Team Lotus, and more specifically their founder, Colin Chapman introduced a new way of thinking for car designers.
In the 50s and 60s the big manufacturers of the world, Ferrari, Mercedes, etc. concentrated on building the biggest and most powerful engine. Forcing the early leviathans to travel as fast as possible whilst paying no attention how the driver was supposed to control it.
Chapman, whose small team didn’t have the capacity to either build or afford to buy the most powerful engine, decided he would design a car that could go fast without it.
His design philosophy was that anything included on the car would enable it to go faster. Anything that didn’t fit this description was taken off and deemed unnecessary. This often meant that key structural elements were omitted from the car, which on occasions lead to some catastrophic failures and accidents.
While that aspect of the Lotus team was controversial, the team’s evolution of car aerodynamics was game changing. The innovative Lotus 49 was the first to feature wings designed to create downforce. This gave the car a huge performance advantage and within weeks several interpretations of the wings were being introduced by teams up and down the paddock.
For many years though, Lotus remained at the forefront of aerodynamic development. The team won seven constructors’ titles along with six drivers’ World Championships between 1963 and 1978.
The legendary Lotus 72 epitomised their dominance, winning twenty Grand Prix on the way to three world championships in four years. It really was an extraordinary period for what was at the time the most successful team in history.
Although they have evolved hugely over the years, the concept remains the same and Formula One cars today rely hugely on their aerodynamic efficiency.