The biggest technical interest in the pits was the ingenuity shown in cheating the 6 cm. ground clearance rule: the time, money and effort expended on hydraulics, electrics and pneumatics, and the systems involving all three, used to make the car rise up and down as and when required being out of all proportion to the end result. Because all this can only be a “nine-day wonder” Iike the tyre-marking comedy of last year, there is no point in dwelling upon the systems being used. Study of the lap times recorded by Marc Surer with the Ensign will give you a sense of proportion because at the moment Morris Nunn cannot afford any sophisticated methods of cheating.
Williams: In spite of Patrick Head saying they would never get into double-figures on the chassis numbers of their FW07 series, the team is well away and Jones had a brand new car, number FW07C/15, while Reutemann kept to number 12 and number 14 was the spare. A disturbing feature around the team is the “different faces in different places” for various internal reasons, like Wayne Eckersley the mechanic who normally looks after Alan Jones being away sick, little Bobby Clarke who normally looks after the spare car being away in America on loan to the Longhorn team, and other team personnel being moved from places they are normally seen working. You cannot even rely on seeing Patrick Head plugged into the “intercom” with Alan Jones during practice, and these changes in the normal scene are disturbing.
Tyrrell: We are not really expecting to see much change in the Tyrrell team at present as there is not much sponsorship money available, the Imola Ceramics spread to both cars for this meeting. For a new boy, with little experience, Alboreto is doing all right, qualifying for the grid and enjoying his driving though he needs to stop getting tangled up with other people.
Brabham: There were four BT49C Brabhams on the harbour front, numbers 9, 10, 11 and 12. Piquet normally races number 11. his spare car is number 9, and Rebaque normally races number 12, but as he bent this one on Thursday he transferred to number 10. It was number 9 that a lot of people were ticking about being illegal, but as the officials said “If someone cares to put in an official protest, with the necessary fee, we will take BT49C/9 and measure it, weigh it and generally investigate the protest, but while you all mutter behind your hands we are not interested”. It is difficult to believe it is illegal because one of Bernard Ecclestone’s tenets is “no matter what I do, I do not do anything that is illegal” and he owns the Brabham team.
McLaren: At Imola it took the management of McLaren International something like three hours to decide not to let de Cesaris use the new car, so goodness knows how long the managerial meeting was to make the decision before Monaco to let him drive MP4/1, the first of the new John Barnard designed cars with carbon-fibre monocoque, which only Watson had driven previously. The Belfast driver was using MP4/2 as his number one car for the wekend, and both drivers had M29F cars as stand-by. Someone who saw de Cesaris crash after the first corner commented that it was a pity the MP4 hadn’t hit the guard rails harder so that we could see if the carbon-fibre monocoque was as impact-resistant as is claimed.
Lotus: With the battle of the Lotus 88 still simmering Colin Chapman took down off the shelf the Lotus 87 design, which was in effect the Lotus 88 with a single sprung-structure, or in other words, all the bodywork and aerodynamic devices attached to the monocoque and feeding their loads to the tyres via the suspension springs and rocker-arm levers. The monocoque was identical to the Lotus 88, of carbon-fibre and Kevlar, and the outward shape was more like the Lotus 81 than the Lotus 88. The first Lotus 87 ran on test at Donington Park, while everyone else was down in Italy for the San Marino GP and Nigel Mansell used this car at Monaco (87/1), while de Angelis had a brand new car (87/2) and was not happy with it to start with, adjusting it in a diametrically opposite direction to Mansell’s car, and also wasting time practising in his T-car, which was 81/2. Mansell had an 81 as spare but did not use it. When de Angelis finally agreed to go the Mansell-route on the various chassis and suspension settings he began to make progress with the new Lotus 87.
Ensign: Still struggling along with a single car, Morris Nunn is paying off debts so there is no money for development. Fortunately, in Marc Surer he has a driver who enjoys motor racing and drives well, his enthusiasm overcoming a lot of difficulties in the car. One week the housekeeping money is raided to buy a wheel, next week to buy a spring, this time for a new anti-roll bar and so they go on from hand-to-mouth. How long can it go on? If they had to suffer a driver who moaned and complained all the time they would have gone under long ago; as it is Surer is keeping the team alive and qualifying for the races and finishing in the money, to the embarrassment of many others.
