Brabham BT49C 1981

Brabham BT49C 1981

1/5

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The Brabham BT49C was a very simple, neat and elegant car that took advantage of the ground-effect concept, with a mini-skirt sealing the side of the car very well. The cutaway also gives us an impressive vista of the Cosworth DFV V8 engine that helped to power Nelson Piquet to one of his three world championships and took Brabham to second place in the constructors’ championship that year.

Ferrari 126 CK exploded view

Ferrari 126 CK exploded view

2/5

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The Ferrari 126C was a very important car from Ferrari’s perspective, as having realised it could no longer pursue the flat-12 it switched to a turbocharged engine. It opted for a 120-degree V6 configuration that allowed it to position the turbo in the middle of the Vee, centralising the packaging with a similar overall design concept to its forebear – the T5. Winning in Monaco brought with it extra meaning, as up until then it had been a place considered to be very difficult for the turbo engine.

Ferrari 126C evolution

Ferrari 126C evolution

3/5

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The 126C would evolve significantly throughout the season, from a chassis point of view, as it still competed with a tubular frame construction with a skin on top of it. Piola diligently catalogued the changes, and even kept note of the corresponding chassis numbers (bottom right). The team made a concerted effort to stiffen the chassis’ construction, first with the front suspension but then moving back down the chassis, in order that it increase the car’s overall torsional stiffness, allowing it to maximise the ground-effect concept that was prone to warping the cars.

Lotus 88 1981 aero overview

Lotus 88 1981 aero overview

4/5

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The Lotus 88 has become a footnote in a long list of designs that own a mythical status in Formula 1, largely because we are unable to assert how good it was. The ingenious double-chassis concept was banned before it could be raced but, while many understood that the car performed exceptionally well during windtunnel testing, they didn’t know it was actually a nightmare to drive, with rather unpredictable levels of downforce available at any point. This was due to the airflow passing through the car, rather than over or under it and often led to the car producing lift, rather than downforce.

McLaren MP4 1981 exploded detailed view

McLaren MP4 1981 exploded detailed view

5/5

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

For 1981 the McLaren and Project One teams merged, which saw Ron Dennis at the helm of the team, with John Barnard in charge of design. He introduced a feature that revolutionised the sport and one that we now take for granted in contemporary chassis design – carbonfibre composite. Knowing that McLaren did not have the in-house facilities to manufacture the chassis, Barnard employed aerospace company Hercules to do so. The use of carbonfibre raised many eyebrows at the time, but all of the teams soon realised the advantages of this extremely lightweight and resilient material.

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