Compare Grand Prix cars of different eras and it is straightforward to identify the engineering and technological changes which shaped the cars; the move from front to mid-mounted engines, the introduction and evolution of aerodynamic aids, chassis design and construction.
Video: Mastering the pre‑war four‑wheel drift
It’s when you see the very earliest single seaters race today however that the evolution of driving styles becomes apparent. Today Formula 1 drivers are very precise, in total control of every aspect of their machines, able to adjust multiple settings on the fly via their tiny steering wheels flanked by gearchange paddles.
Nose heavy, with recalcitrant gearboxes, running on tyres too skinny for any modern road car and helmed by foot-wide wooden steering wheels, the fastest drivers of the day were masters of the four-wheel drift. Balancing the understeer of the front wheels with the desire of the rear pair to oversteer was a black art, allowing a driver to maintain speed through a corner as the car used the entire track width as it exited a corner.
Originally named the Woodcote Cup, now the Goodwood Trophy, for Grand Prix & Voiturette cars from 1930-’51, this first running in 1998 brought back a bygone era of driving when piloting one of these machines was a test of nerve, finesse and endurance.