Passion, enthusiasm and struggle - Lost teams of Formula 1

November 9, 2016
Featured, Memories
Alexander S

  • Formula 1

Arrows, Brabham, Minardi, Tyrrell, Ligier, and March are just some of many well-known but disappeared teams of Formula 1 World Championship.

Over the decades, Formula 1 always attracted big manufacturers but also many enthusiasts to have a try in the most popular racing competitions. Many big guns failed to make an impact but many small teams fulfilled their dreams by beating all odds and having a successful time in the fastest circus in the world.

In this article, we’ll briefly recall at some of the teams that have impressed more or less during their time in F1 before they disappeared.

Alfa Romeo

The famous Italian manufacturer had two spells in the modern Formula 1. The first one, from 1950 to 1951, was extremely successful after Nino Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio dominated the series and won the titles. The success was even bigger considering the fact that Alfa Romeo was on a very tight budget and used the pre-war technology.

Alfa Romeo Formula grand prix 2016 renault states united race mclaren red season world mercedes

Alfa Romeo’s second try in Formula 1 wasn’t successful

The Milan-based team then retired from the championship but returned in 1961 as the engine supplier, mostly for the smaller teams. In 1979, Alfa Romeo started a second spell in F1 as a team but that period wasn’t really successful and is remembered mostly for a big number of retirements. Finally, after 1985 season, Alfa Romeo ceased its operations in Formula 1.

The score of 10 wins and 26 podiums out of 110 races wasn’t bad at all for the Italian team who had many famous drivers, like Fangio, Farina, Mario Andretti, Andrea de Cesaris, Riccardo Patrese, and Eddie Cheever.


This team definitely has a special place in the history of Formula 1. Brabham team was founded in 1960 by Jack Brabham, an F1 champion who wanted to have his own team, and his Australian compatriot and designer Ron Tauranac.

The Brabham team debuted in Formula 1 in 1962 and was active until 1992, having many ups and downs over the turbulent years. Under Jack Brabham’s guidance, the team won two Constructors’ championship titles (1966, 1967) as well the Drivers’ Championship titles in the same years, won by Brabham himself and Denny Hulme.

Brabham formula

Nelson Piquet at the wheel of the distinctive Brabham BT52B

In 1972, the new era has begun when Bernie Ecclestone became the owner of the team. He was the boss of the operation until 1987 and during that time Brabham was pretty successful and brought many innovations into the F1 world. Two Drivers’ championship were won during that period, both by Nelson Piquet – in 1981 and 1983. When Bernie sold the team, that was the beginning of the end. Finally, after the season of 1992, Brabham disappeared from the Formula 1.

Brabham entered a total of 403 Grand Prix races, scored 39 wins and 124 podium finishes. Many legendary drivers were the members of Brabham, including Dan Gurney, Jacky Ickx, Jochen Rindt, Graham and Damon Hill, Niki Lauda, Carlos Reutemann, Martin Brundle, Carlos Pace, etc.

Ensign Racing Team

No wins, no podium finishes and only 19 points scored Ensign team during 10 years (1973 – 1982) in Formula 1. The biggest success of the small team from Burntwood, United Kingdom, was surviving so long in the jungle, competing against big wild beasts.

Clay Regazzoni Formula 1 Ferrari 1980 crash

Clay Regazzoni driving his last Formula 1 Grand Prix for Ensign in 1980

The best result of the team was Marc Surer’s 4th place at the 1981 Brazilain Grand Prix. The Swiss driver also had the fastest lap of the race and that was the only fastest lap scored by Ensign’s car.

However, the Ensign still could boast with the fact that some class drivers like Chris Amon, Clay Regazzoni, Nelson Piquet, and Jacky Ickx, were members of the Ensign which merged with Theodore team after the end of 1982 season before shutting down late in 1983.


Although never was near to the top of Formula 1 standings, Minardi team has a legendary status in the history of the championship. Founded in 1979 in the Italian city of Faenza, Minardi competed under various names in Formula 1 from 1985 to 2005 when was bought by Red Bull and renamed to Toro Rosso.

Minardi 1985

Minardi team in 1985

Why Minardi deserved a special place in the history of F1? Because of the numbers which are quite extraordinary. The team never won the race nor the podium finish. Just 38 points picked from 340 starts during 21 years are fascinating in the negative context. On the other side, Minardi is probably a true example of passion and persistence, as well an indicator how one team can survive running on a small budget.

Minardi always was a good place for the talented Italian drivers, so Pierluigi Martini, Andrea de Cesaris, Alessandro Nannini, Alex Zanardi, Michele Alboreto, Jarno Trulli, and Giancarlo Fisichella spent some part of their careers there. Other noted drivers driving for Minardi were Mark Webber, Jos Verstappen, Christian Fittipaldi, Fernando Alonso, Justin Wilson, etc.


