Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Giorgio Piola’s F1 tech decades: The rock and roll 1970s

This year’s Monaco Grand Prix marked a significant milestone for Formula 1’s preeminent technical journalist, as Giorgio Piola covered his 814th Grand Prix – making it his 50th year covering the sport!

Giorgio Piola’s F1 tech decades: The rock and roll 1970s

Piola has been at the forefront of F1’s technical coverage throughout his career, helping to make the often complex sport we love a little easier to understand. In this series of articles dedicated to his illustrative genius, we’ll uncover the cars and components that have captured his and our imagination.

We start our journey in the 1970s, in an era that gave us everything from flat-12’s to turbo ‘teapots’, six-wheelers to fan cars and almost everything in between. It’s a decade that saw enormous technical freedom, giving rise to some of the most iconic machinery ever to grace F1, so let’s dive in and see the sport through Piola’s eyes, year by year.

Click on the images below to scroll through…

1970

March 701 detailed overview
March 701 detailed overview
1/3
The March 701 finished third in the standings and took victory in Spain with Jackie Stewart at the wheel. Despite this victory, the car was notably difficult to drive, as it featured a heavy components, such as its radiator, battery and fire extinguisher at the front of the car, balanced by an equally heavy oil tank at the rear. These are all clear to see in Piola’s magnificent cutaway illustration, along with the detachable fuel tanks that were strapped to either side of the car, but shaped to infer an aerodynamic effect of their own.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari 312B detailed overview
Ferrari 312B detailed overview
2/3
Giorgio’s Italian heritage has clearly had a lasting impact, with Piola always eager to capture the scarlet red machines, the first of which was the 312B. The team finished second in the championship that year but won several races, with Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni at the wheel.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Lotus 72C detailed overview
Lotus 72C detailed overview
3/3
The car that garnered the most attention during 1970 was the Lotus 72, a machine that went on to take both constructors’ and drivers’ titles, although sadly the latter was posthumously, as Jochen Rindt was killed at the Italian GP at Monza. The car was a revelation due to its wedged-shape design, putting an emphasis on the cars aerodynamics to create more downforce. Piola’s cutaway illustration of the Lotus 72C shows off the inboard brakes, side mounted radiators, Cosworth DFV engine and high angled rear wing.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

1971

Lotus 72C
Lotus 72C
1/3
Far less successful than in 1970, Lotus were still using a derivative of the 72 for its 1971 championship tilt, with changes made that were supposed to improve performance that actually left them adrift of rivals. Flicking back and forth between the two images you’ll be able to see some of those changes, including, but not limited to – a new airbox design, new rear wing and repositioned oil tank.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Tyrrell 003 air intake detail
Tyrrell 003 air intake detail
2/3
Not only eager to show off the internal workings of the cars, Piola started to set about explaining the intricacies of airflow around and through the machines too. This fantastic illustration of the Tyrrell 003 gives us an idea of how air captured by the wider front wing pod would drive air at the front-mounted radiator. This illustration is of an experimental rear wing tested in Monza that year, which sees the rear wing boxed-in, creating ducts that were tasked with capturing cool air for the rear radiators. The design was never raced though, as it wasn’t perceived to give the anticipated advantage.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari 312B2 overview
Ferrari 312B2 overview
3/3
This main cutaway in this illustration of the Ferrari 312B gives up plenty of detail in its own right but due to the extensive nature of Piola’s archive we’ve been able to pair it with several other detailed images that add further clarity. You’ll note that at this stage Ferrari was still using a front-mounted radiator arrangement but had moved to an inboard suspension setup. The cars most unique feature was the tail on the engine cover and the well-bodied oil cooler setup, both of which had an impact on the rear wing.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

1972

Lotus 72D detailed overview
Lotus 72D detailed overview
1/3
This illustration is one of the most iconic in the Piola collection and captures the Lotus 72D in immense detail. Illustrations of this nature could take upwards of 40 days to complete, which shows the level of dedication Piola has to the sport he loves. Emerson Fittipaldi was able to extract the maximum from the 72D on no less than five occasions and featured on the podium on three further occasions, as Lotus stamped it authority over all rivals.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari 312B2 detail overview
Ferrari 312B2 detail overview
2/3
This rear three-quarter cutaway view of the Ferrari 312B2 gives us a wonderful view of the car’s flat-12 engine, rear suspension and radiator layout.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Eifelland 21 air intake detail
Eifelland 21 air intake detail
3/3
The Eifelland 21 competed in just eight Grands Prix and although it featured many interesting design aspects it was a spectacular failure. It featured a large wrap-around cockpit duct, single piece rear wing and a novel single, high-mounted rear view mirror all of which lent on form over function and left the team with no points on the board.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

