In the second part of our-two part series on world champions and their teams, we take a look at Stewart Grand Prix, Fittipaldi Automotive and Jack Brabham's Motor Racing Development. To read the first part of our series which includes Prost Grand Prix, Surtees Racing Organisation and Embassy Racing with Graham Hill, click here.
Jackie Stewart / Stewart Grand Prix
Having retired from Formula 1 in 1973 after winning three world championships, Jackie Stewart returned to the Grand Prix scene a quarter of a century later in 1997 with his own Formula 1 team, Stewart Grand Prix.
Before progressing into Formula 1, Jackie Stewart ran teams with his son Paul in lower formulas, including Formula 3, Formula Ford and Formula 3000, fielding the likes of David Coulthard and Jan Magnussen(Kevin Magnussen’s father) in the process. Despite showing disinterest earlier in progressing up to Formula 1 amid departure of various small teams, Stewart finally announced plans about his F1 team in January 1996.
The team was going to receive significant backing from Ford, including an exclusive engine deal. Despite such heavy backing, Stewart pursued more innovative means of finance and was successful in signing sponsorship deals with Britain’s HSBC bank and the Malaysian Government.
Alan Jenkins was brought on board as chief technical director and team looked for a head start to their F1 campaign. On the drivers front, team hired Brazilian Rubens Barrichello to drive alongside Denmark’s Jan Magnussen.
However, things failed to fall into place. Reliability issues and a troublesome engine prevented the team from scoring good results. In fact, the two drivers only finished eight races, out of a possible 34 classified finishes. The only stand out moment of the year came in Monaco, where Rubens Barrichello took a fine second place in wet conditions on Bridgestone tyres to register team’s first points. That remained as Stewart’s only point scoring result of the season.
Stewart and Ford acknowledged that reliability was their biggest issue and they worked on it for the 1998 season. However, race finishes were still hard to hard come. The same thing applied to point scoring finishes.
Frustrated by lack of results, Stewart fired Magnussen mid-season and replaced him with Jos Verstappen, ironically after former’s first and only Formula 1 point finish. Unfortunately, Verstappen didn’t prove particularly good either and he failed to score a single point.
On the other side of the garage, Barrichello was mightily impressive, and despite a string of retirements because of no fault of his own, he finished fifth at two occasions.
After the end of 1998 season, Jackie Stewart was disappointed with the way the year panned out. His team couldn't even score the same number of points as they did in their debut season(five as compared to six points in 1997).
In 1999, Ford acquired Cosworth Racing and took a big gamble of putting an all new engine in SF3. And the season turned out to be team’s best in its small three year history. Jenkins was replaced by Gary Anderson and Johnny Herbert was hired to partner Rubens Barrichello on the drivers front.
At the season opener in Australia, an oil leak set a small fire under the bodywork of both Stewart cars on the grid. Barrichello took the spare car and finished in fifth place after qualifying fourth on the grid while Herbert was out of options and had to watch his first race with Stewart from the sidelines.
Both drivers scored points on occasional basis and Barrichello finished on the podium three times. But the stand out moment of the year came from Johnny Herbert who took a surprised but well deserved victory at the 1999 German Grand Prix at Nürburgring.
With 36 points, 1999 was Stewart’s best year and a lot could have been expected from the outfit at the turn of the century. However, Ford had other plans. They bought the team on outright basis in June 1999 and in September it was announced that Stewart would be renamed and rebranded as Jaguar Racing. That team was later purchased by Dietrich Mateschitz and rebranded as Red Bull Racing.
Emerson Fittipaldi / Fittipaldi Automotive
In 1973, Emerson Fittipaldi and his elder brother Wilson Fittipaldi decided to start their own eponymous Formula 1 team. By October, Richard Divila, a long standing collaborator of Fittipaldi brothers, started with the layout of their first car, FD01. The elder of the two brothers secured a major deal with sugar giant Copersucar, on which the the car was named. He also drove for the team during their debut season in 1975, while Emerson continued to race with McLaren, having just won his second title. However, the season brought little success and the only Brazilian team in the history of Formula 1, failed to score a single point in its debut season.
When season came to a close, two time Formula 1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi dropped a bombshell when he announced that he’s leaving a successful team like McLaren to join his family outfit Fittipaldi Automotive.
