There seems to be considerable debate surrounding how much Jaguar should lean on its heritage during its foray into Formula One.
There are those who think it scandalous that Jaguar’s in Fl at all, particularly as it is at the expense of the house of Stewart and all it’s achieved in the last 35 years. They say this is badge engineering at its worst as the cars will never go to Coventry. These people would also, I guess, decry the recovery of Aston Martin and products such as the DB7 Vantage for similar reasons. The truth is that iflaguar had not been bought by a multinational, there would be no badge left to engineer, and the same surely can be said of Lotus, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Bentley, Alfa-Romeo, Maserati and, I expect, another little outfit called Ferrari.
And while these mean-minded individuals snipe at those whose only sin is to save great names from certain death, perhaps they should spare a moment’s thought for what, in fact, is the real issue here. Heritage is not a static entity, it is a constantly moving concept, fed not by retrospection but forward thinking. We may get misty eyed over a D-type Jaguar but the reason it won races and thereby created the heritage is that it was, at the finite, the most advanced sportscar the world had ever seen.
It is true the move to F1 is brave and you need only look at Aston’s dalliance in 1960 to know that making great sportscars in no way guarantees even modest success in F1. But in another way it is also clever. Clever because it leaves Aston to return to Le Mans but more clever as no-one expects *guar to win a Grand Prix. IfJaguar went back to Le Mans, the only news would be Wit didn’t win, and that’s a burden anyone would be smart to avoid.
Most clever of all is that if all Jaguar achieves in its first season is to do no better than Stewart did in its last, then it will win a Formula One Grand Prix. And that, let me tell those who still doubt the wisdom if this move, will create more pure heritage for the marque than it would gain by winning every sportscar race on the calendar.
Of course, this is not Jaguar’s first F1 outing. Fifty years ago Jaguar power joined that of Ferrari and AlfaRomeo at the 1950 Italian GE The reason this little known truth is not trumpeted around Coventry right now? Well, while the engine was Jaguar’s, it was inside Clemente Biondetti’s Ferrari 166 Special. It qualified on the last row of the grid and blew up before one quarter distance. Here’s hoping for better things this time around.
We are resting our regular ‘My Greatest Race’ column. In its place, the world’s greatest racing car designers will nominate the machine they most wish they had created themselves. Patrick Head kicks it off on page 90.