Tried but failed


Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
Having just read the thread on the potential revival of Brabham and seeing a picture of Lotus 80 I thought it worth starting a thread on some design escapades in F1 which seemed like a good idea at the time but, ultimately, failed miserably. I'll start you off with a couple from my youth.

Arrows A2

I'm not sure how many of you know the history of the Arrows team but they were an off shoot of Shadow Racing.Their first car, the FA1, had to be scrapped and rebuilt as the A1 as the FIA agreed that the design was basically copied from the Shadow car from where most of the team members had come (I think they left with many parts from the Shadow car in their pockets) . This was the time of ground effect and Dave Wass (designer) took a long hard look at what Colin Chapman was up to and thought "I can do that". The A2 was born.

The car was very similar in concept to the Lotus 80. It had no front wing and the rear wing was integral to the body shape. The side skirts ran full length and the suspension was hidden inside devices designed to increase downforce. The engine was even placed at a 4 degree angle to give more space for the huge venturi tunnels which ran under the car.

It created downforce by the bucket load, in fact so much that it would suck the car down on to the track, the low pressure are under the car would then release and the car would spring up (affectionately known as porpoising). This was the days before serious wind tunnels and CFD was a twinkle in the eye of an engineer.

Arrows struggled with the car for 8 races in the 1979 season before locking it away in a shed and building the far more simple A3 design. It did, at least, run in more races than the Lotus 80 and Jochen Mass even dragged it into the points on two occasions.


Ligier JS19

In the early 80's Ligier were a force to be reckoned with in F1. The JS11, until they lost the piece of paper with how to set it up, was winning races at the beginning of the 1979 season and it's successor, the JS11/15, was similarly successful during the 1980 season.

In 1981 Geard Ducarouge penned the JS17 and Guy Ligier (a man who was a legend in his own mind) thought it sensible to bolt a Matra V12 engine in to the back of it to replace the Cosworth engine (he was French I suppose and Talbot threw a load of money at the team). This was the end of Ducarouge era as he jumped ship to Alfa Romeo in 1982 and his place as technical director was, bizarrely, taken by Jean Pierre Jabouille.

For those that don't know, Jabouille was the first man to drive a turbo car in the modern era and was with Renault from 1977 to the end of 1980. At the Canadian GP in 1980 he crashed, badly damaging his legs, and although he tried his F1 driving career was over. I presume, pushed on by his brother-in-law Jacques Laffite who was also driving for Ligier, Jabouille (who was a qualified engineer) over saw the design of the JS19 which was also mated to the awful Matra (Talbot) V12 engine.

The problem for Jabouille and the design team was that they hadn't read the regulations properly. The side pods of the car ran all the way from behind the front wheel to past the rear wheels creating an incredibly long looking car. The also fitted sliding skirts along the full length of the side pods but the regulations stated that they had to stop in front of the rear wheels. The car turned up for it's first race having shown pretty well in testing only for the team to have to cut off the last two feet of the skirts which meant all the air running under the car escaped out before reaching the venturi tunnels. Strangely this had an adverse effect on the handling...

Both Eddie Cheever and Jacques Laffited managed to drag the machine on to the podium once each but this was more due to the high attrition rate of the early turbo years rather than a reflection on the quality of the car. For 1983 Ligier went back to the Cosworth engine and produced a car which, visually, was a complete departure from the JS19 as it had virtually no side pods. Jabouille had departed the scene and went off to work for Peugeot developing sports cars.

Initially I considered a number of tried and failed Loti to add to the list however when you consider a Lotus powered by a Gas Turbine or the infamous double chassis they weren't so much "seemed like a good idea at the time" as "were never a good idea but no one had the nuts to tell Chapman".

To that end, I would like to offer up these candidates to the seemed like a good idea, tried and failed list.

The Williams FW26

Come the end of the 2003 season Williams had just finished second in the WCC for the second year running, only beaten by the all conquering Schumacher / Ferrari combo. That season had given the team 4 wins and a further 8 podiums between the two drivers, Jaun Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher. Going into 2004, with Williams entering into their 5th year with BMW and improving their finishing positions year on year, hopes were high that they could mount a serious challenge to the Ferrari's

And then..... Along came the Walrus.

The FW26's nose was conceived to harness the potential of a twin keel design that saw the lower suspension struts of each of the front wheels, attached to "keels" on either side of the underside of the nose cone. By opening up the struts of the front wing the airflow into this area (despite making the car look all kinds of ugly) could be maximized.

Sadly for Williams this design failed to produce the performance step forward they were looking for, proved extremely difficult to set up, inconsistent and above all, slow. The team failed to score a single win resulting in a major redesign which took place at the Hungarian GP. By that time the car's drivers had only visited the podium twice, been disqualified three times and, in the case of Ralf Schumacher, spent three months out recovering from a serious accident.

