As Formula One revs up for its first race of the season at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne this weekend, we asked Murray Walker, the commentator known as “The voice of Formula One”, to select the most memorable cars from his 60 years in the sport.
1. Mercedes Benz
W196 Silver Arrow
I’ve chosen the Silver Arrow because it was the return of Mercedes Benz to top grand prix racing after the war. Before the war they, with Auto Union [the company and racing team that would later be known as Audi], were very much the top concern. Then there was this long period when they were out because of the war and they were unacceptable internationally for a while after it. They came back with this effort in 1954 with Juan Manuel Fangio driving for them, and Fangio won the world championship in 1954 and 1955.
2. Maserati 250F
The Maserati 250F was top of its game in the mid-1950s to early 1960s, particularly 1954-57. It was one of the last of the great front-engined grand prix cars – in 1959 the Cooper came in and everybody went rear-engined after that. And its claims to fame, as far as I’m concerned, are first of all that I think it’s the best looking grand prix car that’s ever been produced; and secondly, it was driven by Fangio when he won one of the greatest races of all time, the 1957 German Grand Prix on the way to winning the last of his five world championships.
3. Lotus 72
I’ve chosen the Lotus 72 partly because it was a distinct advance in terms of technology, and partly to acknowledge the brilliance of Colin Chapman, who founded Lotus Cars and produced a whole string of tremendously advanced, breakthrough designs. It had a wedge shape, it had torsion bar suspension, it had inboard brakes – and it had a very long life for a Formula 1 car, going on for about four years. Jochen Rindt was killed in one at Monza in 1970 but still won the world championship, making him the only posthumous world champion. Emerson Fittipaldi was world champion in one in 1972.
4. McLaren MP4/4
This McLaren from 1988 was designed by an American called Steve Nichols. The MP4 had the first carbon-fibre chassis and between them Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost won 15 out of the 16 championship races in 1988 driving this one – Senna would’ve won the 16th if he hadn’t been barged off the course. It was almost certainly the most dominant racing car ever made.
That year you knew either Senna or Prost was going to win because their car was so superior and they were both world champions, in Prost’s case a multiple world champion. The season was saved from monotony by the fact that they were very, very strong rivals and each wanted to win. So while you knew that one of them was going to win, you didn’t know which one.
5. Williams FW14B
This was the car that Nigel Mansell drove to become world champion in 1992. Formula One is a sport where it’s very difficult for one constructor to get a real technical breakthrough that establishes dominance over the rest, but Williams managed it in 1992 because the car had active suspension – a computer-controlled suspension design that maintains a constant ride height; I’m sorry, I’m being terribly technical – it was an aerodynamic breakthrough, put it that way. And Mansell won nine races that year, up against Michael Schumacher in the Benetton and Senna in the McLaren. Though, having said that, Mansell was an outstanding driver.