Extract: F1 Retro 1980 part 3


The third in a five-part series of extracts from Motor Sport Grand Prix editor Mark Hughes.

In this extract from F1 Retro 1980, former Williams engineering director Patrick Head opens up about designing the FW07 and the combative relationship between Alan Jones and Carlos Reutemann

‘The Lotus had a very weak structure and it was obvious to me that with this level of downforce [our car] needed to be much tougher. We made it from aluminium honeycomb, bonded it very carefully – none of this pop-riveted stuff like on the Lotus. We just tried to get it as strong as we could without making it overweight. 

‘The torsional stiffness of any tube is proportional to the square of its cross-sectional area, so when you make the chassis smaller in section – so as to increase the venturi width – you are going to lose hugely in terms of torsional stiffness. Honeycomb was the answer. It stabilised the skins, and incidentally had a massive impact upon energy absorption in frontal impact because unlike long, thin aluminium skins which buckled very easily, they buckled progressively as the honeycomb bond gave up. 

‘I remember I had to do a lot of self-teaching. Doing the original FW07, it was like, I imagine, when John Barnard was later doing his carbon fibre car: if you get it wrong you are deep in the shit.”
‘Carlos was this wonderful-looking guy and an amazing character. When he was on it he was seriously quick – in truth quicker than Alan, but Alan was on it every lap all the time. I didn’t properly understand Carlos at the time and I think that was a failing of mine. He’s a very complex character: incredibly confident about his ability but not about how things might be panning out, and I don’t think we did enough to show him that we were behind him.’

You can buy F1 Retro 1980 now from the Motor Sport shop

You may also like