Giorgio Piola’s F1 Tech Decades: The Wildly Diverse 1990s

Grand Prix illustrator Giorgio 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

 

Here we delve into the post-yuppie 1990s, when turbos were banned and we enjoyed a whole host of sounds from wonderfully high-revving V8s, V10s and V12s, as Williams, Benetton and McLaren ruled the roost.

 

Tyrrell 019 1990

Tyrrell 019 1990

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

The Tyrrell 019, while not the most successful, was actually one of the most important cars of the ’90s. It was the first car to employ a high nose, as Jean-Claude Migeot had discovered it would allow clean flow to the underside of the car, improving its overall aerodynamic output. The illustration shows how different the 018 (left) and 019 were, whilst also giving an excellent view of the path the airflow would be able to take under the nose to the t-tray/splitter.

 

Ferrari F1-90 (641) cutaway drawing

Ferrari F1-90 (641) cutaway drawing

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

The Ferrari F1-90 was a simple update of its predecessor, with Steve Nichols and Enrique Scalabroni taking over design responsibilities in the wake of John Barnard’s departure. The team racked up six victories during the campaign, as the car was a serious force to be reckoned with, but it’s perhaps most widely known for the infamous crash between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna in Suzuka that ultimately decided that year’s title. This cutaway illustration captures the intricacies of all the physical systems and Ferrari’s marvelous 3.5-litre V12.

 

McLaren MP4-5B 1990

 

McLaren MP4-5B 1990

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

The McLaren MP4-5B was a continued development of the successful lineage of cars, powered by Honda’s RE100 3.5-litre V10. Senna scored six victories and his second drivers' title.

 

McLaren MP4-5B 1990 cockpit with gear selection detail

 

McLaren MP4-5B 1990 cockpit with gear selection detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

It seems like archaic technology when compared with the hydraulically-assisted, 8-speed, seamless paddleshift in use nowadays, but it’s fantastic to see how the drivers had to muscle through a H-pattern gearbox in the past. This illustration of the McLaren MP4-5B cockpit gives us a great view of the gear selector and also has an explanation of how the driver might select reverse – if he ever needed to!

 

Williams FW14 1991 front wing endplate

 

Williams FW14 1991 front wing endplate

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

The FW14 was the first Williams car that design star Adrian Newey had sunk his teeth into. The car's front wing featured a unique rearward extension that channeled the airflow alongside the front wheel. It’s an effect that teams still continue to search for today, with the intention of controlling the wake created by the front tyre, limiting its impact on the car's floor which leads to improved downforce and reduced drag.  

 

Ferrari F1-91 (642/2) 1991 comparison with 643 (top)

 

Ferrari F1-91 (642/2) 1991 comparison with 643 (top)

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

The F1-91 was another evolutionary car for Ferrari, as the team expected to continue in the rich vein of form achieved in 1990. However, it quickly became clear that rivals had made a sizable leap forward, forcing it to react with the 643 (top) a design that featured a revised sidepod layout and higher nose – a hallmark of Jean-Claude Migeot, who was now working alongside Steve Nichols in the design department.

 

Williams FW14B active suspension

 

Williams FW14B active suspension

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

The Williams FW14B really needs no introduction as, along with its successor FW15C, it’s synonymous with active suspension and a plethora of other driver aids that made it formidable. Star driver Nigel Mansell preferred the passive car to begin with, having seen first-hand the issues that Lotus faced with its version a few years earlier, but as Riccardo Patrese began to make headway the Brit came around too. This overview of FW14B details the various elements that comprise the overall active suspension system, which sets the attitude of the car relative to the track.

 

Williams FW14B 1992 front suspension detail

 

Williams FW14B 1992 front suspension detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

Not satisfied with just an overview of the Williams FW14B’s active suspension system, Piola also decided to sketch what was going on at the front of the car in more detail too, capturing the physical components that were manipulated by software that Paddy Lowe created.

