Formula 1 History - The Revolution Which Made Frontally Mounted Engines Fade Away
|   Saturday, August 31, 2013
Formula 1 needed a decade and the Cooper Team's courage to move from cars with frontal engines to cars with units place behind the pilots.


Front-engines were the standard configuration of Formula 1 cars in their debut season of 1950, mainly due to the benefits of traction. In fact, this was one of the configurations used in motorsport racing preceding the Second World War, especially by Mercedes-Benz.

As in any other industry or sports, teams that have been successful in the first seasons of Formula 1 had virtually no reason to change the major philosophy of an engine located at the front.
The innovation must come from a smaller team, who has the ambition to overturn hierarchies, but for Formula 1 the solution adopted was more out of necessity.
The small team Cooper was founded in 1946 by Charles and John Cooper, who started with Formula 3 and, until the 1957 season, Formula 2.

The first Cooper Works engine centrally located was the T43, who competed in the Formula 1 season starting in 1957. The debut was recorded in the second race of the season on the legendary circuit in Monte Carlo, where Jack Brabham and Les Leston had the disadvantage of Coventry Climax engines displacing 2 liters, while the rivals from Maserati and Vanwall counted on 2.5-liter units.

Despite the good path of the 1958 season at Cooper, rival teams did not believe in the advantages held by centrally located engines and the British took advantage of this opportunity. Cooper thus went to win five of the eight races of the season, but the other three of the five races did not count in the battle for the world title, so they won only the constructors' title.

First responders to have copied the Cooper e concept were Team Lotus and BRM.
Since the 1961 season, the dominance of race cars with engines located centrally behind the driver became complete. This even included Ferrari agreeing to use this concept in the new Ferrari 156, which obtained in that season the first builders title in history.

Prior to that, Ferrari witnessed the last success of the frontally mounted engine in the 1960 season. The weak performances seen during that year were, ironically, the ones responsible for that. The story is quite simple however. During the last phases, at the Monza circuit, when Cooper and Brabham were already world champions, the organizers made desperate efforts to ensure the success of the Ferrari team by combining the straight sections of the Monza circuit with the oval ones.

As a result, the race was boycotted by Copper and the rest of the important teams on the ground that the race would be too fast for safety and only Ferrari and a few Formula 2 teams participated. The result was a predictable victory for the Italian team.

After that, everyone gave up on the frontally mounted engine and adopted the new winning formula.
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