1981 Ferrari 126CK
Antonio Tomaini (CK)
Harvey Postlethwaite (C2-C4)
|Chassis||Carbon fiber and aluminium honeycomb composite monocoque|
|Suspension (front)||Double wishbone, inboard spring / damper|
|Suspension (rear)||Double wishbone suspension|
|Engine||Ferrari 021 / 031, 1,496 cc (91.3 cu in), 120° V6, turbo, Mid-engine, longitudinally mounted|
|Transmission||Ferrari 6-speed longitudinal or transverse Ferrari gearbox manual|
|Notable entrants||Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC|
|Notable drivers||27. Gilles Villeneuve
27. Patrick Tambay
27. Michele Alboreto
28. Didier Pironi
28. Mario Andretti
28. René Arnoux
|Debut||1981 United States Grand Prix West (CK)
1982 South African Grand Prix (C2)
1983 Brazilian Grand Prix (C2B)
1983 British Grand Prix (C3)
1984 Brazilian Grand Prix (C4)
|Constructors' Championships||2 (1982, 1983)|
|n.b. Unless otherwise stated, all data refer to
Formula One World Championship Grands Prix only.
Ferrari 126C4/M2 at Goodwood Festival of Speed 2009
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The Ferrari 126C was the car with which Ferrari raced in the 1981 Formula One season. The team's first attempt at a turbo engined Formula 1 car, it was designed by Mauro Forghieri and Harvey Postlethwaite and used between the 1981 and 1984 seasons.
Development and race history
The Ferrari 126C was designed to replace the highly successful but obsolete 312T series in use since 1975. The basic chassis was almost identical to the previous car but the smaller and narrower V6 turbo engine suited the ground effect aerodynamics now needed to be competitive, and was a better package overall. During engine development Ferrari experimented with a Comprex pressure wave supercharger, however due to packaging issue the engine was finally fitted with twin KKK turbochargers and produced around 600 bhp (447 kW; 608 PS) in qualifying trim, detuned to 550 bhp (410 kW; 558 PS) for the races proper.
The car was first tested during the Italian Grand Prix in 1980. In testing it proved far faster than the 312T5 chassis the team were then using and Gilles Villeneuve preferred it, though he had reservations about the handling. Early unreliability of the turbo engine put paid to Villeneuve's 1981 championship hopes but he did score back to back victories in Monaco and Spain, as well as several podium places. Because of the problematic handling the 126CK was at its best on fast tracks such as Hockenheim, Silverstone, Monza and the Österreichring. The car proved to be very fast but Gilles Villeneuve found the handling to be atrocious, calling the car "a big red Cadillac". According to Villeneuve's teammate Didier Pironi and English engineer Harvey Postlethwaite, who arrived at Ferrari well into the 1981 season, it was not the chassis that was the main cause of the car's handling problems, but the very bad aerodynamics of the car. Postlethwaite later said that the 126CK "had a quarter of the downforce that the Williams or Brabham had that year". The poor aero of the car (coupled to the chassis' hard suspension) created a tendency to make the car slide into corners before the ground effect pulled the car back on to the track. This had the undesired effects of exposing the drivers to even larger g-forces than the Williams FW07 or Brabham BT49 and making the car tend to overuse its tyres. In addition to the very poor aerodynamics of the car, the engine had massive turbo lag, followed by a ferocious power curve; this upset the balance of the chassis; although the engine was the most powerful engine that year, even more so than the Renault. In all it made for a very tricky driving experience. This was particularly the case at the Österreichring where one gaggle of 6 naturally aspirated, better handling cars formed behind Didier Pironi for a number of laps, and then another gaggle of 3 other cars formed behind Pironi shortly afterwards, none of whom could find their way past easily due to the Ferrari's power advantage on the very fast Austrian circuit. The same thing also happened at Jarama that year; 4 cars were stuck behind Villeneuve on the tight and twisty circuit, but he was able to hold off the cars behind him thanks to the car's power advantage.
