By Carlo Carluccio
Written in association with Missed Apex Podcast. Listen in the player below the article
The teams always refer to evolution. Their cars always evolve from one season to the next. If they have just revolutionised their design, chances are they are in for a lean season of success as they develop their revolution.
If you were to take a series of similar scale models of Ferraris, for example, allowing for rule changes you can trace their evolution from the front engined cars of the 1950’s through to the modern carbon-fibre sculpture.
In similar fashion, where once, cars were individual in design, the modern interpretation of physics has achieved an amalgamation of all learning and we have cars that with the removal of their livery would leave us with practically a uniform shape.
(Editor note -don't tell SomersF1 he said that).
Of course, as the engineers have developed advanced science to push what we may term state of the art, medical science has been introduced over the years to push human boundaries to new limits.
Any photos of a young Stirling Moss show an individual who would fit the mold of a modern driver. His contemporaries it could be argued would not look out of place driving trucks cross country with plenty of food stops on the way.
By the time people were swinging in the sixties, F1 cars had downsized to 1.5 litre engines and drivers seemed to be more svelte in appearance. Something which has continued to this day. The only difference is the physical fitness of the individuals involved.
Stamina, I would imagine, was the prerequisite of the driver as Formula One moved into the Cosworth DFV era. Slick tyres were introduced and what was once a delicate spectacle of drifting through corners gave way to the accuracy of the pilots, searching for the limits imposed by the infancy of aerodynamics and circuits that had been outgrown by the spectacle.
Looking back now, there was a legion of swash buckling drivers in the 70’s. All long haired, side burns that Elvis Presley would have sported with pride and a plethora of ‘birds’ as TV would have termed them!!
Among all this was a slight man who bucked convention. His family background was banking and he wouldn’t have looked out of place if he had swapped his red suit for a more formal grey suit with tie.
Whilst Niki Lauda was a brilliant test and race driver – this wasn’t a skill that only he possessed. Where Niki broke the mould was his use of a personal trainer, Willy Dungl. Willy had worked with the Austrian Olympic team previously and his work with Lauda included diet as well as physical training.
After Lauda’s notorious Nurburgring crash in 1976, he credited the work of Dungl as his reason for his recovery. When Lauda decided to return for the 1982 season, he spent some months with Willy at his clinic rebuilding his physical fitness for the demands of the new ground effect cars.
After an absence of three years, Niki was returning to F1 at the age of 33. He would win his third race back and take victory at Brands Hatch that summer. In 1984, Lauda took five victories to secure his third title. Still arguably the fittest man on the grid.