"I am aware that I will virtually have no chance of winning the world title next season,” Fittipaldi spoke after his quitting McLaren. “It will be a very difficult beginning, but I am very enthusiastic and I am certain that with everybody's effort we will have the first positive results in the second half of next year. I think that in the medium term of one or two years Brazil will have one of the best Formula One teams in the world."
Emerson qualified the FD04 in fifth at the season opener in Brazil, however, on Sunday, he only went backwards, finishing in 13th place by the time the Chequered Flag was waved. Two races later, the Brazilian took his car to a sixth place result in Long Beach, securing team’s first ever points. With two further sixth place finishes, Fittipaldi finished 11th in the constructors standings with a total of three points. During the season, Ingo Hoffmann drove the second car on three occasion, but qualified for the race only one.
The team continued with FD04 till the middle of 1977 season, in which Emerson scored two fourth places at the first two races of the season in Argentina and Brazil. F5 made its debut mid-way during the season in Belgium where it retired due to an electric problem. The car was developed by Ensign engineer Dave Baldwin, however, the British designer left the team before the car was raced, leaving the development duties to Giacomo Caliri who had previously worked as Ferrari’s head of aerodynamic studies. Fittipaldi took a fourth place finish in his new yellow F5 at the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort to take team’s point tally to 11 points.
For the 1978 season, Caliri brought a heavily revised version of the F5, know as the F5A, with the car helping in securing team’s best season in its eight year history. This included Fittipaldi Automotive’s first podium finish - at the 1978 Brazilian Grand Prix - in front of team’s home crowd. Apart from the P2 result, Fittipaldi finished in points on five more occasions to register the team in seventh place in the constructors standings with a cumulative result of 17 points.
1979 turned out to be a major failure for the Brazilian team with new design head Ralph Bellamy failing to produce a car that could compete in the era of ground effects. Ironically, the Australian engineer had previously worked alongside Colin Chapman, Peter Wright and Martin Ogilvie in designing Lotus 78 - the first car to feature ground effects technology.
At the end of the season, sponsorship from state-owned Copersucar dried up and chief designer Bellamy headed to Indycar. In such a troublesome situation, Fittipaldi bought Wolf Racing and merged its assets with his own team. The team expanded to two cars with future world champion Keke Rosberg joining Emerson Fittipaldi in the F7 - an upgraded version of the last year’s Wolf.
Suddenly, things started to return on track and both the drivers scored a podium each with Rosberg and Fittipaldi taking third at Buenos Aires and Long Beach respectively. Furthermore, Harvey Postlethwaite and Adrian Newey(he served as the chief aerodynamicist) completed the work on the F8 by the British Grand Prix, and a few races later, Rosberg drove it to a fine fifth place result at the Italian Grand Prix in San Marino. However, at the end of the year, Emerson decided to take retirement from the sport after being continuously outpaced by his Finnish teammate, Keke Rosberg.(Note: Keke's son Nico Rosberg has dual nationality of Finland and Germany but he races under the German flag in Formula 1). He was replaced by Chico Serra - a young Brazilian driver who made his way into the pinnacle of motorsport after winning the British Formula 3 championship in 1979.
Sponsorship from Brazilian brewery company Skol, who joined hands with them only in the previous year, also came to a conclusion, initiating a daunting period for the team. The 1981 season was marked by constant retirements and DNFs with a total of just five classified finishes. The Fittipaldi outfit failed to score a single point that season, though Rosberg did manage a fourth place result at the non-championship race in Kyalami, albeit a lap down from the leader.
In the 1982 season, Fittipaldi returned to a single car after Rosberg left for Williams where he took his maiden world title. Serra continued to race with a revised version of their 1981 car, the F8 and scored a single point at the Belgium Grand Prix in Zolder. The returning Divila and former(and future) McLaren engineer Tim Wright designed the F9, to be raced for second half of the season - but things failed to improve.
After another disastrous season, Fittipaldi hunted for sponsorship to keep company solvent, however, despite his best efforts, he was forced to shut the doors.
