The VHS vs. BETA Award

This award goes to innovative car design concepts killed off for some reason or other.
• • •
Thanks to Megatron for helping us out with pictures and info for this award


3. Driver Aids

2. Brabham 'fan' car

1. Six-wheelers




F1 Award
3. Driver Aids
Driver aids Now, this award is for those innovations which have been nipped in the bud by big business, and driver aids such as traction control, ABS brakes and active suspension, all banned at the end of 1993, certainly fall into that category. Whilst advancing motoring technology to unimaginable heights, it did have a habit of turning F1 cars into robots which the driver only needed to steer (forza Nigel Mansell 1992).

Active suspension, for example, took one aspect of set-up away from the driver's control. ABS brakes meant he could brake as late as possible without fear of locking up. Traction control meant he could floor the throttle without wheel-spinning, as a computer would gently feed the power in for him.

The best cars won out, not the best drivers. With races becoming increasingly processional, and on the other hand with an increasing TV audience baying for action - not to mention the fact that smaller teams were being left way, way behind - F1 chiefs took the step of banning this stuff in favour of passive, twitchy, nervous cars for 1994. Some would say that this contributed to the horrors of 1994, but from the point of view of racing and driver skill, few could argue that it wasn't for the better.

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F1 Award
2. Brabham 'fan' car
Sweeden 1978, and the Brabham 'fan' car annihilates all comers. It was promptly banned.

Sweeden 1978, and the Brabham 'fan' car annihilates all comers. It was promptly banned.


We could give the award to ground effects in general, but after the disasters of 1982 it was pretty clear why ground effects were banned. Instead, we've gone for one alleged instrument of ground effect, the Brabham 'fan' car. Brainchild of Gordon Murray in the Bernie Ecclestone-run team, it made aesthetic headlines for its big fan on the back of the car.

The Brabham team claimed it was for cooling, but others had different ideas. Megatron, for instance, tells us that the Alfa Romeo flat V12 engine they had was not conducive to ground effects, so instead they put the fan there to create a vacuum and suck the car to the ground; in other words, a different form of ground effect.

At Sweden in 1978, Niki Lauda won the race at a canter, setting fastest lap in the process. Some say he and team-mate John Watson ran deliberately slowly to not make the car look too good, in the hope that the car would be deemed legal despite the howls of protest from other quarters. In the end the majority won out and the car was banned. Apparently Brabham tried to built a subsequent 'fan' car to try and get around the rules, but it never raced.

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F1 Award
1. Six-wheelers
P34 driven by Jackie StewartTyrrell P34 Font wheels
1976 Tyrrell 1977 Tyrrell driven by Ronnie Peterson

The Project 34 Tyrrell, as driven by Jackie Stewart (top left and right) and by Jody Scheckter in 1976 (below left). A further development was driven in 1977 by Ronnie Peterson (below right).


Ruined by finaqncial issues? Well, sort of. When we talk about six-wheeled cars, of course the first that comes to mind is the Tyrrell P34 with its four smaller wheels at the front, driven by Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler to a one-two finish at the 1976 Swedish GP. The theory was that it could get more rubber onto the ground, therefore more gri (and result in less aerodynamic drag). We'll let Tyrrell designer Derek Gardner explain:
"The front tyres are now inside the nose, so that the lift generated by rotating wheels in a free air stream is almost completely cancelled. I calculated that the reduction in drag on our new car would be equivalent to at least 40 horsepower, ans we thought if we had a car with that advantage, we could be competitive with Ferrari."

Tyrrell was not the only team to design a six-wheeler either. Megatron tells us that in the 1970s Brabham, March and even Ferrari had a go (see pictures below), though none of these actually raced. However these had their 4 wheels at the rear, not at the front like the Tyrrell. The Ferrari even had the four narrower wheels in two side-by-side pairs at the back of the car, creating a very wide machine indeed!

Trouble was, Goodyear was having trouble with tyre development (here's where the big business bit comes into it). It needed to invest in these new tyres for either smaller or narrower wheels, and the cost, considering that it would only be for a few teams, would be too great.

The whole six-wheeler concept was banned after Williams designed one at the end of 1981, hoping to lure Alan Jones out of retirement. With the four small wheels at the back instead of the front, in testing this new FW08 shattered a lap record, and the FIA promptly limited the number of wheels to four.

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Scale model of the 6-wheel FerrariFerrari tested here by Carlos Reutemann
March's 6-wheel attemptThe 1981 Williams driven by Rosberg

6 wheelers were also created for other teams: Ferrari (scale model top left), who had their car tested by Carlos Reutemann (top right) but never raced; Brabham, March (below left) and Williams, whose FW08 shattered lap records at the hands of Keke Rosberg (below right).




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