The British team based in Milton Keynes, named from surnames’ initials of the team’s owners, spent 15 years (1978 – 2002) in Formula 1 what was a kind of achievement knowing that the results never were fascinating. In fact, the Arrows drivers never won any of 394 races that the team has entered, nor scored a podium finish.

Arrows formula team

Arrows’ Warsteiner livery, 1978

Actually, the biggest achievement probably was the pole position won by Riccardo Patrese for 1981 Long Beach Grand Prix. The team scored a total of 167 points during 15 seasons and the best year definitely was 1988 when Arrows finished 5th in the Constructors’ championship.

Beside Patrese, other notable drivers of Arrows were Alan Jones, Thierry Boutsen, Gerhard Berger, Damon Hill, Derek Warwick, and Eddie Cheever.


Tyrrell’s spell in Formula 1 of almost 30 years was successful and marked by some unusual innovations like it was the P34 six-wheeler arguably one of the most radical F1 cars ever. Tyrrell Racing, founded in 1970 by a former racing driver Ken Tyrrell, competed in the F1 World Championship until 1998 scoring 23 wins and 77 podiums.

Ronnie Peterson driving a six-wheeled Tyrrell P34

Ronnie Peterson in a Tyrrell P34

Tyrrell’s best years were in the early 1970s. The success began in 1971 when Tyrrell won both Constructors’ and Drivers’ titles, while two years later Jackie Stewart won his second Drivers’ crown driving for Tyrrell. During the 1980s and especially during the 1990s team struggled both on and off the track and finally ended its F1 operations in 1998, three years before a death of Ken Tyrrell.

Jackie Stewart definitely was the driver who made Tyrrell famous, but many other successful pilots, like Jody Scheckter, Stefan Bellof, Ronnie Peterson, Francois Cevert, Jean Alesi, Michele Alboreto, and Jonathan Palmer, were the members of the British team.

Surtees Racing Organisation

This team was founded by the 1964 Formula 1 champion John Surtees who also was one of the team’s drivers. Surtees team competed in F1 from 1970 to 1978 but never won the race and scored only two podium finishes from 118 starts.

Surtees racing organisation

John Watson driving a Surtees TS16 in 1975

Despite having the car prepared for the 1979 F1 campaign, Surtees team pulled out of the championship after the end of 1978 season, after being unable to find a proper sponsorship backing. In 1979, Surtees Racing Organization was closed for good.

Among the drivers who drove for Surtees were Jose Carlos Pace, Derek Bell, Mike Hailwood, Andrea de Adamich and Jochen Mass.


Founded in 1968 by the racing enthusiast and businessman Guy Ligier, the French team competed in Formula 1 from 1976 to 1996. Despite never winning any title, Ligier was a strong and competitive team which had a considerable backing by the state.

During 21 years, Ligier had 332 Grand Prix entries and scored nine wins what was a relatively small number, but also scored 50 finishes in top 3. In 1979 Ligier finished 3rd in the Constructors’ championship, while in the following year finished as a runner-up. In 1997, the team was sold to Formula 1 legend, Alain Prost.

Rene Arnoux Ligier

Jacques Laffite and Rene Arnoux, Ligier F1 team

Ligier was an excellent place for the talented French drivers like Rene Arnoux, Didier Pironi, Patrick Depailler, Jacques Laffite, and Olivier Panis. Among the other noted drivers were Jacky Ickx, Andrea de Cesaris, Stefan Johansson, and Aguri Suzuki.

British Motor Racing

British Racing Motors (BRM) was a Formula 1 team which had a long and successful time in the series. Founded in 1945 the Lincolnshire-based team debuted in Formula 1 in 1951 in the British Grand Prix. The team waited for the next start until 1954 and in the following year entered only the selected events, while from 1956 BRM cars are regular on the grid.

Until 1977, when the team has declined after financial difficulties, BRM scored many good results. The team had a total of 208 Grand Prix entries, scored 17 wins and 61 podium places. The best year was 1962 when the both Constructors’ and Drivers’ championship titles were won.

BRM formula

Graham Hill, BRM P57, 1963 Monaco Grand Prix

Graham Hill, who won the title in 1962, was the most successful BRM driver, but many other famous drivers were behind the steering wheel of BRM’s cars – Hans Stuck, Ron Flockhart, Dan Gurney, Mike Hawthorn, Niki Lauda, Clay Regazzoni, Pedro Rodriguez, Jo Siffert, Jackie Stewart, John Surtees, and Maurice Trintignant.

