Retro Formula 1 – Lotus 79

Up next it’s the Lotus 79. This was a popular one on the message boards and for obvious reasons!

Over to John Langridge to give us a little information about the car and its drivers…


“Colin Chapman changed the game with the Lotus 79. He had already revolutionised the sport once with aerodynamics, but with this design the car was not only being pushed down onto the track with wings, it was being sucked down too with what was known as Ground Effect.

The competition at the time didn’t know what had hit them. Ferrari were the reigning champions in 1978, but they didn’t have Ground Effect and with their large flat 12 engine were not going to be able to get it either. Only Brabham were quick enough to come up with an answer (the famous ‘fan car’), but this was quickly banned on safety grounds.

The car was so effective that Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson dominated in the 79′s first race, the 5th round of the 1978 season in Belgium. The 79 went on to win six of its first eight races (five for Andretti) and scored four 1-2 finishes. It was the car that Andretti scored his 10th career win, 10th career fastest lap and his World Championship. Peterson got in on the act too, scoring his 25th podium, 25th front row start and his 10th career win. Most importantly, along with the Lotus 78, it contributed to Lotus’ 1978 Constructors Championship; their 7th and final title.

It was quite an amazing piece of ingenuity and design and before long all of the other teams were developing their own solutions. The cars became so fast however that when the low pressure area under the car was broken, massive accidents occurred. Just a handful of years after it was first introduced, Ground Effect skirts were banned. The 79 was and not the first – or the last – car to contain technology pioneered by Chapman that was banned. This, however, was possibly his most aesthetic addition to that list.

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John LangridgeJohn Langridge is a racing driver based in Sussex, England. Want to know more? Check out his website at johnlangridge.com



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