 

Ferrari F92A (644) 1992 exploded detail view

 

Ferrari F92A (644) 1992 exploded detail view

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

The Ferrari F92A was another interesting design from Migeot, featuring his distinctive high nose, long skirted front wing endplates, plus tall and slender oval-shaped sidepod inlets and a double floor. Unfortunately the stiffness of the chassis, combined with a poor monoshock front suspension design, made it difficult to drive and ruined any potential aerodynamic gains.

 

McLaren MP4-8 1993 drive-by-wire detail overview

 

McLaren MP4-8 1993 drive-by-wire detail overview

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

The MP4/7 might not have been one of McLaren’s finest machines in terms of pure pace and competitiveness, but it once again set a standard for the future with its drive-by-wire system. Unlike the mechanical linkage, it allowed the driver to stay on the throttle as the semi-automatic gearbox shifted up through the gears.

 

Williams FW15C 1993 detailed packaging overview

 

Williams FW15C 1993 detailed packaging overview

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

The FW15C was an astounding car in almost every department but without the Renault V10 powering it, it would have offered just a pale shade of its enormous potential. This illustration shows how the V10 engine was integrated into the chassis to achieve dominance.

 

Benetton B193B 1993 rear-wheel steering schematic overview

 

Benetton B193B 1993 rear-wheel steering schematic overview

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

New technology came to a tipping point in 1994, with the likes of active suspension, traction control, semi-automatic gearboxes, etc all on the FIA’s chopping block. Although it hadn’t been raced up until this point, another system – rear wheel steering – was also given a red card. Benetton had already put some effort into this and tested it towards the end of 1993. The steering rack at the rear of the car could steer the wheels by just a few degrees and can be seen in this illustration.

 

Williams FW16 1994 detailed overview

 

Williams FW16 1994 detailed overview

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

No longer able to rely on the plethora of toys that had previously been at its disposal, the Williams FW16 was a much more difficult car to drive. Numerous changes were made to try and maximise the aerodynamic scope of this new breed of car, including innovative features such as the rear suspension design which enclosed the rear driveshafts, and a double anhedral beam wing.

 

Jordan 194 1994 detailed overview

 

Jordan 194 1994 detailed overview

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The Jordan 194 is yet further proof that if you have a very simple, basic but solid car and it can perform at a level that exceeds expectations.

 

Benetton B194 1994 underside plank view

 

Benetton B194 1994 underside plank view

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

In the wake of the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at Imola, the FIA rushed through new safety criteria, altering the design of the cars. Many changes were made throughout the season to target a reduction in speed, with the German GP the site of a change to the cars’ underfloor. From this point forward, a wooden plank was fitted that would curtail the use of extreme rideheights. Should the 10mm plank be worn by more than 1mm (10%) it would result in disqualification, a punishment that would befall Michael Schumacher, whose victory in Belgium was annulled. In Japan the FIA allowed the installation of titanium skidplates, as Benetton had concluded that the damage had been caused by Schumacher leaping over the kerbs.

 

Ferrari 412 T1

 

Ferrari 412 T1

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

The 412T1 continued to follow Migeot’s high nose philosophy, but was characterized by Barnard’s elegant sidepod solution and the use of a transversal gearbox arrangement. The sweeping shape of the sidepod and tear-drop shaped inlet was only made possible by the designers use of a cutout in the chassis, allowing the inlet to hug the car’s body much closer.

 

Ferrari 412T1 (646) 1994 exploded view

 

Ferrari 412T1 (646) 1994 exploded view

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

This exploded view of the 412T1 shows that cutout and how the various components slotted together. You’ll also note that Barnard utilised a three-piece construction for the floor, with the splitter section used to accommodate the higher nose and chassis, the central flat-bottomed section that began the rise into the diffuser and the rake angled diffuser section.

 

Ferrari 412 T1 sidepod changes

 

Ferrari 412 T1 sidepod changes

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

The original and more elegant sidepod solution was not as successful as Barnard anticipated and required changes to be made throughout the season. These updates resulted in a narrower overall shape, with changes made to the knife-edge and chassis sculpting (highlighted in yellow) and revised bodywork panels, accommodating the introduction of the bargeboards ahead of them.

