WATCH: How Lotus changed Formula 1 forever with their ground effect revolution
Technological development is a key aspect of Formula 1, with changes and improvements continuously being made to maximise performance. While the regulations may evolve, some innovations have had a lasting impact on the sport – such is the case for the ground effect design created by Lotus.
The story of this groundbreaking move is told in F1 Icons: Lotus’ Ground Effect Revolution, a new documentary on F1 TV which details the inside story of how Colin Chapman and his team pioneered something special in the late 1970s that is still relevant in Formula 1 today.
Chris Dinnage, Team Manager for Classic Team Lotus, explains how the squad experimented with ways to create downforce with less drag, with the Lotus 78 car the first to utilise a new aerodynamic shape, while Head of Research and Development Peter Wright reveals the slightly unconventional method used to test the skirts on the car that he had developed.
Further innovations followed for the Lotus 79 car and expectations were high for what drivers Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson could achieve in the 1978 season, but Wright details why Chapman actually wanted to slow them down.
While the car went on to dominate the campaign, the documentary explains why the team hit problems with the development of the Lotus 80, forcing them to revert back to the 79.
Dinnage recalls how Chapman found a way around rule changes brought in regarding the chassis for the 1981 season, a move which led to a battle over the legality of the team’s car. He reflects on why this may have changed the innovative Chapman’s outlook on the sport.
It’s a fascinating story, which also shows how the use of ground effect aerodynamics in F1 today was shaped by those legendary original designs.