Although it’s not been made official, it seems we’ll be losing the minnows of HRT from the grid in 2013. The Badgerometer has scoured the archive to find 5 teams that can be considered the worst in the history of the sport, so the Spaniards don’t feel too bad!
Even though the late ‘80s was an era of bad, poorly-funded teams, it took a special quality to not qualify for a whole season’s worth of Grands Prix. We’re not really sure what that quality is, but EuroBrun had it in spades.
There was optimism initially, as the Euroracing side of the team had previous F1 design experience with Alfa Romeo, and in the first half of 1988 they were regularly making the grid, even finishing 11th in Hungary. But the lack of money clearly showed, with poor reliability seeing Oscar Larrauri and Stefano Modena record only 7 finishes between them for the whole year.
1989 would bring much worse misfortune though. Most of the Euroracing staff withdrew, leaving boss Walter Brun to run things on his own, and the tiny budget saw them only field one car for the year. With little money left for development and 39 separate entries that season, the team didn’t qualify for the first race in Brazil and failed to pre-qualify for every race thereafter. EuroBrun only made the grid twice more in 1990, before fading away into the history books.
What do you do when you’re 20-something year old engineers, have a shoe-string budget, and want to get into Formula 1? Why, you build a car and start your own team, of course. That’s what Japanese duo Kenji Mimura and Masao Ono did back in 1974, hoping to fill the gap left by Honda’s departure 6 years earlier. Ah, the naivety of youth.
In hindsight Mimura and Ono were way too ambitious, which showed in the over-design of their car. The first reincarnation, the F101A, had massive bodywork and a windscreen that would’ve looked more at home on a fighter jet. And as well as being seriously overweight, the Maki was unreliable to the point of being dangerous – one rear suspension failure meant driver Howden Ganley severely injured his legs at the Nurburgring, leading them to go on hiatus until mid-1975.
In the end Maki only entered eight races over three years, not starting the only one they qualified for, and could only afford to race a one-car team the whole time. A dead-last 13th place in the non-championship Swiss Grand Prix was their best result.
Most of the worst teams in Formula 1 have been cash-strapped, incompetent or both. And yet Lola were neither of these, which really makes their story quite tragic. It also serves to teach us that big-money sponsors can do more harm than good.
Lola had been working on prototypes as early as 1995, and had planned to enter the sport properly in 1998. But their new title sponsor had other plans. We can only assume that a Very Important Person at MasterCard wanted to show off their new investment, because the team were rushed into having their car ready for the first race of 1997 in Melbourne.
The result was a box on wheels with as much aerodynamic efficiency as David Coulthard’s chin. So it wasn’t surprising that in qualifying, the cars were on average 12 and a half seconds slower than pole-sitter Jacques Villeneuve. At one point in practice they were 15 seconds off the pace.
A shamed team therefore packed up and prepared for the next race. Though not before MasterCard, realising they were a sinking ship, cancelled the deal and left them high and dry in Brazil, leaving Lola to go home and never be seen again.
Often lauded as the worst F1 car ever, in this context the name LIFE is surely the definition of irony. They were born from engineer Franco Rocchi’s dream of getting his W12 concept engine into a race car, and Ernesto Vito wanting to make a quick buck in the aftermath of the turbo’s death. When Vito failed to get any interest from teams, he bought out FIRST’s failed 1990 entry, stuck the engine in their F3000 chassis, and decided to run it himself.
It was a recipe for disaster. The L190 had a measly 375hp, making it shockingly slow in a straight line – when it wasn’t breaking down. Money was so tight that the team often travelled without spares, meaning a failure was often the end of their weekend. In the speed trap at Hockenheim they were 40mph slower than the leading cars. Even veteran Bruno Giacomelli said he was scared that someone would crash into the back of him when he was being lapped.
Not even replacing Rocchi’s engine with a Judd V8 at Estoril could help them. The engine cover wouldn’t fit, and so they recorded an automatic DNPQ. After failing to pre-qualify for all their 14 races, LIFE finally decided to call it a day after the Spanish GP, ending one of the most embarrassing F1 team entries ever.
A note to all F1 teams – never hire a deluded, publicity-crazed fashion designer to be your team principal. Such was the complete shambles that was Andrea Sassetti and his Andrea Moda team. But credit where it’s due, they did bring some hilarity to an otherwise predictable 1992 season.
Buying out Coloni and running their chassis from the previous year was never a good start. But their DNPQs were made even worse with a sheer disregard for professionalism. Such incidents included Sassetti sacking Alex Caffi and Enrico Bertaggia for daring to question the team’s withdrawal in Mexico, Perry McCarthy sitting out sessions so team-mate Roberto Moreno could use his car as a spare, and the team missing the French GP because their equipment was held up by the French lorry blockade of that summer.
All this took place while Sassetti lived a playboy lifestyle Flavio Briatore would be proud of. Thankfully karma would soon rear its head. At Spa, Sassetti was arrested on suspicion of fraud, and the FIA banned Andrea Moda from all future competition for bringing the sport into disrepute. Cue a collective sigh of relief in the paddock.