 

Ferrari 412T2 (647) 1995 refuelling

 

Ferrari 412T2 (647) 1995 refuelling

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

Refuelling was reintroduced in Formula One in 1994 and immediately courted controversy when a pitlane fire, caused by the refueling rig, engulfed Jos Vertsappen’s Benetton during a pitstop. The illustration shows us both the refuelling rig used by the teams and how it was connected to the Ferrari 412T2.

 

Tyrrell 024 1996 Italian GP solid upper wishbone detail

 

Tyrrell 024 1996 Italian GP solid upper wishbone detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

For the Italian GP, Tyrrell installed some novel wishbones on the 024, these shrouds covered the entire surface area of the wishbones triangulation as the team looked to streamline them for the rigors of Monza. It’s actually a feature, albeit diluted by regulation, that we’ve seen return to favour in recent years.

 

Williams FW19 steering wheel (Villeneuve)

 

Williams FW19 steering wheel (Villeneuve)

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

Paddleshifts on the steering wheel was a feature that had become more commonplace throughout the ’90s. Rather than the twin-paddle arrangement that others chose to use, Jacques Villeneuve opted for a single shift paddle that rocked back and forth to go up and down the gearbox.

 

Williams FW19 1997 overview

 

Williams FW19 1997 overview

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

1997 saw Villeneuve battle with Schumacher for the title, with the FW19 equipped with the tools that enabled the Canadian to take the fight to his German counterpart. The car was the last time that Adrian Newey would have input on a Williams car, as he was to move to McLaren, while the successful partnership with Renault was also to come to an end as the French manufacturer was to take time out of the sport at the end of the season.

 

Ferrari F300 (649) 1998 gearbox and oil tank assembly

 

Ferrari F300 (649) 1998 gearbox and oil tank assembly

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

The Ferrari F300 sported a titanium-casted gearbox, with a carbonfibre bellhousing case that also mated to the carbonfibre rear crash structure.

 

Stewart SF2 1998 rear end detail

 

Stewart SF2 1998 rear end detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

The Stewart SF2’s Ford V10 engine utilised a centralised oil tank position, which although commonplace now it was a revelation at the time. It resulted in a superior centre of gravity and improved the car's overall packaging potential and therefore remains a choice of the engine manufacturers even today.

 

Tyrrell 026 1998 X-wings

 

Tyrrell 026 1998 X-wings

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

The Tyrrell 025 had, on several occasions, been fitted with appendages nicknamed ‘X-Wings’ given their original diagonal housing from the sidepods. Such winglets were usually only used in Monaco, as they helped to generate as much downforce as possible at low speed. But, for ’98, the team had decided to push the aerodynamic concept further, incorporating it structurally into the design of the 026 which contributed up to 5% more downforce.

 

 

Benetton B199 rear wing - Italian GP

 

Benetton B199 rear wing - Italian GP

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

Benetton ran with a different rear wing in Monza in order to deal with the high speed demands of the Italian race track. The upper elements featured a very shallow angle of attack, while the lower beam wing was shaped to maximise the B199’s aerodynamic output.

 

McLaren MP4-14 1999 exploded view

 

McLaren MP4-14 1999 exploded view

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

This exploded cutaway of McLaren’s MP4-14 provides us with enormous insight into the car that allowed Mika Hakkinen to clinch his second drivers' title. Powered by Mercedes' fearsome V10, it had not only the most powerful engine on the grid, its aerodynamics had been tweaked to provide even more performance than its predecessor.

 

Ferrari F399 exploded view

 

Ferrari F399 exploded view

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

We close out this gallery and decade with the winner of the constructors’ championship – Ferrari’s F399 was a logical evolution of its predecessor, retaining its high nose layout and sophisticated suspension system it was an incredibly reliable car. It’s was also modified extensively throughout the season, with the team chasing incremental gains at each Grand Prix.