Tyrrell 019 Ford 1990 and Tyrrell Innovation…

Posted: September 16, 2014 in F1, Features, Icons & Iconoclasts
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Jean Alesi, Tyrrell 019 Ford DFR , French GP 1990 (Pinterest)

Tyrrell were an amazingly innovative small team.

Jean Alesi here in the 1990 French Grand Prix driving Designer Harvey Postlethwaite’s ground breaking and trend-setting ‘highnose’ Tyrrell 019 Ford DFR…

There were three distinct design regimes at Tyrrell. The first was from 1970-1977- the Derek Gardner era, then from 1978-1988 when Maurice Phillippe was at the helm and finally, from 1989-1998 when Harvey Postlethwaite led the design team until Tyrrells’ sale, the long established, family owned outfit morphing into ‘British American Racing’.

The Gardner and Postlethwaite periods were particularly aerodynamically innovative.

In 1971 Gardner introduced two important innovations to his Tyrrell 003.

The first was the high airbox, which debuted at the Dutch Grand Prix, Matra similarly equipped. Chris Amon’s MS120 V12 also having a ‘snorkel’.


Francois Cevert in Tyrrell 002 Ford showing the original aero treatment of that series of cars…Stewart ‘debut’ the Tyrrell Sports Car nose in this race the French GP 1971…Stewart first, Cevert second. ‘Pregnant-belly’ aero/fuel tank treatment apparent (L Harmegnies/motorsport.com)

The primary effect was mild ‘supercharging’ of the incoming fuel/air mix, the secondary one was aerodynamic- the simple snorkel quickly evolving into carefully sculptured rear bodywork which included the snorkel and smoothed airflow to the rear wing, aiding downforce and allowing a marginally flatter wing setting to be used. In essence, less drag for the same downforce.

In the French Grand Prix, Stewarts’ 003′ raced with a sports-car type nose, Gardner’s idea was to partially mask and aid airflow around and over the front of the car, the wheels/tyres being aerodynamically the least efficient part of an open-wheeler.


Derek Gardners Tyrrell 003 Ford , Jackie Stewarts primary, championship winning mount of 1971. Engine ‘Snorkel and bluff ‘Tyrrell nose’ innovations of that year are clearly shown

The Lotus 56 and 72 set a trend with their wedge shaped, side radiator design- the 72 appearing in 1970. The other alternative aero approach at the time, ‘Pre-Tyrrell Nose’ was the ‘pregnant-belly front radiator approach’ of the BRM P153/160, McLaren M14, Tyrrells 001-003 and others.

Gardner set the alternative aero trend of the 1970’s, until the advent of the Ground Effect Era, with his bluff sportscar type nose.

Look at the results of the two alternatives over that period from 1971 to 1979 when the needs of ground effect tunnels favoured the ‘chisel front wing and side radiator approach’ as against the ‘Tyrrell nose, front radiator approach’. Cars of both designs were successful, perhaps the former ‘wedge/side rads’ were the more successful.

Examples of winning ‘chisel/side radiator’ cars are the Lotus 72, McLaren M23, Ferrari 312T’s and of the ‘Tyrrell nose/front rad’ cars the Tyrrell 003-006 and Brabham BT42/44.



Colin Chapmans’ Lotus 72 Ford, 1970-1975

Gardner himself went to ‘chisel/side radiators’ with the 1974/5 Tyrrell 007 driven by Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler- and then back to the ‘Tyrrell nose’ for his stunning, outrageous P34 six-wheeler…

Both models were Grand Prix winners, the P34 once only, in Scheckter’s hands in Sweden in 1976.

Gardner was recruited by Tyrrell from Ferguson Research where he worked on advanced four wheel-drive systems used on the  Matra MS84 Ford four wheel drive F1 car of 1969- that car used Ferguson componentry. The Matra, as were the other 4WD cars developed by Cosworth, McLaren and Lotus were unsuccessful as wings and tyre polymer chemistry provided  grip more simply than 4WD technology of the day could.

But Ken Tyrrell was impressed and recruited Gardner to build the first Tyrrell 001, secretly in 1970.

derek and jody 1976

Jody Scheckter and Derek Gardner with P34 in 1976…Jody was not a fan despite his Swedish GP win and left the team for Wolf Racing for 1977, and a conventional, successful car, the Wolf WR1 Ford designed by Harvey Postlethwaite (Pinterest)

By the mid-seventies the challenge of the aluminium monocoque/Ford Cosworth DFV/Hewland FG400 gearbox brigade, ‘The Garagistes’, in Enzo Ferraris’ words, was how to beat the similarly equipped opposition?

Gardners audacious approach was aerodynamic in having four small front wheels which could be faired behind his Tyrrell nose, creating greater straight line speed whilst losing no mechanical grip from the tiny, Goodyear shod wheels.

The increased braking area provided by the four small discs was a further advantage.

