In a recent edition of The Gary Anderson F1 Show podcast, The Race’s grand prix technical expert answered a series of listener questions relating to his time as technical director with the Jordan team.
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What was the fundamental problem with the Jordan 198 at the start of the season?
We understood the problem fairly quickly but it just took time to get on top of it. The Jordan 197 from the year before with the Peugeot engine was a good little car. We then switched to the Mugen-Honda engine after losing the Peugeot deal to Prost, although we did at least have continuity with one driver as Ralf Schumacher continued to drive for us with Damon Hill joining.
We didn’t get running very early because Honda had done a deal with an engine management system company that was building a system capable of running the whole car – the engine, the gear changes, the clutch management, everything. But that got delayed and ultimately never happened so we had to change to a different system.
We went with McLaren Electronics, which did a good job of turning around a system based on the one we had used with Peugeot before. McLaren was sitting there with some ECUs able to do the job and I convinced Honda it was the way to go.
By the time we got up and running, we realised that we had a car that you could do a decent lap in, but it would only be OK for a lap and the drivers didn’t like it because the cars characteristics didn’t make sense to them. There was something fundamentally wrong with the car and that cost them confidence.
We were also dramatically down on power compared to the Peugeot the year before, by around 50bhp, which is a major step back.
The season doesn’t wait for you to be ready so we were behind from the start. It was about getting Honda to react, which wasn’t easy as they were based in Japan and convinced this engine was the bee’s knees. So it took time to convince them that it really was down on power.
We were also doing work in the windtunnel to understand what was not making sense about the car because the numbers said it was definitely better than the previous year’s car. It was about working on those two avenues.
One day, I decided to spend a bit more time looking at the steering lock aerodynamics. I drove to our Brackley windtunnel thinking about how my car would respond aerodynamically if I did certain things while going round a roundabout. It’s strange the way your brain works when you are somewhere else completely.
I sat down with one of the aerodynamicists and said ‘What do you think, what would you expect to happen if you did this?’. And they said they didn’t really know. I replied ‘But I’d like it to do this, does that sound right?’. We both came up with a solution that sounded right, so we tried to do some rudimentary tests on steering aerodynamics to see if we could pick something up. The tests were very basic at that point in time. Basically, what we could see with the aerodynamics was that the centre of pressure moved in the opposite direction to what I thought it should do. So that’s what we needed to fix.
It took time to build parts for the windtunnel model that allowed us to run the car properly with steering lock. Once we’d done that and were confident the numbers were fairly accurate, we started to develop it. That resulted in a new package for the car that was introduced at the British Grand Prix, which coincided with Mugen-Honda coming up with about 30bhp of the 50bhp it lacked.
We had lots of new details for the car – front wing endplates, sidepods and bargeboards, which allowed the steering to work the way we thought it should work.
From that day on, the drivers had much more confidence and knew what they had to drive, we had more grip and power and away we went. Having not scored in the first eight races, Jordan scored regularly in the second half of the season and took a one-two at Spa.
Like I always say, the car has to be consistent. If you’ve got peaky downforce or performance, you can never set the car up to suit that and it will always bite you. That’s why nowadays you ensure your car is well-rounded even if your peak downforce might not be the highest.
Were the 191, 192 and 193 all different cars, or was it the same chassis? Because they all looked similar. Was there carry over for money saving. How does that lineage of cars connect?
The 192 was a different chassis to the 191, albeit very similar. We exaggerated the raised nose section to try and get more air underneath the front of the car, so I’d say it was more or less the same but with the raised front.
The 193 was the same chassis as the 192, it was a decision we made to save some money. We went from the Ford V8 engine to the Yamaha V12 and back to the Brian Hart V10 over the first three years of our existence so that was a very short amount of time. We had to save some money, because, we had spent a lot more than what any of us thought F1 would cost, even though, in the grand scheme of things, our budget wasn’t big.
In 1992, it was all about survival and that’s what the Yamaha engine was about. The car was OK, the engine not so good but we had a mechanical sequential gearbox that had problems with selecting two gears at once . You couldn’t replicate this statically but the drivers could just from the way they were changing gear as the selector mechanism was flexing.
The 1992 Yamaha I always call a boat anchor. We had them seizing up on the stand warming up and we had them blowing up on the stand! I was once hit by bits coming out of the exhaust pipe when we had a problem on the stand. So it was very strange.
And it was heavy. Some of the engines had a five-valve solution in the heads, which meant the top of the engine was very heavy so the centre of gravity was very high. And the oil system didn’t work and didn’t scavenge the oil out of it.
By the end of the season we’d sort of got on top of all of that stuff and actually made a scavenge pump assembly for the engine to try to improve its performance. At Estoril, which had a very long corner onto the main straight, usually it would just fill up with oil around there. And if you went around that corner, switched the engine off and drove it into the pits, there was no oil in the oil tank.
With the new pumps on it, we went around that corner and switched the engine off, came into the pits and the oil was all in the oil tank. It was scavenging properly and the speed on the straight was around 10km/h faster, just from a different oil pump assembly.
Lots and lots of things were wrong. I’m not saying the car was perfect by any means, but it doesn’t half knock your confidence whenever you’ve got all these problems on top of yourself and you’re just entering your second year of F1. It makes it pretty tough. I have to tell you I had a few sleepless nights. So as far as the lineage of the chassis is concerned, the 192 was different to the 191 but followed the same principles and the 193 was the same chassis.
Would you rather fight 100 chicken-sized Eddie Jordans, or one Eddie Jordan-sized chicken?
This is a common joke question, but there’s a serious side to it and I suppose I did have to fight Eddie on a few occasions! But we got on pretty well through it all.
The one situation that does pop up that makes me laugh now and again was at Magny-Cours in 2002. Giancarlo Fisichella was driving the Honda-powered Jordan, which wasn’t a great car but we had a front wing failure going through Turn 3 and he went into the tyres. That rung his bell and we decided it wasn’t right for him to race.
The Arrows team was there, but just about to close down so its cars didn’t qualify. Heinz-Harald Frentzen had gone off to the airport, but Eddie decided he would chase him and get him to drive for us in the race. We all thought that wasn’t a good idea, even the Honda people, but Eddie would not listen.
He argued Bernie Ecclestone thought it was a good idea and you never went against Bernie in those days at all. But it was not a good idea to put somebody in the car from scratch after you’ve had a front wing failure. It’s not the right thing to do to put the pressure on Frentzen and it’s not the right thing to do to put the pressure on the team.
I went looking for him to express my opinion. He was in the motorhome and apparently, he disappeared up the fire escape out of the roof and cleared off to the hotel before I could get to him to explain things. I think he made contact with him, but Frentzen said no so at least one person was sensible.
But I’m really proud of working with Eddie. He was a character, and I don’t think we ever really had many fights and there were never really battles. Yes, there was pressure, but that’s life. It was a job and it was work, I put pressure on him to get money in and he put pressure on me to get the car to perform. We met in the middle pretty often.