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Ferrari 640

by

Antonio Eiras

The Ferrari 640 was the first Formula 1 car of the Maranello brand built after the death of its founder.

 

In the mid-1980s Ferrari proved powerless to compete with rivals McLaren and Williams (the "garagists" as Enzo called them). To change this scenario and bring the team back to fight for titles, Ferrari hired Briton John Barnard, who had impressed the entire Formula 1 world with his McLaren's MP4 projects.

 

Used to be a perfectionist, Barnard designed, with the maximum quality in the smallest details, the most revolutionary racing car of the 80's. After a long design phase, the 640 was introduced in 1988 and surprised for its lines and innovative technology.

 

In fact the new Ferrari had a bodywork where the genius of John Barnard had innovated again, with a wedge front, which earned him the nickname "duck's beak" and original high sidepods with vertical development in a bottle of “coca –cola” shape.

 

The composite chassis, made of carbon fiber and Kevlar honeycomb, narrow and angular, was part of the bodywork and showed high efficiency and torsional and impact rigidity, as proven in the frightening Gerhard Berger’s crash on the Imola GP in 1989.

 

The engine was a naturally aspirated 650 V12, with 3.5-liter capacity, which delivered about 660 bhp at 12.500 rpm, slightly less than Honda's V10 rivals.

 

The semi-automatic 7-speed gearbox was the biggest technical breakthrough of the 640. Its control, placed on the steering wheel, allowed to change speeds faster and with higher precision than the conventional transmissions. After solving the initial problems, which delayed the presentation of the model by about a year, the innovative transmission proved to be extremely competitive and was adopted by all the other teams in the years that followed.

 

The car proved to be very fast and competitive from the start, having won the first race of the Year, the Brazilian GP, with Nigel Mansell. Throughout the 89 season the performances of the new Ferrari were very inconsistent, limited by the lack of power of the engine, against the Honda and Renault teams, and for reliability problems of the innovative gearbox.

 

Ferrari battled for victories in several races and finished the Constructors' Championship in third, behind McLaren-Honda and Williams-Renault. Nigel Mansell won 2 races (Brazil and Hungary) and finished the World Championship of Drivers in 4th place, while his team-mate Gerhard Berger won 1 race (Portugal) and finished seventh in the Drivers' Championship.

 

The Ferrari 640, also called F1-89, fulfilled the expectations, that is, it provoked a change of attitude in the technical department and allowed the Italian team to regain the competitiveness it needed to fight for victories and titles. And it did so in an impressive way, with an innovative technological concept, which showed to the Formula 1 world the way forward to the future.

 

For the 1990 season Ferrari hired Alain Prost, who, with 5 wins, was one step away from becoming the Drivers' World Champion at the wheel of the F1-90, which allowed the team to become the Vice Champion of the World of Constructors. The F1-90, or 641, was a natural evolution, under the responsibility of Enrique Scalabroni and Steve Nichols, of John Barnard's original project, which had, meanwhile, left Ferrari.

 

I’ve made the Ferrari 640 cutaway drawing in collaboration with my friend Alberto Mallo, then Director of “Motor 16” magazine. The scarce technical information, available by the time of the illustration was made, did not favored the use of the overlapping layers technique in its realization. Indeed, Ferrari was the first Formula One team to close its garage doors to journalists, in a phobic attitude towards growing industrial espionage. I was, by the time, using this advanced airbrush technique, to the detriment of cuts in bodywork, more traditional and widely used by other illustrators.

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