1979 had ended as a season in three acts. The pretty Blue Ligier Cosworths of Laffite and Depailler dominated the start before the not so pretty but very distinctive  Ferraris of Villeneuve and Scheckter gained the ascendancy. Renault had their break-through moment in the sun at Dijon before Williams, after ten long hard years finally cracked it at Silverstone with Clay Regazzoni’s emotional victory which was then backed up by Jones winning four of the final six races. The year had inspired some weird and wonderful versions of the “ground effect” concept, still in its infancy, and all of the most radical ended in failure. The wingless Lotus and Brabhams didn’t last long, the Arrows A2 “doodlebug” looked the biz but was more a low slung slug than any flying device and the less said about the short side pod Fittipaldi F6 the better.


  Entering 1980 all designers had come to the conclusion that a simple and standard ground effect concept was the best way forward so long as they could get the maths right as Williams had done in ’79. There were no wingless wonders or radical designs to be seen and all followed the basic long side pod with shallow (depending on the circuit) front and rear wings. The main differences were in the packaging required for the alternate engines. The narrow Cosworth V8 was the optimal version for aerodynamic packaging, The Renault Turbos were next with a narrow V6 but they had to figure out how to get the twin Turbo-chargers out of the way while the Flat 12s from Ferrari were too wide to provide the effective under-car tunnels required for maximum down-force. Confidence was high amongst all the major teams that they had the answer although not all would be proved right.



  As reigning champions, Ferrari believed that an updated version of their successful 79 challenger would provide Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve, who had finished one and two in the 79 title race, with the car necessary to contest the title again. The 312T5 was much more tightly packaged than the T4 of 1979 and although the Flat 12 engine in the rear was too wide to be ideal that hadn’t stopped them winning before. And just in case there was either the V6 Turbo-charged 126CK or the super-charged 126CX models under development. Unfortunately for the men from Maranello the width of the Flat 12 proved too much of an issue and the Ferrari 312T5, lacking the downforce of its competitors regularly chewed its rear tyres forcing pit stops that no-one else needed to make. As the year progressed and the team realised that no amount of tweaking was going to help, concentration on the development of the 126 meant that the drivers slipped inexorably down the grid until the reigning champion, Jody Scheckter, suffered the ultimate indignity of failing to qualify for the Canadian Grand Prix. By this time the dispirited South African had already announced his retirement at years end and Villeneuve had debuted the 126C during practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Imola. The Scuderia had suffered its worst season since 1969, finishing tenth and scoring just eight points with its best finish being a trio of fifth placings. Even in 69 when they scored just 7 points they grabbed a podium finish. Enzo was not amused.


  Nor was Uncle Ken. Although Tyrrell began 1980 in much better financial shape than the previous season, having secured sponsorship from Candy, an Italian washing machine manufacturer, part way through 1979. In 79 they produced what was generally described as a Lotus 79 clone, the 009,  which kept them moderately competitive and they ran them in South America in 1980. The new car, the 010 followed this line of thought and was generally considered a clone of the Williams FW07, made its debut in South Africa. The team retained Jean-Pierre Jarier who had restored his reputation in 79 as team leader and he was joined by Irishman Derek Daly who had impressed in his infrequent outings during 1979. In the 010 however, the designers didn’t get the maths right. The chassis lacked the required stiffness to cope with the negative pressure being created by an underbody that was generating too much downforce. This created a new handling problem which was given the name of porpoising. The car would create ever more downforce, sucking it down onto the track until it arrived at a point that the chassis could no longer cope. The car would then suddenly lose all that downforce and the car would rise dramatically before starting to sink back down again. On longer straights the Tyrrell would “porpoise” three of four times and not always at the same point. Needless to say this didn’t engender a great feeling of confidence in either Jean-Pierre or Derek and although they outscored Ferrari, sixth place and 12 points was a long way from where this once great team had been. The long slow slide into oblivion had begun.



  Brabham had ended 1979 in a certain amount of chaos. The Alfa Romeo V12s where too heavy, too thirsty and too unreliable and BT48s were replaced by Ford Cosworth powered BT49s when they arrived in North America at seasons end. Team Leader, Niki Lauda, then decided that he was no longer interested “in driving around in circles” and quit the team during the first day’s practice in Canada, leaving the inexperienced Nelson Piquet being backed up by debutant Ricardo Zunino. The BT49 however, was fast, and development over the off season turned it into possibly the second best car of 1980. Nelson kicked off the year finishing second in Argentina and after victory in Long Beach was the joint championship leader. He dropped back behind Jones through the mid season but a run of seven consecutive points scoring finishes from Monaco onwards that culminated in victories in both Holland and Italy had the young Brazilian leading the title chase with just the North American races remaining. Sadly for Nelson he would finish neither while Jones won both. Piquet finished second in the championship with 54 points while Brabham’s policy of concentrating on Nelson’s efforts meant that they finished third in the constructors title with 55 points. Hector Rebaque, who had replaced Zunino mid season had scored just a single point.



