Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Giorgio Piola’s key cars of Niki Lauda’s awesome F1 career

Legendary technical illustrator Giorgio Piola drew all of the key cars of three-time Formula 1 World Champion Niki Lauda, who has passed away aged 70. Here are his best illustrations of some fantastic machinery, as driven by the legend himself.

Giorgio Piola’s key cars of Niki Lauda’s awesome F1 career

March 721

March 721 1972 detailed overview

March 721 1972 detailed overview

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

A development of the first car Niki Lauda drove in Formula 1, the March 721 retained the lozenge-shaped front end and the madcap "tea-tray" wing, but didn't live up to the success of the preceding 711 chassis.

After two races, the 'X' specification of car was rolled out with a transverse gearbox, but the package proved unsuccessful - instead, the 721G was ushered out of the factory after round five.

Lauda scored no points for March, instead defecting to BRM at the end of 1972.

BRM P160C

BRM P160 1971 detailed overview

BRM P160 1971 detailed overview

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

A third-year development of the P160, the BRM chassis was somewhat long in the tooth by the time Lauda joined - partnering Clay Regazzoni at the team.

Powered by BRM's in-house V12 engine, the car proved to be unreliable - Lauda only completed five of the fifteen races in 1973, scoring just two points during the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder.

Regardless, Lauda proved himself as a driver to watch and, when Regazzoni returned to Ferrari for 1974, gave the Austrian such a glowing review that he was signed as well.

Ferrari 312B3

Ferrari 312B3 1974 detailed overview

Ferrari 312B3 1974 detailed overview

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The car that brought Lauda his first victory, the 312B3 was an evolution of the already-successful 312B family of Ferrari F1 cars. The chassis design was more contemporary than its forebears, falling in line more with the Lotus 72 and McLaren M23 of the time.

After celebrated designer Mauro Forghieri was moved upstairs by parent company FIAT, Ferrari hit a lean patch until reinstalling Forghieri as technical director - and he immediately set about shortening the car's wheelbase to produce a more nimble car.

The radiators were also moved to the side, assisting the weight distribution, while Ferrari's flat-12 engine kept the weight distribution low.

Lauda took his first win in the 1974 Spanish Grand Prix, then took his second four races later to finish fourth overall in the standings.

Ferrari 312T

Ferrari 312T 1976 detailed rear view

Ferrari 312T 1976 detailed rear view

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

After being outscored by Regazzoni in 1974, Lauda suffered no such repeat when the 312T was pressed into service.

With its roots in the 312B3, the gearbox became transverse - hence the 'T' in the chassis designation - while the suspension and the chassis were reworked to improve the handling characteristics, an area in which the B3 was problematic.

The 312T began modestly, but as 1975 progressed Lauda began to march towards the title - winning five races en route.

1976 began with far more promise, and the 312T2 was introduced after the high, slender airboxes were banned from F1. Lauda looked irrepressible, until his accident at the Nurburgring took the rails off his year. After his miraculous recovery, Lauda couldn't beat Hunt to the '76 title - but won out in '77, again with the 312T2.

Brabham BT46

Brabham BT46 1978 overview

Brabham BT46 1978 overview

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

After Lauda moved to Brabham, he was initially paired up with the BT45C for two races - scoring podiums in both - until the BT46 became available.

Initially unreliable, Lauda managed just one finish - a second place at Monaco - in the first five races with the car. The famous 'fan car', the BT46B, joined the fray at Anderstorp, and Lauda won by over 34 seconds thanks to the obscene levels of the downforce the car could produce - before it was removed from competition

Lauda won again in Italy, but retirements were all too common - the Alfa Romeo V12 becoming a particular source of consternation - stifling any championship challenge.

The following BT48 was even more unreliable, and Lauda called it quits with two races remaining on the season's calendar.

McLaren MP4/2

McLaren MP4-2 1984 exploded-detail overview

McLaren MP4-2 1984 exploded-detail overview

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

After Lauda was tempted back into the F1 fold in 1982 by Ron Dennis, McLaren had undergone a colossal change of fortunes. John Barnard's carbon fibre MP4 chassis changed the game, and Lauda returned to winning ways after just three races.

However, the Cosworth DFV was starting to show its age as the turbo era had begun, prompting McLaren to get Porsche to build a bespoke turbo engine - financed by TAG - for 1984.

Using 1983 as a transition season, '84 was Lauda's final title. Beating Alain Prost by half a point, the McLaren MP4/2 was the class of the field - using sidepods that swooped around the rear tyres, the car was able to generate plenty of rear end grip thanks to the improved suction at the rear.

The TAG engine was one of the most reliable on the grid too, creating a perfect combination with McLaren's engineering prowess.

In the MP4/2B, rolled out for 1985, Prost beat Lauda by a healthy margin, winning the title and outscoring him 73 points to 14. Sensibly, Lauda called it a day at the end of the year - putting an end to an illustrious F1 career.

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