Renault: The ELF-sponsored Renault-Sport team were doing quite well until Ferrari appeared on the scene with their turbo-charged 1 1/2-litre V6, now nothing seems to go right and any improvement is negated by the overwhelming success of Ferrari. Prost had a brand new car (RE32) and Arnoux had the car that appeared in Belgium (RE31). Although they had spent a lot of time at Paul Ricard circuit to try and improve the aerodynamics and general handling of the new car, and Prost had done his best to interpret what was needed to the engineers, they did not make much progress: one wonders whether they are missing the technical knowledge of Jean-Pierre Jabouille. When you look at the V6 Renault engine, with a turbo-charger and intercooler system to each bank of cylinders, so that the overall picture is effectively a pair of 3-cylinder engines working on a single crankshaft it seems reasonable enough until you look at the Ferrari V6.
Ferrari: The 120-degree V6 engine has all the exhaust ports in the vee, two KKK turbo-chargers in the vee, a large inter-cooler in the vee and everything piped to a single waste-gate. In other words the Ferrari layout is not two 3-cylinder engines but a homogeneous 6-cylinder engine in vee-formation and the twin turbo-charger layout is a single unit. The induction pressure can be regulated by a single screw, which controls the pressure blow-off valve, whereas the Renault has two separate waste-gates each with its own screw adjuster, so that a properly balanced Renault engine can only be achieved on the test-bed before it is installed in the car. The Ferrari layout allows regulation of the turbo-charger pressure to be made at any time, and it is obvious that different pressures are being used in practice to those in the race. It would be interesting to know the actual p.s.i. figures being used for different conditions.
The team arrived with three cars, all on KKK turbo-chargers, as the BBC Comprex super charger system is still undergoing experimental changes. Villeneuve had 126CK/052 which he used all weekend, whereas Pironi got through three cars. He had 051 and 050 to start with, but after an accident in practice another car had to be sent for, which would have been 053, but paperwork deficiencies saw it labelled as 049. He used 050 for the race. All the cars were in standard wheelbase form, which is to say short-wheelbase as compared to the long-wheelbase layout tried previously, and at every meeting the suspension members are different in detail as improvements are made. At Ferrari development is a continuous process, and their rate of progress with the turbo-charged 1 1/2-litre V6 car has been praiseworthy and has brought a healthy aspect back into Grand Prix racing. To some teams development means finding a new sponsor and having the cars painted different colours, but it is not like that at Maranello.
Toleman-Hart: In at the deep end the Toleman team are determined to learn to swim, or sink in the endeavour. They failed to pre-qualify, but felt they had made some progress. Being last is pretty conclusive, but it is possible to analyse your own personal degree of being last. Henton and Warwick used the same two cars as in Belgium, but Henton’s car (TG181/02) was using a new form of air intake to the turbo-charger unit, using two inlets instead of one. At least Brian Hart knows where the deficiencies lie in his turbo-charged 4-cylinder engine and work is progressing to improve matters. The team are not standing about wondering why they are not winning, they are a very realistic bunch of people.
Alfa Romeo: Like Renault, any progress made by Alfa Romeo is being totally overshadowed by Ferrari, and the Milanese firm have the added burden of national pride to live with. Their turbo-charged 1 1/2-litre V8, which looks neat and compact like a Mini-Cosworth DFV is not far from the track-testing stage, but when it does appear it will have the known standards of Ferrari to attain, which will not be easy. The 3-litre V12-engined cars they are using at present seem to lack something quite small in every department, so that in total they are not competitive with a Williams or a Brabham. They only have to be slightly over-weight, and slightly under-powered and to have slightly more drag, and slightly less adhesion, to become outclassed. The front end of Formula One is very competitive and in all aspects, near-enough is not good enough. At the start of the season Alfa Romeo made it pretty clear that individual car identification was non-existent within their organisation. Cars were numbered 1, 2, 3 & 4 regardless of what they were. At Monaco they were not even numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, they were merely a set of four Tipo 179C assemblages.
Theodore: Teddy Yip’s neat little team, with the cars engineered by Tony Southgate, had a brand new car, TY/02 and the original car was put to one side as an emergency spare for Tambay. This one-man team is in the same happy position as Ensign, in having a driver who enjoys actually doing the best he can.
Talbot: Difficult to see any real progress with what is in effect an obsolete design that was not very brilliant when it was a Ligier-Matra. We must wait and see what transpires when the new turbo-charged Matra engine is revealed, but like the other turbo-charged aspirants the Ferrari standard has got to be the one to aim for. It is a bit like 1967 when the Ford-sponsored Cosworth DFV engine first appeared, it set a new high standard to aim at. — D.S.J.