  McLaren was another example of how the mighty had fallen. It was expected that the team would bounce back from the previous two under-achieving seasons with an updated version of the M29, which had replaced the woeful M28 series part way through ’79. The M29 however suffered from much the same problems as the Tyrrell and even the arrival of the M30 towards the end of the European season did not improve their fortunes. John Watson was retained as team leader and he was joined by debutant, and future super-star, Alain Prost. Prost started the season and his career promisingly scoring points in both Argentina and Brazil but then broke his wrist in an accident in South Africa. He was replaced by Stephen South in Long Beach, who failed to qualify, and returned in time for the Belgian Grand Prix. Alain would score just two more points in the year and quit McLaren at the end of the season following a monumental shunt during practice at Watkins Glen, vowing never to return to the team. In hind-sight a silly thing to say but understandable at the time. Watson would score just two fourth places in a year where his mechanics got so confused that at one race they jokingly changed the name on the side of his car from John Watson to Johnny Whatswrong. Things had gotten so bad that by season’s end the team sponsor, Marlboro, financed a managerial buy-out and installed the boss of their Formula two outfit Project Four, a certain ex-Brabham mechanic by the name of Ron Dennis, as team owner. We will hear more of Ron later. McLaren finished the year just ahead of Ferrari in ninth place with 11 points and now hadn’t had a win for three years.


  Due to Gunter Schmid’s, let’s say, unpredictable management style, ATS had been going through drivers, designers and staff faster than an amoeba can multiply and 1980 would be no different. Begining the season with the Nigel Stroud designed D3 that debuted late in 1979, drivers Marc Surer and Jan Lammers struggled to qualify for the early races and then Marc crashed in South Africa and broke his legs. By now Stroud had also left the team and another new car, the D4 was designed by Gustav Brunner who was now the fifth designer in just over two years. The others being Robin Herd (HS1), John Gentry (D1) and Giacomo Caliri (D2). Had the build quality also not been effected by a revolving door of staff the D4 would have made a good mid-field car. Jan Lammer’s first outing with it saw him qualify fourth on the grid at Long Beach. In the race however the car made it as far as the first corner before a driveshaft broke and that was the high point of the year for the team. Jan continued to qualify well over the next few races before he was replaced by the returning Surer from the French Grand Prix onwards. Despite reasonable qualifying pace the ATSs rarely finished and the team failed to score any points all year.



  Lotus spent the year trying to claw back their performance after the developmental dead end that was 1979s Lotus 80 model. Martini sponsorship had vanished along with Carlos Reutemann and 1978 champ Mario Andretti was joined by the Italian rookie Elio de Angelis from Shadow. The Lotus 81 was the logical development of 1978’s championship winning 79 and really the car that they should have been running in 1979. The fact that they were running it in 1980 meant that they were in reality a year behind the leaders of the pack and had much catching up to do. Now solely sponsored by Essex Petroleum, Elio got the year off to an encouraging start with a fine second placing in Brazil however it was then a long dry spell before the team would score again in Austria. Elio ended the season well though, scoring in three of the final five races. Mario on the other hand had a shocker and had to wait until season’s end before scoring his sole point for the year. The pair were joined by Nigel Mansell for the final three European races. The British debutant was being evaluated for 1981 as it was clear that Mario would not be sticking around to suffer through another frustrating year of transition. Although that would be exactly what he would end up doing at Alfa Romeo in 1981. The modest total of 14 points scored was enough though to see Lotus top the mid-field pack and finish fifth in the championship standings.



 Mo Nunn’s tiny Ensign team had suffered through two rough years with no funds and out-dated equipment but 1980 promised much. Decent sponsorship from Unipart, a neat new design by Nigel Bennett in the N180 and the return of Clay Regazzoni, fresh from his victorious season with Williams all pointed to an expected upswing in fortunes. The year started with steady progress before Clay had a huge accident at Long Beach when his brakes failed on the super-quick Shoreline Drive. Hitting Ricardo Zunino’s dead Brabham before the concrete barriers probably saved his life but Clay was left paralysed from the waist down. Clay was hastily replaced by Tiff Needell, who started the Belgian Grand Prix but failed to make the cut in Monaco. Patrick Gaillard then filled in at the non-championship Spanish race before Jan Lammers, recently sacked by ATS despite his good form, was handed the poisoned challis in France. By this time development was at a standstill and moral was all but obliterated so Jan only managed to qualify for three of the remaining eight races. Geoff Lees did little better in a temporary second entry retiring  in Holland before not qualifying at Imola.   



