Video: "Full Throttle" Just How Fast Were Turbo F1 Cars?

13th May 2016
Ben Miles

It is widely accepted that the F1 Turbo era of the 1980s was the most powerful in the history of the sport. These mighty machines in their last season were at times kicking out upwards of 1,500bhp, with teams using uber-sticky qualifying tyres and fragile-but-fast qualifying engines to produce extraordinary laptimes before the race had even begun.

By the end of 1986 it was decided that things were getting out of hand, so, with costs spiralling and cars nearing the edge of control, turbochargers were limited, and by 1989 were banned once again in Formula 1. Bringing to an end one of the most spectacular eras in motorsport.

But just how powerful and quick where these high-speed monsters at the height of their powers? The only way to really find out must be to compare laps side-by-side with the slowed cars that followed the new regulations on engines for 1987. Who better to follow round a lap than Ayrton Senna himself, guiding two Lotuses between the barriers of Monaco with which he is so famously associated.

In the video above you will see that on the right is the Brazillian maestro powering his Lotus-Renault 98T to third on the grid for the 1986 race, while on the left he pilots the Lotus-Honda 99T around the same streets, during a qualifying session that would see him start the race second, from where he would go on to take his fifth career victory.

It is instanly noticable that the Renault-powered car is faster (in fact comparing fastest lap times for the two races the '87 machines are left a full second behind the cars of the year before) by the time Senna enters the Swimming Pool in '87 his earlier self is already exiting. While there isn't a noticable difference through the corners between the two cars, the latter being availed of a year's further development, the earlier car's power is obvious down the straights. Thus proving just how mighty the original turbo era machines became at their zenith.

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  • 2016

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