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September 16th, 2016

How Lotus Changed Formula 1 Forever

Not many car manufacturers can claim to be as innovative as Lotus both on track and on roads. Ever since the company was established in 1952, it has been at the forefront of innovation in the racing world. With great history in a number of motor-sporting events, Lotus has carved a special place in the history of automotive world. Starting off as Lotus Engineering Ltd. in the 50’s, the company was founded by Colin Chapman who will forever be known for his amazing talent at racing innovations. His bright talent for race car design saw Lotus establishing itself as a power to reckon with in the Formula Two championship during the 50’s, with cars like the Coventry Climax powered Lotus 11 and Lotus 12.

Colin was considered a genius when it came to race car engineering and as someone who was never afraid to try new ideas, this saw him work extensively with lightweight materials for his race cars. Colin also utilised his learning from his time at Royal Air Force to make fast cars. The Formula 1 journey for Lotus began in 1958 at Monaco with drivers Graham Hill and Cliff Alison.  The first ever Lotus car to win at Formula 1 was Lotus 18 driven my Stirling Moss for a privateer Rob Walker Racing Team. The first factory Lotus victory came by the hands of Innes Ireland later in 1961 at US Gran Prix. However, it was in 1963 when the British Company showed its true power when Jim Clark took seven victories. The Scottish driver also brought home first ever title for the team that same year.

It was only the beginning of a legendary run for Lotus that saw them winning Seven Constructors titles at Formula 1.  In fact, Team Lotus is among the most successful Formula 1 teams ever, winning 6 driver championships along with their constructor title dominance. Lotus achieved all this by thinking out of the box and by trying to bring innovation into the race field. In last 70 plus years, Lotus has given the Formula 1 world some great racing innovations that have been instrumental in changing the face of the sport. Some of them were:

1962 – Lotus 25:

Just a decade after starting shop, Lotus brought the Lotus 25 that became the first ever Formula 1 car to have a fully stressed monocoque chassis. The early sketches of the car were done on napkins while Chapman discussed his idea while dining out with Frank Costin. Frank had been the man behind the bodies of the Vanwall, Lotus Mk.8, 9, 10, 11 and Lotus 16. The monocoque made the car more rigid and structurally stronger than typical F1 cars of the period. The 25 was three times stiffer than the interim 24, while the chassis weighed only half as much. In the hands of Jim Clark it took 14 World Championship Grand Prix wins and propelled him to his 1963 World Championship title.

Lotus 25

1967 – Lotus 49:

The breathtaking abilities of the Lotus 25 proved the genius of Colin Chapman. He continued his innovation further with the Cosworth DFV engine powered Lotus 49 in 1967. It was the first ever Formula 1 car to have the engine as a stressed member. The car was driven by Jim Clark who went on to win the 1967 and 68 Formula 1 World Championship.  However, the car kept winng at Formula 1 till 1970.

1968 – ‘Gold Leaf’ Lotus 49:

Not just in technical innovations, Lotus was also responsible for the beginning of commercial support in Formula 1. Their ‘Gold Leaf’ branded car with its red, white and gold livery on the Lotus 49 was stunning and fast. The same year, Colin introduced modest front wings and spoiler on the 49B, while graham Hill went on to become the 1968 World Champion.

Lotus 49 'Gold Leaf'

1969 – Lotus 56 and 63:

Though the experiment proved to be unsuccessful, but the Lotus Gas Powered All Wheel drive Formula 1 car was a showcase of the times when it was all about innovation and pushing the boundaries of what was possible.

Lotus 56

1970 – Lotus 72:

A ground breaking design, a race car that defined the arrival of aerodynamics as the mainstay of Formula 1. This wedge shaped Lotus 72 was innovation personified, it featured torsion bar suspension, overhanging rear wing, front brakes that were inboard and the radiators that were placed on the hip. Though the car suffered a few suspension issues, but once the antidive and antisquat mechanism arrived, the world witnessed the Lotus 72’s breathtaking abilities. The car also saw its driver Jochen Rindt getting killed after a nasty crash at Monza GP. So much was the dominance of Rindt and his Lotus 72 that after a nail biting end of 1970 season, Rindt became the only driver to have won the Formula 1 championship posthumously.

Lotus 72

1977 – Lotus 78:

Designed by Peter Wright, Colin Chapman, Martin Ogilvie and Tony Rudd, the Lotus 78 was the car that started the ground effect aerodynamics revolution in Formula 1. Mario Andretti won the 1978 F1 World Championship in an Lotus 79 (upgrade to 78).

Lotus 78

1981 – Lotus 88:

Lotus furthered its ground effect aerodynamics revolution with the Lotus 80 and the 1981 Lotus 88. The Lotus 88 was also the first full carbon fiber bodiesd Formula 1 car. However, the 88 was banned from racing for its ‘twin chassis’ technology where the driver had separate suspension from the aerodynamic parts of the car.

Lotus 88B

Image Credits: Wikipedia

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