In less than two weeks the 1980 Formula One season will be under way and there should be a report of the Argentine GP in the February issue of Motor Sport, for it is due to take place at the Autodromo in Buenos Aires on January 13th. While some teams are in a state of flux and indecision, others are well advanced with the first part of their 1980 programme. Quite often these early races in South America have been little more than extensions of the previous season and if that proves to be the case this year we can expect to see the Ferrari team vying with the Williams team for pride of place, with Renault very close behind and Ligier waiting for any of the top three to falter so that it might jump in.
Ferrari: The 1979 cars, designated T4, were pensioned off and the T5 replacement was announced in December. The basic concept of the car has been unchanged but a lot of re-designing has taken place, particularly in the engine, where a revised cylinder head and valve gear design has permitted the 1980 flat-12-cylinder engine to be narrower in overall width, to help towards better air-flow under the car and to improve the weight transfer on cornering. The top part of the bodywork has been reshaped to improve the air-flow and the resultant down-force generated by the body, while the rear brakes are hub-mounted as on the T4B which was tried at Monza. There have been no changes within the team, Mauro Forghieri is still chief engineer. Piccinini is still team-manager and Scheckter and Villeneuve are still the two happy drivers.
Renault: The 1979 cars RS10, RS12 and RS14 have been taken completely apart and redesigned and rebuilt to the same general format, with the twin turbo-charger layout on the V6 engine. About all that remained of the 1979 cars was the rear bulkhead of the monocoque and the floor pan, everything else has been revised mainly with the aim of saving weight, but also to provide an easier car to work on at races. The 1979 layout was a bit complicated and routine work on the engine and transmission took too long: this facet of the design has been greatly improved. The oil tank is now between the engine and gearbox, the rear anti-roll bar is a simpler layout, the exhaust tail pipes are shorter, the side-pods are an improved shape, the side-skirts are of a better design and the nosepiece and fins are improved. Development work in the engine department has been aimed at improved reliability, especially in the valve gear, while power output is considered to be sufficient for the time being. The totally rebuilt cars are some 30 kg. lighter than last year, and they have been renumbered RE20, RE21 and RE22. The previous designation of RS stood for Renault-Open, the official name of the competition department of the Regie-Renault. They were always backed by the ELF fuel company, but this year the ties are even stronger and the cars are designated Renault-ELF, hence the RE numbering.
As mentioned last month Francois Castang, the chief engineer, has moved on to other things and his place has been taken by Bernard Dudot, who was previously assistant chief engineer. Gerard Larrouse is still head of the Renault competition department, aided by Jean Sage, and the two drivers are still Jean-Pierre Jabouille and René Arnoux. The RE20 was out on test last November and before the end of the year had done considerable testing in Brazil and Argentina, supported to the full by ELF and Michelin.
Alfa Romeo: The new V12 Alfa Romeo only appeared at the end of last season and no major redesigns were to be expected, though the rear brakes have been moved “outboard” onto the hubs. The major change within the team is sponsorship by Marlboro and a change of colour from Alfa red to the garish white and day-glo red/orange of Marlboro. Patrick Depailler is the number one driver, though his fitness is in some doubt still, and he is backed up by Bruno Giacomelli. A test and development programme is being carried out on Alfa Romeo’s private track at Balocco and Vittorio Brambilla is doing all the experimental driving. Carlo Chiti is at work on two variations on the 1 1/2-litre turbo-charged theme, one a V6 and the other a V8, the former being literally half the existing V12. The new car is being designed to take either a turbo-charged 1 1/2-litre or the existing V12, and Alfa Romeo say it is their intention to run three cars in some of the European events.
Williams: As mentioned elsewhere in this issue the Williams team are starting 1980 with B-versions of the successful FW07 cars and at the time of writing it seems pretty certain that Carlos Reutemann will be Alan Jones’ partner on the driving side, otherwise there are no major changes.
Ensign: Morris Nunn and his one-car team look to be starting 1980 in better condition than ever before. The team now has the financial backing of Unipart. This is the highly successful branch of British Leyland that deals in replacement and service components for nearly all the cars in the world, not only BL cars, with the exception of those from East Germany. Unipart has been supporting the sport for a few years now, first with a rally car and then with a Formula Three team. Now they are stepping up into Formula One by backing the Ensign team and to justify the support Morris Nunn has assembled a strong team with “Clay” Regazzoni to do the driving, Ralph Bellamy on design, Nigel Bennett (from Lotus) as chief engineer and Rod Campbell as team-manager. All the old Ensign cars have been thrown out and a brand new car has been built around the inevitable Cosworth DFV-Hewland gearbox package, with the accent on simplicity and lightness, taking a leaf from Patrick Head’s book. This new car is Type N180 and follows on in the MN series. The first new one is due to appear in Argentina, where it will carry the red, white and blue colours of Unipart. By the time the European season begins Regazzoni will have three cars available, one to race, a spare car and one at the factory being prepared for the next race. The work-force at Ensign has almost trebled and plans are going ahead to move into a new and larger factory unit.
Most of the other teams have been out muting revised versions of their 1979 cars or new drivers, or trying experimental innovations and it all suggests that 1980 will be at least as busy as 1979. The permanent racing numbers have been altered slightly, Ferrari moving up to 1 and 2, while Lotus become 11 and 12. Some of the driver line-up is still unsettled at the time of writing but it looks like this:—
Ferrari — Jody Scheckter, Gilles Villeneuve
Tyrrell — Jean-Pierre Jarier, Derek Daly
Brabham — Nelson Piquet, Ricardo Zunnino
McLaren — John Watson, Alain Prost
Lotus — Mario Andretti, Elio de Angelis
Renault — Jean-Pierre Jabouille, René Arnoux
Ligier — Jacques Laffite, Didier Pironi
Alfa Romeo — Patrick Depailler, Bruno Giacomelli
Fittipaldi — Emerson Fittipaldi, Keijo Rosberg
Williams — Alan Jones, Carlos Reutemann
Ensign — Gianclaudio Regazzoni
On January 13th everything should be settled so next month we can tell you in more detail who drives what, paid for by whom and what colour everything is. The scene is a little late this year.
Correction (from the Oh Dear! department)
I was so busy making sure that the Saudi Arabian names in the article on Frank Williams sponsors were spelt correctly last month that I had a mental block on the simple matter of the Williams car type numbers. I wrote in glowing terms about the first Saudia-backed car being the FW07, when it should have been the FW06, and then went on to talk about the very successful FW08 in 1979. This no doubt made Patrick scratch his head, for he has not completed the design of FW08 yet, let alone built one. I should, of course, have been referring to the FW07. What I did get right was the fact that the team is starting 1980 with B-versions of the FW07, improved as regards suspension, monocoque construction and general efficiency of detail design. The 1979 cars have been taken apart, the monocoques unriveted and new cars built up around the bare bones of the FW07 series. An all-new FW08 should appear later in the season.
To re-cap, the first Saudia-backed Patrick Head design was the FW06 which raced throughout 1978 and the early part of 1979 and this was followed by the FW07 which notched-up five Grand Prix wins and these cars have now become FW07B. Apologies all ’round, — D.S. J.