- Top Ten - Worst F1 Teams
From bad to worseMartin Williamson March 15, 2010
In five seasons Coloni set a new benchmark for uselessness. It entered 82 races and managed to qualify for 14; of those, it finished three. In its last two seasons it failed to prequalify once. That it lasted so long was an amazing testament as to how to work on a shoestring budget - at times it only had five on the team, was running an engine which was designed in the 1970s and opted to use the poor Minardi gearbox. Drivers came and soon went, the few dawns that there were proved false, and eventually Enzo Coloni sold to Andrea Sassetti. Surely the only way from there was up?
Andrea Moda Formula
Not so much unlucky or underfunded as downright useless. Bought by by Sassetti, a shoe manufacturer from Italy, from the remnants of Coloni, its brief history was a catalogue of disasters. It entered the 1992 campaign with a two-year-old car and missed the first grand prix in South Africa because the US$100,000 season's entry fee had not been paid. Sassetti angrily claimed it was not a new team as he had simply taken over Coloni. In Mexico, the team arrived with all its equipment but the cars were still being built and neither ran. In San Marino, driver Perry McCarthy was refused a super licence. By Canada the team was without engines because Sassetti had failed to pay the bills, and the French Grand Prix was missed after transporters got stuck in a blockade. By August the FIA wearily warned Sassetti he had to get his act together as it had become apparent McCarthy was there to make up numbers and the team could not fund two cars. At Spa, Sassetti was arrested in the paddock over alleged forged invoices, and when the team arrived at Monza it was turned away by the FIA who banned it for bringing the sport into disrepute.
If ever an enterprise was doomed from the off, it was this one. Ernesto Vita had tried to market his W12 3.5-litre engine in F1 but when he failed thought he might as well run it himself. The team headquarters was a small garage and the season started with the cash-strapped outfit possessing few spare parts, one (old) chassis and one engine. Any hopes all might be OK on the day soon disappeared as it became clear the car was about 150bhp underpowered and, to add to the problem, one of the heaviest in the field. Its handling was poor and reliability even worse. Vita soldiered on, even after his driver, Graham Brabham, walked away when the car broke down after 400 yards of qualifying in Brazil and the mechanics admitted they had not put oil in the engine as they had not been paid. Bruno Giacomelli came on board but things continued to deteriorate. The engine never managed more than a few laps before failing, and Giacomelli was quoted as saying he feared being struck from behind because the Life was so slow - it was as much as 19 seconds a lap slower than the pace-setters. The end came when Vita bought a Judd engine only to find the car's engine cover did not fit. They failed to complete the season.
The brainchild of Erich Kakowski, a German who built his own cars and engines and who had moderate success in the World Endurance Championship. In 1985 the team entered the F1 Championship. While the engine was sound, the rest of the car was less so and was very soon out of date. It was also terribly unreliable. In ten outings in its first season it managed one finish, and the only highlight came early in 1987 when Martin Brundle finished fifth and Christian Danner seventh at the San Marino Grand Prix. It was one of only two occasions both Zakspeed drivers completed a race.
As debut seasons go, Onyx should have been happy with 1989 as Stefan Johansson finished third in Portugal and fifth in France. But behind the scenes the team was a shambles. Jean-Pierre Van Rossem was supposed to be funding the venture but his money never materialised, and he was eventually replaced by Swiss businessman and car manufacturer Peter Monteverdi who renamed the team after himself. His involvement did not end there as he started to tinker in design, even cannibalising his own sports cars for parts. It was also rumoured he was telling his drivers how to set up their cars. The team withdrew from F1 in the build-up to the 1990 Belgian Grand Prix, and although it had a car ready for 1991 it never raced.
Founded by Dan Gurney and Carroll Shelby in 1964, All American Racers had a tremendous pedigree, and the F1 car - the Eagle T1G - was considered a good vehicle … except for its appalling reliability. Two fifths and a seventh in 1966 were blighted by a string of retirements, and although Gurney won at Spa and finished third in Canada in 1967, they were the only two finishes in 16 goes. Nothing improved in 1968, and although Gurney took fourth at the US Grand Prix the cash ran out and the team returned home to concentrate on Indycar.
An Italian-Swiss team, Euro Brun were in F1 for three seasons but never managed a top-ten finish, and rarely finished at all. In its second year (1989) it cut back to one car but only made it through pre-qualifying once. Gregor Foitek quit as driver midway through the season and was replaced by Oscar Larrauri but the results were no better with him at the wheel. Surprisingly, despite the failings, in 1990 it again fielded two cars with two new drivers. Roberto Moreno managed 13th in the US Grand Prix but the only other time he qualified he did not manage to complete a lap. Team-mate Claudio Langes did not even get that far. Walter Brun, who was instrumental in the financing, eventually lost heart and the team faded, unlamented, from the scene.
The briefest of F1 appearances, Mastercard Lola made its debut at the 1997 Australian Grand Prix, failed to qualify and then disappeared. It had been intended to debut in 1998 but commercial pressures forced team principal Eric Broadley's hand. The car's chassis never saw a wind tunnel or much on-track testing, and the intended engine never appeared. At least the team had two drivers - Vincenzo Sospiri and Ricardo Rosset - but the cars were a distant last on the timesheets. Broadley subsequently withdrew the team from the Brazilian Grand Prix due to "financial and technical problems". A few weeks later the company went into receivership with debts of over £6 million.
Roger Penske was a multi-millionaire whose teams had enjoyed great success at the Indianapolis 500, and given the team was based at Poole in Dorset, an F1 entry seemed a natural step to take. Penske had already sponsored his friend Mark Donohue in F1, and lured him out of retirement to drive. But when Donohue was killed as a result of a crash practising for the Austrian Grand Prix at the tail end of the 1975 season, Penske's enthusiasm never recovered. John Watson, signed to replace Donohue, did record a win in 1976 but the operation wound down at the end of the year.
Many claim Forti was the last privateer team - it was certainly the last to use a manual gearbox in F1. It had the pedigree of almost two decades of success in other formula, and from 1992 team co-founder Guido Forti developed a relationship with the wealthy Brazilian businessman Abílio dos Santos Diniz. That relationship funded the foray into F1 but also ensured Diniz's son, Pedro, had a driving seat for life. The first car, entered in 1995, was well off the pace, often by several seconds, and even when it did finish it was laps adrift of the winner. Plans were advanced for a replacement in 1996 when Diniz moved to Ligier taking his father's cash with him. Forti limped on but inevitably ran out of cash midway through the season. The end was messy, with botched rescue plans and a final appearance in Germany when the unassembled cars did not leave the garage.
Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA