F1 2006 Review: Farewell to Cosworth

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Michael Schumacher claims to know very little about Formula One history. But if he did, he’d know that arguably an even greater name than his own bowed out of Formula One this year.

Cosworth powered 176 race winners in four decades of racing – more than any other engine bar Ferrari, who of course were in Formula One from the very beginning.

Schumacher will at least know the identity of one of the ten drivers to win the championship with a Ford-Cosworth engine: he was the last driver to do so, in 1994. He joined Graham Hill (1968), Jackie Stewart (1969, ’71 and ’73), Emerson Fittipaldi (1972 and ’74), James Hunt (1976), Mario Andretti (1978), Alan Jones (1980), Nelson Piquet (1981) and Keke Rosberg (1982).

Like Schumacher, Cosworth remained at the top of their game until the end and early in the season their new V8 engines were among the most powerful on the grid. Sadly, the desire of their customers to partner up with manufacturer suppliers has left them without a team for the foreseeable future.

It’s a terrible shame and a great waste of talent, which sadly may be overlooked as the watching world is preoccupied with the departure of Schumacher. But there are many F1 fans who know the significance of the loss of Cosworth, and deeply regret the passing of one of the great names in Formula One.

Take a look back at the history of this colossus of the sport with our retrospective gallery.

The first race: Zandvoort, 1967

Formula One history was made on 4th June 1967 when Jim Clark gave Keith Duckworth’s Ford Cosworth DFV engine a victory on its first appearance, at the Dutch Grand Prix, the third round of the season.

Team mate Graham Hill had also put the Lotus-Cosworth on pole position, but retired on lap eleven due to problems with the timing gear.

That would be the story of the Lotuses in 1967 – fast but fragile. Clark won three more races but was beaten to the title by Denny Hulme.

Golden years, 1968-1979

The power and affordability of the DFV made it a mainstay of the grid in the late sixties and seventies. From 1968 and 1982 Cosworth-powered drivers won every championship except for the three claimed by Ferrari with their flat-12 engined cars.

1977 was a turning point – the first appearance of turbo engines in the sport which, in time, would take over from Cosworth as the power of Formula One.

Battling the turbos, 1980-87

In the 1980s the march of the turbos became irresistible. Unreliability saw them throw away championships early on but by 1983 the writing was on the wall.

The British teams that had championed Cosworth turned to turbo power from BMW (Brabham), Porsche (McLaren) and Honda (Williams). Fittingly the last Cosworth win in the turbo era was for Tyrrell, great supporters of Cosworth, with Michele Alboreto at Detroit in 1983.

Success and Schumacher, 1989-94

From 1989 the turbos were gone but the big manufacturers remained. Nonetheless, Cosworth returned to the winners’ circle. Alessandro Nannini was a controversial winner in Suzuka after Ayrton Senna was disqualified.

Nelson Piquet, a champion for Cosworth in 1981, won his final three races with them and Benetton – including an outrageously fortunate win at Montreal in 1991 when leader Nigel Mansell retired on the final lap.

1991 also saw the arrival of Michael Schumacher. His first win came with Cosworth at Spa-Francorchamps in 1992, and in 1994 he gave them their final championship.

Stewart and Jaguar, 1997-2004

In 1997 Jackie Stewart and Cosworth teamed up once again. The driver who claimed all three of his title with the engine builder brought his eponymous team to the sport and impressed right away, with driver Rubens Barrichello scoring an emotional second in the Monaco Grand Prix.

Two years later they too were Grand Prix winners, with Johnny Herbert triumphing in a chaotic race at the Nurburgring. It was this same year that Ford took control of the team and re-branded them Jaguar.

They announced their arrival to a great fanfare in 2000 but results were never better than disappointing. In five years they appeared on the podium only twice. Ford announced the closure of the team in 2004, and at the eleventh hour they were bought by Dietrich Mateschitz’s Red Bull soft drink company.

Final years, 2005-06

Red Bull only retained Cosworth power for one year before switching to Ferrari. They did, however, continue with Cosworth for their ‘junior’ team, Scuderia Toro Rosso. V10 engines were now being replaced with V8s but Toro Rosso had a dispensation to continue using V10s, albeit rev-restricted.

Keith Duckworth died in December of 2005 while work was well underway on a brand-new Cosworth V8 engine. It was built for Williams, harking back to the days of the late seventies and early eighties when Williams won their first races and championships with the engine builder.

Sadly it was not to be a return to winning ways for the partnership. Nico Rosberg added to Cosworth’s tally of fastest laps at the first round in Bahrain, giving them their 160th.

They also took 176 race wins and 139 pole positions.

But aside from the statistical magnitude of their achievements, Cosworth hold a unique place in F1 history. Their engines were the backbone of the sport in the seventies and two of the greatest teams in the sport – McLaren and Williams – made their names with them.

The loss of Cosworth is a great same for all fans of the sport, and our hearts go out to all their employees who in 39 years have carried on the legacy of Keith Duckworth’s incredible engine.

Tags: f1 / formula one / grand prix / motor sport

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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2 comments on “F1 2006 Review: Farewell to Cosworth”

  1. Good review. But you forgot the Jordan years around 2003 – particularly the win in Brazil that year. Cosworth’s last race win.

  2. A very good point. Actually there was a lot of other stuff I was going to cover including the year with McLaren in ’93. All great memories.

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