  Renault though were progressing. Steady development of the RS10 through 1979 led to the twin turbo powered RE20 which was to prove a very potent weapon. Regie’s weak point however was still with cheaper parts such as valve springs which led to too many retirements to make a consistent title challange. One-two finishes should have been the result in both Brazil and South Africa but team-leader Jean-Pierre Jabouille retired from the lead in both races. Brazil from turbo failure and at Kyalami with a puncture. Rene Arnoux took the lead and victories in both races and a couple of minor placings meant that he was leading the championship going into the second half of the season. In that second half though he would score just once with a fine second to Piquet in Holland. Jabouille’s horrid fortune continued apart from one sunny day in the Austrian hills where he scored his only points finish of the season, a win over the rapidly closing Williams of Alan Jones. 38 points and fourth in the championship was proof, if needed, that the turbo-charged route was the future and if they could just cure their niggling reliability issues.....If is a very big word.



  After it’s promising early days with Jarier’s South American poles in ’75, and the zenith of Jones’s win in Austria in ’77, Shadow was a team suffering it’s death throws. Stefan Johansson and David Kennedy began with a barely developed version of the 1978 DN9 known as a DN11. Stefan left after just the South American races and was replaced with Geoff Lees who managed to qualify for the teams only start for the season in South Africa. The team was subsequently sold to Teddy Yip’s Theodore Racing squad who tried to turn things around and debuting the new DN12. Unfortunately that didn’t help and neither driver started another Grand Prix before the team shut up shop after the French Grand Prix.


  Fittipaldi Automotive appeared to be a team revitalised after a dismal 1979 where the short side-pod ground effect concept of the F6 was an utter disaster. Although their long term sponsor, Copersucar, had departed they had been replaced by Brazilian brewery company Skol and with a bit of cash to splash about they had arranged a buy-out of the Walter Wolf Racing assets. Included in this purchase were not just the cars but the chief designer Harvey Postlethwaite, and the rapid Keke Rosberg who would pilot the second car along with team owner Emerson Fittipaldi. Postlethwaite revised the Wolf chassis (WR7 – 9) which were presented as the Fittipaldi F7s for the beginning of the season and despite not being particularly rapid, both Rosberg (Argentina) and Fittipaldi (Long Beach) scored third placings early on. Fittipaldi also scored with a sixth in Monaco and took fifth at the non championship race in Spain. Postlethwaite had been joined by a young aerodynamicist fresh out of university to pen the new F8 which debuted at Brands Hatch. The F8 was a great step forward and, especially in the hands of Rosberg, was a regular top ten qualifier. Reliability was a problem though and a sole fifth place at Imola was its only points finish but if they could keep the development up into 1981 this was a car with enormous potential. The team scored 11 points and finished eighth in the constructors standings above heavy-weights McLaren, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. Unfortunately with the retirement from driving of the great Emerson at season’s end Skol pulled the plug and many of the design team left for more secure employment. Included in those departing was that young uni graduate previously mentioned, Adrian Newey, who again, you will hear plenty about in the future.





Alfa Romeo’s comeback to F1 was gathering pace and Autodelta, their in-house racing operation, had secured substantial funding from Marlboro along with the signing of the rapid Patrick Depailler to lead the squad. Depailler was returning from his hang-gliding related leg injuries which cut his 1979 campaign short and would join the 1978 Formula 2 champion, Bruno Giacomelli as the full time drivers. Veteran Vittorio Brambilla would remain in the line-up as a test driver and would also make sporadic appearances in races. A mere 4 points and eleventh in the standings may seem a poor return on investment but the team made major strides through-out the year despite the tragic events at Hockenhiem. Bruno took fifth first time out in Argentina and despite that heavy, thirsty and unreliable V12 engine the 179s potential pace was evident from the start. Depailler would qualify third at Long Beach before the usual gremlins intervened. Despite a lack of finishes, progress was being made when Patrick went off at the fearsome Ostcurve during practice for the German Grand Prix and as if to pay homage to his lost team-mate, Bruno scored the teams second points finish during that race.  Vittorio Brambilla then stood in for a couple of races before being replaced with another young Italian, Andrea de Cesaris. By season’s end the car was quick enough for Giacomelli to claim the first Pole Position for an Alfa Romeo since 1951 at Watkins Glen and Bruno led comfortably until electrical problems ended the dream. Alfa Romeo joined Williams and sent a single car to the non-championship Australian Grand Prix at Calder where he finished a combative second behind Jones. With 1978 champ Mario Andretti joining Bruno, 1981 looked a promising prospect.



