The ultra high-tech world of current-day Formula One was put on hold for an hour or so last Saturday for Red Bull Racing’s Team Principal, Christian Horner, when at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, he sampled a Formula One car of forty years ago on the Goodwood hill.
Horner slid into the cockpit of the STP March 711 that was driven by Ronnie Peterson to runners-up spot in the 1971 F1 World Championship, almost forty years to the day that Peterson took it to a second place finish in the 1971 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Inevitably, with 40 years separating the March from this year’s Championship-leading Red Bull RB7, the differences are profound, not least in terms of engine speed.
The iconic 3-litre Cosworth DFV Grand Prix engine in the March – the powerplant that secured 12 F1 Driver’s Championships and 10 F1 Constructor’s Championships – developed some 480bhp at 10,000rpm in 1971, whilst the RB7’s 2.4 litre Renault V8 delivers its best at a mandatory 18,000rpm limit.
But whilst Red Bull has been grabbing all the attention at the head of the F1 field this year, the Robin Herd-designed March took more than its share of the limelight forty years ago. It’s distinctive ovoid front spoiler, penned by Cosworth founder Frank Costin – and better known as the ‘tea tray’ – explored innovative aerodynamics that were to become so much a core feature of the development of future Grand Prix cars.