1973

McLaren M19C detailed overview
McLaren M19C detailed overview
1/4
McLaren started the 1973 season with the M19C, as meticulously detailed in the cutaway illustration shown here. It was a car that earned the ‘Alligator’ nickname due to its bulbous midriff, which housed two of the cars three fuel tanks.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren M23 detailed overview and side view
McLaren M23 detailed overview and side view
2/4
Only three races into the championship and McLaren unveiled a new challenger – the M23. It was a design inspired by the Lotus 72 and one that was able to be used for a number of seasons afterwards, primarily due to its well-rounded core attributes but also because of the teams unwavering development schedule. Much like the Lotus 72 it featured the distinctive wedge-shaped chassis, radiators placed within sidepods and a rear wing cantilevered away from the rear axle line.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Tyrrell 006 detailed overview
Tyrrell 006 detailed overview
3/4
Tyrrell’s 006 finished second in the championship in 73 and was painstakingly recreated by Piola, with his cutaway drawing bringing to life every detail of the car.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Brabham BT42 detailed overview
Brabham BT42 detailed overview
4/4
This car had numerous distinctive features that made it stand out from the rest. Gordon Murray, now in charge of design at Brabham, had decided to breathe fresh life into the ‘lobster-claw’ design they’d previously fielded, utilising four letterbox-shaped inlets to drive air at the radiators housed within the front wing instead. It was flanked by novel triangular side panels, within which two of the car's three fuel cells were housed. The cars were also meticulously prepared, featuring solid machined suspension arms which were far superior to the quality of workmanship seen elsewhere on the grid.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

1974

Ferrari 312B3 evolution
Ferrari 312B3 evolution
1/1
Illustrating all of its cars over the previous few seasons made it easy for Piola to compile a comparative cutaway of Ferrari’s cars for ‘74, bringing with it unprecedented insight into their evolution during that period. The upper illustration shows how the team finished out the ’73 season, the middle depicts the B3-74 from the start of 1974, while the lower shows us how the car finished out the season. It’s plain to see that the car was transformed throughout this period and became a game-changer in its own right, becoming the first real widebody car.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

1975

McLaren M23 1975 comparison to 1974
McLaren M23 1975 comparison to 1974
1/2
Eager to show how different the 1975 McLaren M23 was when compared with its predecessor, Piola highlighted the changes made by the team in yellow. This M23 featured longer sidepods that stretched towards the rear axle line in order to envelop the oil coolers. Up until then it had been located in an area which compromised the efficiency of the rear wing. The team also introduced v-shaped skirts in order to prevent the passage of air under the cars at the front of the sidepod, an often misappropriated nod to the side-skirts fitted to the ground effects cars of the future.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari 312T 1975 detailed overview
Ferrari 312T 1975 detailed overview
2/2
The 312T clearly took advantage of the lessons learnt over the last few years, but its crowning glory was the splendid transverse gearbox that was then retained throughout the rest of the 1970s. Offering a low polar moment of inertia, it was perfectly paired with a mixed construction chassis that saw them use a tubular spaceframe with riveted aluminium panelling. Having started the trend in ‘74 the 312T’s sidepods were even wider than its predecessor and now concealed both the radiators and oil coolers, freeing up and cleaning up the space at the rear of the car.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

1976

Ferrari 312T2 1976 compared with 312T
Ferrari 312T2 1976 compared with 312T
1/3
This illustration – with its almost blueprint-like features – shows the difference between the 1975 Ferrari 312T and the 1976 312T2. The most notable change was the removal of the turret-style airbox, which was forced upon all of the teams by the governing body who’d acted in the interests of safety. You’ll also note the changes made to the position and shape of the front and rear wings, whilst the loss of the turret airbox led the team to adopt enlarged NACA duct style inlets alongside the cockpit, in order to feed the flat-12 engine.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren M23B detailed overview
McLaren M23B detailed overview
2/3
Throughout its lifespan the Gordon Cuppuck-designed M23 had been a relatively uncomplicated car but, a clever development approach had always kept it within relatively close competitive order at the front. McLaren, also required to make changes to their airbox for ‘76, saw fit to use a T shaped design which flanked the roll hoop and delivered clean flow to the Cosworth DFV.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Tyrrell P34 1976 exploded overview
Tyrrell P34 1976 exploded overview
3/3
Meanwhile, Tyrrell had been busy in its woodshed, developing a peculiar but also outrageous car that was about to upset the apple cart. The P34, the P standing for ‘project’ was the only Formula 1 car to race with six wheels. Information provided by Derek Gardner permitted the drawing of this very accurate exploded overhead view, which as we can see shows how the car featured four 10” wheels at the front of the car, rather than the two conventional 13” wheels.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

