Spoiler alert: a tour through the good, bad and ugly of F1 design
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The X-wing, the F duct, flexi wings and now the Coathanger, the T-wing and the Shark's fin.
Recognise the names here?
Not the official names, of course, but sobriquets quickly bestowed on appendages, mostly ugly, that have sprouted from the inventive brains of Formula 1 engineers and on to race cars.
They are just a small sample of the aerodynamic attachments to be banned by the FIA in past years with the final three names having been expelled from the scene from 2018 onwards.
The T-wing and Shark's fin are the latest in a long line of items, both mechanical and aerodynamic, that have appeared, been banned and then disappeared, on Formula 1 cars over the years.
The wonderful Brabham-Alfa Romeo BT46B fan car suddenly arrived on the scene at the Swedish Grand Prix in 1978 in the hands of Niki Lauda and won that race at a canter. It was a period in the sport when "ground effect" was the buzz term and the Lotus F1 team was winning that particular arms race hands down.
Brabham designer Gordon Murray needed something to blunt the Lotus advantage. In a flash of brilliance, he came up with a concept that would see a huge fan, powered by the engine, fitted to the car in order to "cool" the engine and radiators, which, of course, was perfectly legal.
Undeniably it also had the effect, by drawing its air from the underside of the car, of sucking the car down to the ground the faster the engine ran.
The contraption also sucked up small stones and debris and shot them out the back of the car like bullets, peppering the following cars.
Although not technically banned, the fan car concept was "discouraged" and team owner Bernie Ecclestone withdrew the car from any further races.
The Lotus team, guided by the brilliant pioneering genius that was Colin Chapman, led the ground-effect charge with a series of beautiful Formula 1 cars in the 1970s.
The teams of the 1970s went on to add "skirts" to the cars to seal the underside and those skirts almost created a vacuum, further sucking the car to the road.
That all went well until a skirt became detached from the road resulting in a loss of that downforce and car and driver was sent, said driver and broadcaster Martin Brundle, "straight to the scene of the accident".
Skirts and undercar ground effect were banned from Formula 1 in later years.
The X wing was a Tyrrell Formula 1 team invention. The team had to find, like all F1 teams, more downforce for the car and Tyrrell came up with the brilliant idea of using some old wings, cut down and modified, to be placed on high stalks and mounted on the sidepods of the cars.
Once again, a brilliant idea that was soon imitated. However they were so ugly and ungainly that they should have been banned immediately on aesthetic grounds.
They were soon banned by the FIA for safety's sake.
Tyrrell had already pushed the boundaries when, in 1976, the team announced a six-wheeled Formula 1 car dubbed the P34.
With four wheels at the front and two at the rear, the car raced in30 Grands Prix, winning just one.
The FIA finally mandated in the 1980s that an F1 car could have a maximum of four wheels, and only two could be driven wheels.
So, T-wings and the rest -- by no means the entire list -- now join the scrapheap of ingenious brilliance. Although mostly legal and within the regulations as they existed at the times, that fell foul of the governing body.
With all these regulations, rules and technical guidelines to be adhered to, is it any wonder that the cars all look similar?
Perhaps we need the designers of today with the raw inventiveness of the likes of a Chapman or the flair of a Murray to be given more freedom to exploit more "wacky racer" concepts.
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