Jack Brabham / Motor Racing Development
Having won two champions for Cooper, Brabham decided to start his own Formula 1 team with aircraft manufacturer Ron Tauranac in 1961. He convinced the Australian to move to UK and the duo founded Motor Racing Development Ltd with the initial aim of selling cars in lower Formulas. Their cars were initially known as MRDs until a Swiss journalist pointed out "[the] way a Frenchman pronounces those initials—written phonetically, 'em air day'—sounded perilously like the French word... merde(which translates to ‘shit in English)." Subsequently, the cars were named using the initials of their founders, BT.
The team finally made its Formula 1 debut in 1962 under the name of Brabham Racing Organisation, initially racing with a customer Lotus chassis before hitting the track with their own BT3 at the German Grand Prix. As team’s sole driver, Jack Brabham scored nine points with a best result of two fourth-place finishes.
After a series of engine failures, Brabham team started the 1963 season with a customer Lotus 25. But the team subsequently launched their second F1 car, BT7 and also expanded to a two car operation with former Ferrari and Porsche driver Dan Gurney filling the second seat. Gurney flourished in the season, scoring majority of team’s 28 points to help the team take 3rd in the constructors title. Meanwhile, the team owner won two races in the non-championship Solitude and Austrian Grand Prix, albeit with BT3.
In 1964, Gurney earned the team their first Grand Prix victory at Rouen-Les-Essarts circuit in France. He also went on to win the season finale in Mexico. The following season, Jack Brabham and Dan Gulley racked in a total of six podium finishes to help the team finish third in the champion.
1966 saw Formula 1 switch to a new 3L Formula and Brabham found an engine supplier in form of Australian automobile engineer company Repco. The company came up with a 310 bhp engine, that was by far, the least powerful off the lot. However, it was light and reliable and at the third Grand Prix of the season in France, Jack Brabham became the first driver to win a race in a car bearing his own name. With three furthers victories, Jack Brabham became the first and as of now, the only eponymous Formula 1 world champion at the age of 40 - a feat unlikely to be repeated in future. With Denny Hulme scoring additional 18 points, the team took the constructors titles and completed a title double.
The team won their second constructors title the following season, but this time it was Denny Hulme who lifted the drivers championship trophy.
At the end of 1967 season, Hulme announced that he will be racing with McLaren next season, leaving way for future world champion Jochen Rindt to sign for Brabham. Repsco designed a new powerful engine in a bid to outpace Cosworth. However, their efforts suffered because of poor reliability and their drivers were classified only three times over the course of the season. While the car was fast with Rindt scoring two pole positions and the same number of podiums, poor reliability hurt its chances and Rindt decided to move to Lotus after just one season with the British team.
The season also brought an end to Brabham’s partnership with Repco engines. The manufacturer always had to deal with communication delays between UK and Australia and having spent more money than envisaged, they decided to put an end to this project.
The team replaced Rindt with former Ferrari driver Jacky Ickx and Resco’s V8 engine with a Ford-Cosworth DFV. Ickx had a strong second half of the season, taking the top step of the podium twice in Italy and Canada while Brabham was sidelined for half of the season due to a testing crash. Nevertheless, he took two podiums to take the team to a second place finish in the constructors standings.
With Ickx returning to Ferrari for the 1970 season, Jack decided to hire the services of Rolf Stommelen as his teammate for his final season in Formula 1 as a driver. He initially had hoped to retire at the end of 1969 season, but changed his mind and continued to race for the further year.
He won the season opener in Australia and looked set to take another victory in Monaco before making a crucial mistake on the final lap and subsequently handing over the victory to former teammate Jochen Rindt. Nevertheless, he finished in the top-three twice over the rest of the season and retired at the end of the season as one of the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time. Brabham returned to native Australia and sold his stake in the company to Tauranac, with whom he initially started the company.
The team was subsequently sold to Bernie Ecclestone, under whom team won 22 races and two drivers title with Nelson Piquet behind the wheel. However, after he left the team at the end of the 1985 season, the team began to decline and at the end of 1987, Ecclestone announced that Brabham would withdrew from Formula 1. He ultimately sold the team to Joachim Luhti, a Swiss businessman for an undisclosed amount, which is believed to be significantly more than what he paid back in 1972 to acquire the team. The Brabham name returned to Grand Prix scene in 1989 before taking the covers for the final time in 1982.
Bruce McLaren, Stirling Moss, Giancarlo Minardi and Aguri Suzuki also deserve an honorary mention in this article. While these drivers didn't win a world champion, they did start their own teams.
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