Call it misguided judgement, a response to new rules, or sheer desperation in an attempt to gain an advantage – these were the revolutionary F1 cars that proved anything but
1. 1986 Brabham BT55
Gordon Murray is celebrated for his countless F1 achievements, less so for his lemons. Like the BT55 which resembled a high-speed sleeping bag and rarely completed a race. For something with an extended wheelbase to aid balance and maximise airflow to the rear wing, it lacked the traction to harness its potent BMW turbo power. At the end of the season Bernie Ecclestone shut Brabham’s doors, but Murray’s learnings laid the groundwork for his unbeatable McLaren MP4/4 using similar principles.
2. 1979 Arrows A2
The late ’70s was the era of ground effect and designer Tony Southgate wanted to make the wingiest wing car ever. The entire body created negative-effect aero, squeezing it into the ground. He went so far as to tilt the Cosworth-Ford V8 to better suit the principle. None of it worked of course.
3. 1976 Ligier JS5
The French outfit’s first season in F1 produced a car widely condemned as the worst-looking of a generation. Which took some doing in the experimental ’70s. Its oversized airbox led to an instant limiting of air intake heights. Thank goodness.
4. 2009 Brawn BGP001
The result of the OWG (overtaking working group) to cut aerodynamics, the one-off Brawn that took Jenson Button to a world championship is not nearly as offensive as others here, but it’s still an FIA-mandated eyesore with its vacuum-cleaner-looking frontend, narrow rear wing and body in white.
5. 1969 Matra MS80
It wasn’t the era’s only cigar with bi-plane wings, but the French wing uprights were particularly fragile. And silly looking.
6. 1983 Toleman TG183B
You must remember that the ’80s saw the banning of ground effect, and Toleman’s Bruno Giacomelli was a little too obsessed with recovering the downforce lost – spawning a car with wings on its wings.
7. 2014 Caterham CT05
The bizarre sex-aid nose we’d all rather forget. To be fair, all cars from this era looked equally ridiculous, but the Caterham had a particularly eye-catching appendage – one that did little to distract from the overly complicated power units that made the cars slow, noisy and unreliable. It’s a miracle F1 survived, frankly.
8. 1971 March 711
Aerodynamics was in its infancy in the early ’70s, and it showed on the pylon-winged March 711. It ran as a backmarker all season.
9. 1976 Tyrell P34
In search of a small frontal area without a reduction in front grip (hence the four wheels), it was competitive with a one-two finish in Sweden but not the quantum leap in performance Ken Tyrell had hoped for.