There were mechanical challenges making the package work but the cars were competitive in both Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler’s hands in 1976, but less so in 1977 when Goodyear were not so interested in developing special tyres for just one team.


Derek Gardners outrageous, successful Tyrrell Ford P34 six-wheeler of 1976/7

Then the FIA banned 6 wheelers and that was that, March and Williams had been toying with four rear wheels…

Scheckter jumped ship to Walter Wolf’s new team in 1977 and was a race-winner in the Harvey Postlethwaite designed cars.

Harvey, a Doctor of Engineering, had his motor racing start with March, modifying Lord Hesketh’s, James Hunt driven customer March 731. He then designed the Hesketh 308 in which James Hunt won his first GP and came to Tyrrell in 1988 after two stints at Ferrari including design of the 1982 and 1983 Constructors Championship winning 126C2.

Postlethwaite was joined at Tyrrell by aerodynamicist Jean Claude Migeot, together they evolved their competitive 1989 018 into the ground-breaking 019, the car which set the aerodynamic trend until the present.

The car was conventional in using a carbon-fibre monocoque chassis, wishbone and pushrod suspension front and rear, and Ford Cosworth 3.5 litre DFR V8 / Hewland six-speed transmission but utterly radical in its aero approach.


Dr Harvey Postlethwaite during his very successful Ferrari period (L’Unita)

Contemporaray practice was to use a flat, steppped chassis undertray with a large diffuser producing downforce through the generation of low pressure under the car.

‘P and M’ realised this approach was compromised by the low nose at the front of the car, the wings diverted air sideways and upwards reducing the amount of air passing under the car. The generation of low pressure relies on increasing the speed of the air passing under the car in relation to the air passing over and around it.

In simple terms , the more air that can be drawn under the car, the faster the air will have to be moving, and the faster the air is moving the lower the pressure and greater the downforce.

By raising the nose-cone Postlethwaite increased the volume of air that was able to pass under the car…whilst keeping the wings themselves close to the ground where they work best with the distinctive, inverted V, anhedral front profile.


The car was not that successful in terms of 1990 results, Alesi achieved sixth at San Marino and second in Monaco but a trend was set which most teams followed quickly- and principles which prevail today.

Tyrrell innovation continued with aerodynamically shaped wishbones in 1996, and the ugly but effective ‘X-Wings’ in 1997- on fast circuits two additional wings were installed either side of the cockpit.

Postlethwaite stayed with the team until it was sold by Ken Tyrrell to British American Tobacco at the end of 1997 and died suddenly of a heart attack whilst testing the Postlethwaite designed, Dallara built, in house Honda at Catalunya in April 1999- he was aged 55.

Ken Tyrrell died in August 2001, and Derek Gardner in January 2011, his post Tyrrell career was as Director of Engineering and Research at the Borg Warner clutch company.


Etcetera…Tyrrell 003 1971/2

oo3 cutaway




Jackie Stewart, German GP, Nurburgring 1972. Tyrrell 003 Ford. Stewart collided with Clay Regazzoni in this race won by the Ickx Ferrari 312B2, so DNF (Pinterest)


tyrel 003 cutaway

Etcetera…Tyrrell P34 1976/7


Derek Gardners original schematic of the essential elements of the Project 34 dated August 1974. Dimensions of the car as raced very close to this drawing



Patrick Depailler (2nd) in the P34 ahead of Chris Amon (DNF) and Gunnar Nilsson (DNF), Ensign N176 Ford and Lotus 77 Ford respectively. Scheckter won this race, the 1976 Swedish GP in the sister P34. The shot is a ‘compare and contrast’ with conventional (aluminium monocoque/Ford DFV/Hewland gearbox) cars of the day. Note how well faired the small 10 inch wheels are by the ‘Tyrrell Nose’ (Sutton)


p 34 cutaway

(B Betti)



Scheckter second around the twists and turns of Monaco in 1976, the Lauda Ferrari 312T victorious. Depailler third in the sister car…plenty of ‘turn in’ and strong brakes on this demanding course (Pinterest)

Etcetera…Tyrrell 019 1990


Wonderful 1990 Adelaide East Terrace shot of Jean Alesis’ Tyrrell 019 shows off its aerodynamic secrets…eighth in the AGP race won by Nelson Piquets Benetton Ford (Stupix)


019 cutaway



jean and gerhard

Jean Alesi (3rd) and Gerhard Berger (5th)Monaco 1990, the high-nose Tyrrell 019 a contrast with the orthodoxy of the day, McLaren MP4/5B Honda. Ayrton Senna won the race in the other McLaren (Pinterest)

Etcetera…Tyrrell Ford 025 1997


Jos Verstappen in Postlethwaites 1997 ‘X-Wing’ Tyrrell Ford ED4 3.5 V8 025. San Marino GP 1997…evolution of Harveys ‘high-nose’ over 7 years clear…Jos was tenth in the race won by Heinz-Harald Frentzens’ Williams Renault (Pinterest)

Photo Credits…

Pinterest, Sutton Archive, Bruno Betti P34 cutaway, Stupix, L ‘Unita, Lucien Harmegnies, motorsport.com


  1. Grant Perkins says:

    Hi Mark,

    You have probably seen the Press release photos for the P34 and may have noticed that original car as launched had a much simpler body design being flat from the top of the nose all the way back to the rear tyres. The top of the front wheel tyres were exposed but in a straight line were not in the airstream.