  Some minor tweaking of pretty and rapid JS11 resulted in Ligier producing a beautiful car, the JS11/15 that was sometimes literally too fast to win. Long term team leader Jaques Laffite was joined by rising star Didier Pironi from Tyrrell and despite being a front runner ultimate success eluded them until the European season started. Second (Laffite) and third (Pironi) behind Arnoux in South Africa along with a couple of other points placings for Pironi was a somewhat disappointing start but a dominant win for Didier in Belgium was followed by a second for Laffite at Monaco. It was about this time that the car just got too fast and the wheel rims that were being used were cracking under the cornering pressures they were being subjected to. They again finished 2-3 in France before both retired from the lead at Brands Hatch due to wheel rim failures. Laffite then won in Germany and followed that with a fourth and a third in Austria and Holland while Pironi continued to suffer from retirements. Pironi scored another couple of podiums to end the season and helped secure Ligier second in the constructors championship with 66 points, the best result in their history so far.




  After their break-through season in 1979, the Saudia Airlines and Leyland backed Williams squad were to dominate the 1980 season, winning the first of many championships. As with Ligier, there was just a minor upgrading of the FW07, and the FW07B was the car to beat from the beginning of the year till the end. Australian Alan Jones scored five victories starting with the season opener in Argentina, and then back to back wins in both France and Britain, and Canada and Watkins Glen. He was also victorious in both the years non-championship races in Spain and Australia. He also racked up second placings in Belgium, Austria and Italy and took third in Brazil to score 67 points and become the team’s first World Drivers Champion and lead them to their first Constructors Championship. He was ably backed up by Lotus refugee Carlos Reutemann who won at Monaco during a run of ten consecutive point scoring drives from Belgium until the season’s end. This run would also continue well into 1981. Carlos would score 42 points for third in the driver’s championship behind Nelson Piquet in the Brabham. Such was their supierority, Williams total of 120 point was almost as much as the combined total  (121) of Ligier and Brabham who finished second and third. The Patrick Head designed FW07 was so good that it was still running competitively in 1982, four years after it’s introduction.



  With it’s splendid gold and black Warsteiner livery the Arrows A3 was probably the prettiest car on the 1980 grid. Piloted by Riccardo Patrese and Jochen Mass it had it’s moments but it was not as consistently quick as it was beautiful and all the teams points were scored by the Monaco Grand Prix, round six of fourteen. It was however a vast improvement over the A2 “doodlebug” of 1979 and was the best car that the team had designed itself, the A1 of early 1978 being in effect a Shadow DN9. The highlight was an excellent second place for Patrese at Long Beach behind Piquet while Mass picked up a fine fourth at Monaco. A pair of sixths, Patrese in Brazil and Mass in South Africa were the only other scoring results for a team headed for seventh in the championship with 11 points. Their chances of more were hampered by Mass’s huge roll during practice for the Austrian Grand Prix which resulted in back and neck injuries that ruled him out for a few races. He was replaced by Mike Thackwell in Holland and Manfred Winklehock in Italy but neither drivers managed to get a handle on the car and both failed to qualify.




  The years only debutant team was a little squad from Turin which was named after its owner. Osella Squadra Corse entered a single Denim sponsored FA1 for Eddie Cheever and began as a perennial back-marker. Eddie only qualified for two of the first six races but as the year progressed and the weight was trimmed from the car their qualifying performances gradually improved to the point where it was a competent mid-field starter. The FA1’s reliability though did not follow the same trajectory and Cheever finished just once, a lonely 12th place in their home race at Imola. From all appearances this was a team that having started with little resources needed a large investment to move up the grid in future years and although always considered one of the more fun teams, supplying many on the grid with copious amounts of pasta over the years, the required money would sadly never arrive.


  The only other entrants were John MacDonald’s RAM team which was having a good time in the Aurora British Formula One Championship and a one-off squad called Brands Hatch Racing that both entered year old Williams FW07s for a variety of drivers from the British Grand Prix onwards. For RAM, former Hesketh and Surtees pilot Rupert Keegan would qualify for every second race he entered and managed to finish each of those four starts, just not in the points. Neither Kevin Cogan nor Geoff Lees got the second car onto the grid in their respective North American outings and Desire Wilson fared no better in her single attempt at Brands Hatch.



Sam Snape