Cooper Car Company

For a short time, the Cooper was one of the striking forces in Formula 1. The company was founded in 1947 by Charles Cooper and his son John and they soon started to produce racing cars. They made a revolution with a rear-engined car which instantly became a success.

Cooper Phil Hill

Phil Hill driving a Cooper Climax T73, 1964 Monaco Grand Prix

Cooper won two Constructors’ titles in 1959 and 1960. In the same years, Jack Brabham won Drivers’ championship titles driving a Cooper F1 cars. John Cooper sold the team in 1965 and four years later the team withdrew from the Formula 1 after winning 16 races and having 58 podiums out of 129 races.

Jack Brabham was the Coopers’ leading driver while some of the others were Stirling Moss, Maurice Trintignant, Bruce McLaren, Phil Hill, John Surtees, Jochen Rindt, and Pedro Rodriguez.


Lola Cars International Ltd. was an engineering company which was extremely successful in various racing categories, but a spell in the Formula 1 World Championship was almost disastrous, ended without a single win.

From 1962 to 1997 Lola had several attempts to make an impact in Formula 1 but they weren’t glorious. The exception was the season of 1962 when Lola finished 4th in the Constructors’ championship, exclusively thanks to good performances by John Surtees who scored two of three podium finishes in the team’s history.

Lola formula

Michele Alboreto in Lola LC89 – Lamborghini, 1989

Masten Gregory, Lucien Bianchi, Graham Hill, Alan Jones, Patrick Tambay, Philippe Alliot, and Michele Alboreto were some of the drivers who drove for Lola.


Another Italian team which had big ambitions but failed to leave a serious mark in Formula 1 from 1980 to 1990. In fact, the team picked points in only two out of 132 races and scored a total of five points.

The permanent lack of money forced the team to frequent driver changes and many of the drivers were more enthusiasts than the competitive or experienced pilots. However, some well-known names were in the seat of Osella cars, like Eddie Cheever, Piercarlo Ghinzani, Jean-Pierre Jarier, Nicola Larini, Gabriele Tarquini, and Alex Caffi.

Osella formula

Osella F1 team, 1987

In 1990, team owner Enzo Osella sold shares to metalwork magnate Gabriele Rumi and the Osella name disappeared from the series as the team was renamed to Fondmetal which soon will become just another unsuccessful F1 story.


The British team led by Max Mosley and his team never won any title but had some success in the Formula 1 from 1970 to 1992. The numbers didn’t look fascinating knowing that March as the team entered in 207 races – two wins, 21 podiums, two pole positions, and four fastest laps. However, that wasn’t a bad achievement considering that March always was on a pretty tight budget.

March formula team

Niki lauda started his F1 career driving for March

Niki Lauda, Ronnie Peterson, Henri Pescarolo, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Jochen Mass, Karl Wendlinger and Vittorio Brambilla are some of the drivers who have competed driving for March Grand Prix team.

Zakspeed Racing

This team is one of the best-known German racing stables and since 1968 competes in the various national and international championships. The team owner Erich Zakowski in 1985 decided to try his luck in Formula 1 but after five years concluded that it was futile.

Zakspeed entered a total of 74 races but its drivers only once picked points. It was Martin Brundle who finished 5th in the Grand Prix of Portugal in 1987. In spite of the team’s engineering expertise, Zakspeed never managed to create a competitive chassis/engine package and during the spell in F1 the team had more retirements than completed races. Especially bad was the last year in the series when Zakspeed cars managed to qualify for the race only once.

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Martin Brundle, Zakspeed, Imola 1987

German racing legend Bernd Schneider was one of the drivers who were a part of this unsuccessful project, as well Jonathan Palmer, Aguri Suzuki, and Piercarlo Ghinzani.


This British-American team competed in Formula 1 from 1973 to 1980 and had some success. An interesting fact is that the team held an American license from 1973 to 1975 and a British license from 1976 to 1980, thus becoming the first constructor to officially change its nationality.

Shadow formula team season grand prix race 2016 new united states mclaren ferrari

Shadow DN5 was one of the coolest F1 cars on the grid during 1970s

Shadow celebrated its only victory out of 103 starts in 1977 when Alan Jones triumphed in the Austrian Grand Prix. Over the years, Shadow drivers were on the podium on seven occasions, while in 1975 team finished 6th in the Constructors’ Championship. Beside future champion Jones, other famous drivers who spent some time with Shadow were Peter Revson, Brian Redman, Arturo Merzario, Riccardo Patrese, Elio de Angelis, Clay Regazzoni, and Hans-Joachim Stuck.

Team owner Teddy Yip closed the doors of the team in the middle of 1980 campaign after he has concluded that the further engagement is just waste of money.


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