1977

Tyrrell P34 detailed overview
Tyrrell P34 detailed overview
1/3
Tyrrell continued to develop the P34 through 1977, having had success in ‘76, introducing a more aerodynamically-refined package that it hoped would continue to vault the project forward. However, with little to no development on the smaller front tyres conducted by Goodyear, its competitiveness waned. The other six-wheeler projects, all of which focused on four larger wheels at the rear of the car, never actually made it past the testing phase, meaning the P34 leaves an indelible mark on Formula 1’s history books.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Renault RS01 overview
Renault RS01 overview
2/3
Enter another groundbreaking Formula 1 machine: the Renault RS01, which was the first turbocharged car to enter a Grand Prix. Nicknamed the yellow teapot, due to its propensity to blow up, the RS01 was not in the least bit competitive and was seen more as testbed for the technology that would later rule the F1 roost. It did have its own moment in the sun though, as Renault’s driver Jean-Pierre Jabouille took pole at South Africa’s high altitude circuit in Kyalami two years later.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Lotus 78 detailed overview
Lotus 78 detailed overview
3/3
The Lotus 78 may not have taken the ultimate accolade in 1977, finishing second overall to Ferrari’s 312T2B, but it was clear that this car sparked a revolution. The ‘78 featured sliding skirts that sealed the sides of the car to the ground and gave a substantial increase in downforce. Ground effect cars had been born and the race was now on to improve on the original concept.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

1978

Lotus 79 detailed overview
Lotus 79 detailed overview
1/2
Having pioneered the ground effect concept with the ’78, Lotus set about making improvements for 1978. The turning point came when Peter Wright introduced a more effective sliding side-skirt system, which helped to seal the edge of the sidepod and maximise the venturi tunnels created within. This in effect glued the car to the asphalt without having to pay the price of excessive drag generated by traditional wings.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Brabham BT46B fan car detail view
Brabham BT46B fan car detail view
2/2
The only other car to hold a candle to the Lotus 79 in 1978 was Brabham’s BT46B or the fan car as it’s more affectionately known. It’s an iconic car as not only did it flirt with the letter of the rules but only raced once before being withdrawn from competition by then team owner Bernie Ecclestone. Brabham’s chief designer, Gordon Murray, had noted Lotus’ ground effect concept but realised that creating venturi tunnels with their flat-12 engine would not work. In order to overcome this he took inspiration from the Chaparral 2J ‘sucker car’ which used two fans to pull airflow from out under the body of the box-shaped car.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

1979

Lotus 80
Lotus 80
1/3
Having been at the forefront of the ground-effect revolution, the Lotus 80 was supposed to be another giant leap forward – but it proved not to be the case. The car featured longer venturis than its predecessor, as the team looked to extract even more performance from the concept, but the long sinuous underpanels that worked well in the windtunnel did not work so well on track. The skirts too were problematic, and the car developed a phenomenon known as porpoising, which created a very unpredictable, unbalanced and uncompetitive car.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari 312T4 3/4 view
Ferrari 312T4 3/4 view
2/3
Ferrari returned to winning ways at the end of the 70’s, taking both the constructors’ and drivers’ title with the 312T4. Chief engineer Mauro Forghieri had realised that it had to pursue the ground-effect concept others had been utilizing, but knew the flat-12 engine it persisted with would be a limiting factor in some respects.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Williams FW07
Williams FW07
3/3
Williams’ introduction of FW07 at the fifth round of the championship saw it make a sizeable leap forward, as it took victory of five subsequent occasions. The FW07, albeit after some early niggles, was suddenly the class of the field, as it married the ground-effect concept with a solid, well-rounded car.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

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