With the arrival of Harvey Postlethwaite and a complete overhaul of the car in time for the 1982 season, things looked better. The turbo engine was further developed and reliability found, while the chassis and bodywork were completely redesigned, featuring Ferrari's first genuine full monocoque chassis featuring honeycomb aluminum panels for the structure, which made it more similar to its British specialist competitors' cars than the previous year's car had been. Smaller, nimbler and with vastly improved aerodynamics, the 126C2 handled far better than its predecessor. Villeneuve and Didier Pironi posted record times in testing with the new car and began the season promisingly with several solid results. At the Long Beach Grand Prix, the car was fitted with an unusual configuration of two thin rear wings, each individually as wide as the regulations allowed, but placed side-by-side and slightly staggered, making it effectively twice as wide. This was done as a deliberate exploitation of rule loopholes in retaliation for Williams' "water-cooled brakes" exploit, part of the FISA–FOCA wars, and resulted in disqualification. Then came the infamous race at San Marino after which Villeneuve accused Pironi of having disobeyed team orders. The fallout from the race preceded Villeneuve's death in an horrific accident during qualifying at the next round in Belgium, which left Pironi as team leader. Pironi himself was nearly killed in a similar accident in Germany, putting an end to his motor racing career, but this did not stop Ferrari from winning the constructors' championship that year. The 126C2 was further developed during the season, with new wings and bodywork tried, and the engine's power boosted to 650 bhp (485 kW; 659 PS) in qualifying trim and around 600 bhp (447 kW; 608 PS) in races. An improved chassis was designed and developed mid-season that was introduced for the French Grand Prix that changed the rocker arm front suspension to a more streamlined pull-rod suspension. A thinner longitudinal gearbox was also designed and developed to replace the transverse gearbox to promote better undisturbed airflow from the underside of the ground-effects chassis's side-pods.
Mandatory flat bottoms for the cars were introduced for 1983, reducing ground effect, and a redesigned "B" spec. version of the 126C2 was introduced this in mind. This car was built and raced for the first half of the 1983 season. Postlethwaite designed an oversized but effective rear wing which clawed back around 50% of the lost downforce, whilst further compensation came from the engineers who boosted the power of the engine even further, to around 800 bhp (597 kW; 811 PS) in qualifying and over 650 bhp for racing, generally regarded as the best power figures produced in 1983.
The 126C3 was first introduced for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1983, with Patrick Tambay giving it its first taste of competition, while Arnoux would get to drive a 126C3 at the subsequent race in Germany at Hockenheim, which he ended up winning. Postlethwaite kept the oversized rear wing of the 126C2B, and over the season, Frenchmen Patrick Tambay and René Arnoux scored four wins between them and were both in contention for the world championship throughout 1983, but late unreliability cost them both. However, Ferrari took the constructors' title for the second year in a row.
In the 1984 season McLaren introduced their extremely successful MP4/2 car, which was far more effective than the 126C4 and dominated the year. The 126C4 won only once in 1984 at the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder where Villeneuve had been killed in 1982, driven by Italian Michele Alboreto who won his first race for the team. Alboreto also scored the team's only pole position of the season at Zolder. Ferrari ultimately finished as runner up in the constructors' championship, some 86 points behind the dominant McLarens and 10 points clear of the Lotus-Renaults.
While the 126C4's engine was powerful at around 850 bhp (634 kW; 862 PS) in qualifying making it virtually the equal of the BMW and Renault engines (and more power than McLaren had with their TAG-Porsche engines), the car itself produced little downforce compared to its main rivals with both Alboreto and Arnoux claiming all season that the car lacked grip. This also had an effect on the cars' top speeds at circuits such as Kyalami, Hockenheim and Monza as the cars were forced to run with as much wing as possible in order to have grip. This was shown in Round 2 in South Africa (Kyalami) where the Ferraris were some 25 km/h (16 mph) slower on the long straight than the BMW powered Brabhams, primarily due to the increased drag from high wing settings. The high wing settings also hurt fuel consumption during races with both drivers often having to drive slower than possible in order to finish races (re-fuelling was banned in 1984 and cars were restricted to just 220 litres per race).
The 126C series cars won 10 races, took 10 pole positions and scored 260.5 points.
Complete Formula One World Championship results
(key) (results in bold indicate pole position; results in italics indicate fastest lap)
|1981||126CK||Ferrari V6 (t/c)||M||USW||BRA||ARG||SMR||BEL||MON||ESP||FRA||GBR||GER||AUT||NED||ITA||CAN||CPL||34||5th|
|1982||126C2||Ferrari V6 (t/c)||G||RSA||BRA||USW||SMR||BEL||MON||DET||CAN||NED||GBR||FRA||GER||AUT||SUI||ITA||CPL||74||1st|
|Ferrari V6 (t/c)||G||BRA||USW||FRA||SMR||MON||BEL||DET||CAN||GBR||GER||AUT||NED||ITA||EUR||RSA||89||1st|
|1984||126C4||Ferrari V6 (t/c)||G||BRA||RSA||BEL||SMR||FRA||MON||CAN||DET||DAL||GBR||GER||AUT||NED||ITA||EUR||POR||57.5||2nd|
- Ferrari, Hans Tanner & Doug Nye, 1985