In the aftermath, at the end of the season both Montoya and Schumacher left the team (Montoya having won the final race of the season in the revised car took William's final win until Spain 2012). BMW lasted one more season and then moved on when Frank Williams backed out of selling his shares in the team and the decline of Williams as a force in F1 would last almost a decade.


The Ferrari F92A

Ever since the design team at Hethel managed to harness and show the full potential of ground effect aerodynamics, the ruling body had been trying to ban it and the teams had been trying to find a way to improve on it. By the mid 80's all cars had to have a flat bottom to negate the effect of under side pod tunnels and without any form of skirt this effectively made the full enhancement of ground effect impossible.

Ferrari on the other hand, thought they'd come up with a great way of getting around the rule on flat bottoms. Much in same way as Chapman claimed the Chassis could mean one or two, Ferrari noted that it didn't specify in the rules, how many bottoms a car had to have.

To that end ex-McLaren man Steve Nichols and Ferrari's chief designer, Jean Claude Migeot produced the so called "Double bottomed car". The conventional floor was flat in accordance with the rules and was as close to the road as possible (don't forget there was no plank rule in force at this time). The second floor (that of the tub) was shaped to attempt to recreate the affect of a ground effect design with the downforce supposedly pushing down on the lower floor.

Here's the surprising bit, it didn't work.

Ferrari's two drivers, the very quick Jean Alesi, and the new to the team and highly rated at the time, Ivan Capelli, could do nothing with it apart from watch it DNF . Only Alesi managed a sniff of the podium with two third places. Capelli on the other hand was sacked with two races of the season to go.

Just to make things more fun, Ferrari revised the car after 11 races by adding a highly unreliable semi-automatic gearbox and for shits and giggles at the last two races, gave one of the cars a very heavy and not much use, Active suspension system.

The car retired 20 times and took Ferrari's lowest tally of points since 1980.

Capelli's career was effectively finished and Steve Nicholls was sacked with John Barnard brought back into a team he had walked away from just a few years before, to try and sort out the mess.

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On the Ligier, I remember Sir Stirling Moss saying on tv "that bloody thing will have to be articulated to make it around the hairpin at Monaco".
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Nah, it was the last Tyrrell before they sold out to BAR in 98. The Tyrrell 025 which ran at Monaco in 97 with those monstrous wings on sticks either side of the drivers head.

Edit - Beaten to it. :)
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It was banned from 98 onwards. Apparently they were worried about it causing injuries in the pits rather than out on the track.
I've been trying to find photos to post of the first Brabham BT46, but haven't succeeded. It used surface heat exchangers instead of radiators, in the interest of reduced frontal area and drag. Needless to say, it didn't work.
Not those. Those are later versions. The heat exchangers would be visible along both sides of the car. Approx 10 panels per side.
Hence the fan.

Create down force without having to understand how ground effect worked
Help to cool the car.
Fire stones out of the back at any car trying to overtake like some sort of Death Race Machine gun

It was a win, win, win design.
The original BT46 had surface heat exchangers but, as Siffert Fan pointed out, they didn't work so it was rebuilt with normal radiators. The BT46 B was the fan car.
Ok, but didn't Gordan Murray claim that the fan was because the 46B had serious cooling issue even with the radiators. I believe he still claims that to this day the fan was for engine cooling with the bi-product of sucking the car to the ground a happy coincidence.
Thought I'd add another to the list. I always had a soft spot for Ensign, Mo Nunn was one of life's triers and when he finally got a half decent car with a decent driver the two had an argument with a concrete block at Long Beach, ending Clay Regazzoni's F1 career and knocking the stuffing out of the team.

Prior to the 1980 season Mo's design team took a look at all the other F1 cars and thought "you know, everyone mounts the radiators in the side pods but we know better" and the N179 was rolled out with the water and oil radiators mounted in the front of the car, ahead of the driver.


Derek Daly failed to qualify the car at it's only outing in South Africa in 1979 (as much of a reflection on Daly's driving skills as well as the quality of the car I suspect) and at the next race the car turned up with the radiators in the side pods. I presume part of the thinking behind the design was to make it easier for the driver to climb in and out with the handy step ladder attached to the front.

This is the less "radical" version which appears to be being driven by Gilles Villeneuve. Strangely I can find not record of Gilles ever having stood next to an ensign let alone driven one. Perhaps it's just someone with the same helmet colours.

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And here's another effort., you all understand the concept of the wing car right? Before Chapparel and Lotus stuck side skirts on to the car to keep the air travelling where it needed to go March stuck some fins on to the outside of their 701. This car actually won a race, well the Tyrrell entered version with Jackie Stewart at the wheel.

FB I think that second Ensign picture was fairly recently taken at a vintage event or something. The Helmet and catch fencing look modern.

Here's one. The Renault R31 and it's forward facing exhaust layout.

In February 2011 it was the talk of the pitlane, by September Renault had concluded the system a failure.

Renault: Forward-facing exhausts have been our downfall



Innovative, yet ineffective.
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