    In that style testing at Silverstone on a cold winter’s day it was typically about 7mph faster into the old fast Woodcote corner than the previous 007 chassis. So Derek had achieved a lot of his design objective very early in the project.

    A secondary consideration was to do with punctures – quite prevalent in those days – and having 2 front wheels per side gave a better chance to survive a blow out and circulate quite quickly back to the pits for a replacement. Given the reliability issues of the day and the performance differentials there would be a good chance of picking up a few extra points during a season and with low points values and only the first 6 cars scoring that might be thee difference between a championship and nothing at the end of the year.

    However by the time the P34 was ready for the track it had been realised that the regulations on bodywork required the top of the main tub to be no higher than the top of the front wheel rim, not the top of the tyres, between the axles.

    This led to the changes in bodywork shape and, apparently, lost some of the benefit of the aero simplicity although other problems related to aero and cooling of things (brakes in particular) may well have seen things going the same way anyway.

    Losing some of the straight line speed benefit meant that cornering had to be improved – difficult to do with a narrow track and small wheels …. and so in later iterations the front track increased and the wheels peeked out from the sides into the airflow … and so the aero benefit was further eroded. On the other hand I would guess it made it easier to provide cooling flow for the brakes and shock absorbers at the front.

    From what I understood at the time the drivers were never really convinced about the benefits … but what an excellent and creative engineering project it was.

    • markbisset says:

      enjoyed your analysis and chronology, a few things from the general to the specific;
      1. The ’76 season with all that went on; Hunt to McLaren, the P34, Lauda’s accident etc was an amazing one.
      2. It’s a pity Derek Gardner left F1 when he did, his career was too short, but his cars in that period were standouts, JYS contribution noted!
      3. None of the P34’s drivers were testers of great calibre; Scheckter, Depailler and Peterson, maybe things would have been a bit different had somebody like, say, Lauda beavered away with the car
      4. Goodyear. I think it’s fair to say into ’77 they had ‘moved on’ and Tyrrell weren’t getting the same attention they did earlier in the program, from their viewpoint there were others on ‘normal’ tyres who were easier to service and getting the results.
      A stunning car and ‘side alley’ of focus all the same!

  2. Grant Perkins says:


    I have to agree the ’76 season was pretty amazing.

    I think Derek Gardner was not really a racing person per se but he did love the engineering challenges and having control over the solutions. I read a quote from Patrick Head recently who claimed he is not interested in cars, only the engineering associated with them. Derek was probably similar in that respect. He owned a pristine Sunbeam Tiger as a personal car so was perhaps a little more of an enthusiast than Patrick would seem to be but it was the engineering challenge that occupied him most of the time.

    His other love was flying and he produced some aircraft designs as well as his other work.

    I don’t think he was as all intent on repeating the Tyrrell successes elsewhere or to be ever more constrained by the regulations whilst the teams needed ever increasing budgets to stay on the game.

    Returning to the powertrain industry from which he had originated was probably a comfortable decision for him.

    I also agree about the lack of top level testers available for the P34. Had he not had the accident at Watkins Glen Cevert would have continued the Stewart methods into ’74 and presumably beyond which may have been useful to Scheckter’s fine tuning development. Jody and Patrick were competent testers and team developers as the 007 results showed but perhaps without the spark to get the best out of something innovative.

    On the other hand Cevert would have been happy with an improved 006 type car and Scheckter perhaps less so, hence the much simpler 007. That might have been challenging for the team. Where that might have led the design thinking we are never going to know.

    I also agree about Goodyear although one might also suspect that their approach was perhaps to avoid any negative fall out thst might accrue from being specifically associated with a highly identifiable special situation like the small wheels. If the small tyres did not work reliably under stress or the tyre failed to perform they would be left exposed to undeserved negative publicity about technology issues that were probably at the limits of what was possible at the time. Much easier to be able to point to the entire field (or at lest the part of it winning on their tyres) and indicate how successful they were.

    Of course had the approach proved to be phenomenally successful early on the outcome might have been different.

    They may also have known some time ahead that the regulations were likely to be changing and s gambled that there was no point in ploughing too much money into the P34’s small front tyre requirements. (That, of course, is a highly speculative comment!)


  3. […] a few Tyrrell articles, which are worth a look if you haven’t done so; one is on innovation; https://primotipo.com/2014/09/16/tyrrell-019-ford-1990-and-tyrrell-innovation/ , the other on aerodynamics; […]

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