardi team have been promised a supply of Ferrari V12 engines and we will have Martini driving a Minardi-Ferrari.
One final word; yes, I know that Vittorio Jano’s beautiful 8-cylinder Alfa Romeo engine of 1931 had the camshafts driven from the centre of the crankshaft, just like the new Porsche V12, and agree that there is very little that is new in engine design. If only we could be told about what is going on inside the engine, especially in the combustion chamber, we would realise that there is a lot of new technology about in Formula One engines. Of passing interest to engine-minded readers I question whether the 2-litre V12 Delage of 1924 was the first 12 cylinder racing engine? It must have sounded glorious to 1924 ears, and I know that 1991 Formula One ears are going to get a lot of pleasure from the V12 engines on next year’s grids. DSJ