Emerson Fittipaldi's first World Championship in 1972 would go a long way to promoting Brazilian drivers to the fore of motor racing. However, a Brazilian Formula One team was practically unheard of. In the early years of the World Championship the Brazilian Chico Landi had helped to established the Escuderia Bandierantes team. This would be one of the very few Brazilian teams ever in Formula One and they would use cars manufactured by other automakers. But that would all change by the 1970s.
Following Emerson's first World Championship in 1972, a long-time friend and collaborator would set about building Brazil's first Formula One car. Securing sponsorship money from Copersucar, and with the help of the Brazilian aerospace company Embraer, Richard Divila would construct the FD01.
Emerson would be still under contract with Colin Chapman at Lotus at the time the FD01 would be unveiled. However, he would be there to support his older brother Wilson, who would campaign the car.
While Emerson would fight his way to his second World Championship, the FD01 would be just unveiled for the first time and would only begin to turn its wheels for the first time. Quite a remarkable and striking design, the Copersucar-Fittipaldi FD01, as it would become known, would just take part in one Formula One race in 1975. At the Argentina Grand Prix, Wilson would suffer an accident and would retire from the race.
By this time, Emerson had moved on to McLaren. At the end of the 1975 season, however, Fittipaldi would surprise many with his abrupt decision to leave McLaren and to go and join his brother at Fittipaldi Automotive for the 1976 season.
The Divila-penned chassis would go through a couple of evolutions throughout the 1975 but neither would be all that successful. The first chassis, the FD01 had looked every bit the future of car design and, in fact, has some elements in its design that remains paramount in design in Formula One. However, over the course of the 1975 season, the unconventional design of the FD01 would change to become a much more conventional-looking car, as displayed by the FD03.
Still, the FD03 didn't have what it took to be truly competitive. Therefore, work would continue to design a car that could be competitive. And, to be competitive, the car's design would become more and more like the competition until it shared very little in common with its FD01 lineage. The new chassis would become known as the FD04.
At the first round of the 1976 Formula One season, the Brazilian Grand Prix, the FD04 would come with a tall airbox and a separate front wing attached to the actual nose of the car. By the Spanish Grand Prix the car's design had evolved to lose the separate front wing altogether and would sport the more conventional deeply-contoured front wings sticking out of either side of the nose. Gone too was the tall airbox in favor of Lotus-esqe airbox inlets protruding out to either side of the driver's head. One of the final evolutions of the FD04 would set the stage for its successor. Instead of the wide, low profile nose, the later evolution of the FD04 would feature a rather blunt leading edge on the nose. There would be some other features that would also remain when the team turned its attentions toward the 1977 season.
As the 1977 Formula One season kicked off with the Grand Prix of Argentina on the 9th of January, the Copersucar-Fittipaldi team would arrive with the older FD04 chassis as the team would not have enough time to finish the new chassis in time for the season opener.
While the new chassis was being designed and built, the older FD04 was proving to still have a little fight left as Emerson would finish 4th in the Argentinean and Brazilian Grand Prix. He would then follow those results up with a 5th place at Long Beach. It seemed the FD04 was going to go into retirement giving its successor something to beat.
Richard Divila was no longer in charge of designing the cars. Therefore, the new car would not have the 'D' as part of the chassis name. Designed by Dave Baldwin, the F5, which looked very much like an Ensign N175, would not appear until the Belgian Grand Prix. Unfortunately, electrical problems would force the car out of the race very early on.
In total, the F5 would not beat the FD04 in points in its first year, although it did not complete an entire season. By the end of the 1977 season the F5 would earn a total of 3 points in the championship. However, it was believed the foundation was solid. And, heading into the off-season, the team would merely take and build off of what it already had. The result would be simply, the F5A.
The F5 had been designed by Dave Baldwin, but he had left the team before the car even made its debut. Therefore, the Fittipaldis would turn to Giacomo Caliri's Fly Studio to help with the design of the F5A.
The FD01 didn't even have any of the radiators in the nose of the car. The F5A, however, would be something of a throwback sporting the oil cooler in a forward leaning position in the narrow nose of the car. The oil cooler would then be fed cooler air via a rectangular-shaped inlet positioned right in the nose of the car, as was the normal practice with the radiator inlets back in the 1960s. To either side of the nose would be a single-plane wing that would help provide the all-important downforce at the front of the car. The actual fiberglass nose of the car would consist of a U-shaped cut out just behind the front wing. This would be used to help with airflow through the oil cooler.
At this juncture of the car's design, the layout would cause the bodywork to contour outwards at a rather sharp angle. The upper leading edge of the fiberglass bodywork serve as a mounting point and an aerodynamically-efficient shield for the hinged upper wishbone of the front suspension. The lower leading edge would do the same function.
Obviously, the front brakes would be discs with cooling vents positioned to the inside of the wheels in the area between the bodywork and the wheel itself. This provided the all-important cooling to the brakes.
The footbox of the chassis would butt up against the backside of where the oil cooler was mounted in the nose of the car. Access openings in the top of the bodywork allowed the crew access to the front suspension of the car without having to remove any bodywork.
On either side of the monocoque tub of the chassis were squared-off sidepods, much like those that had been incorporated into the design of the current Lotus. The radiator inlets were low to the ground and box-like in their shape as well. Nestled well into the sidepod radiator inlets were the radiators themselves. The top of the sidepods featured deeply-channeled vents for the radiators to help draw the air through the radiators and out through the top of the sidepod bodywork. These deep channels were important to help prevent the air flowing to the radiators from becoming bottled up, which thereby induced drag and slowed the car down.
The long, rectangular sidepods would be the source of the major difference between the F5 and the F5A. The ground-effects era was coming into full effect in Formula One. Teams without the use of the incredible technology were left battling it out for the best of the rest. This would not do for a double world champion. Therefore, skirts would be applied to the outer edges of the sidepods and the venture effect would be born underneath the F5A.
The rectangular sidepods continued on past the cockpit and helped to form the lower sides of the moncoque structure around the driver. As with the times, the driver sat more on top of the car, than he did down in it. In front of the driver would be a roll-over structure that also served as a mounting point for the instrument panel and steering column. Directly behind the driver was the all-important roll-over hoop. The cockpit itself was entirely exposed until the crew placed the fiberglass shell around the driver in the cockpit. The shell would have a raked design to help the aerodynamic properties of the car, but would also contain the sideview mirrors in aerodynamic shrouds to either side of the windscreen.
The sidepod bodywork would continue all the way back to the large rear wheels of the car but would open up around the Cosworth DFV V8 engine. The open bodywork would continue at the rear of the car where everything would be in the open. When bodywork would be placed over the top of the Cosworth engine, square airbox inlets positioned to either side of the driver's head would feed air to the engine.
The fully-independent rear suspension would have the disc rotors mounted inboard just to either side of the 5-speed manual gearbox. Air ducts mounted to the inboard of the rotors and seen protruding into the airstream just aft of the engine are the cooling ducts for the rear brakes.
An interesting design feature at the rear of the car would be the use of a large-diameter tube running to either endplate of the rear wing to serve as the mounting point for the whole rear wing. This horizontal tube meant the entire area under the rear wing would be left wide open to prevent the airflow from being impeded as it exited the car. This would help stability at the rear of the car.
The new F5A would be ready in time for the season opener in Argentina. Fittipaldi would race it to a 9th place result in that race. However, on home turf in the second round of the World Championship for 1978, Emerson would claim a remarkable 2nd place finish. Over the course of the year, the F5A would go on to score no less six championship points scoring finishes. By the end of the season, Fittipaldi Automotive would have 17 points to their credit and would finish 7th in the title race.
Because of the success of the F5A throughout the 1978 season it would return and would be used for quite a bit of the 1979 season until it would be replaced by the F6A. However, none of the previous models, nor any of those that would come after, would achieve the level of success the F5A did. As a result, the 1978 would prove to be Fittipaldi Automotive's best year in Formula One.Sources:
'Constructors: Fittipaldo Automotive', (http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/con-fitti.html). GrandPrix.com. http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/con-fitti.html. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
Diepraam, Mattijs. 'A Samba that Never Got Into Tune', (http://8w.forix.com/fittipaldi.html). 8W: The Stories Behind Motor Racing Facts and Fiction. http://8w.forix.com/fittipaldi.html. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
'1977 Season', (http://www.manipef1.com/seasons/1977/). ManipeF1. http://www.manipef1.com/seasons/1977/. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
'1977 World Drivers Championship', (http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/1977/f177.html). 1977 World Drivers Championship. http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/1977/f177.html. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
'1978 World Drivers Championship', (http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/1978/f178.html). 1978 World Drivers Championship. http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/1978/f178.html. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Fittipaldi Automotive', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 30 October 2012, 23:30 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fittipaldi_Automotive&oldid=520666291 accessed 23 January 2013By Jeremy McMullen