The turbo era in Formula One had quite literally left Tyrrell behind. Tyrrell lacked the funding to produce the horses. Therefore, in order to catch up, the team needed to find other ways to go fast.
Tyrrell had already shown some creativity when it came to maintaining competitiveness. Of course, this creativity would be at the center of controversy throughout the 1984 season. This would famously implode at the Detroit Grand Prix when a number of rules violations would be found on the car. This creativity would come at a serious cost to Tyrrell. The once elite team in Formula One now struggled to hang on. What's more, the team needed to look for more 'legitimate' answers to the challenges it faced.
Harvey 'Doc' Postlethwaite would be the hub of some truly ingenious designs. Having started with March and followed by experiences with Hesketh, Wolf-Williams and Ferrari, Postlethwaite was a successful commodity within the Formula One design fraternity.
Unfortunately, Harvey's Ferraris just could not compete with the McLarens and Williams. He would be replaced at the Scuderia by John Barnard. This loss of Harvey at Ferrari would be Tyrrell's gain as the talented designer would soon join the team in 1987. His move to the team would coincide with some very important regulation changes that would help Tyrrell enjoy some of its last moments in the sun.
The turbo era would come to an end at the end of the 1988 season. Tyrrell had never been a part of that era competing only with normally-aspirated engines. Thus, when Formula One departed from the turbos, Tyrrell would have an opportunity to regain a place among the ranks of Formula One's best.
Postlethwaite's first design would not necessarily be a revelation or an overnight success for the team. Called the 017, the car would struggle. The 017B, which was intended to be an improvement, would produce better results but it would not come anywhere near reclaiming Tyrrell's fortunes. The team still struggled to compete. Even though the turbos had gone, the Cosworth DFR remained short on ponies. Harvey had to find other means to make up the difference.
Harvey would continue to evolve the 017. The overall shape seemed right. It just needed some tweaking. Slimming down the nose and rounding it more, Doc would not only design a very aesthetically-pleasing look but one with improved aerodynamics. The chassis itself would make use of more carbon-fiber elements, but the carbon-fiber would be fashioned tighter and more shapely.
What's more, Harvey would do something interesting by raising the nose and front wing a couple of inches compared to the 017, in which the nose ran right down to the ground. This would be the beginning of the raised-nose era and Tyrrell would actually be on the leading-edge of this revolution. It would be a design element that had remained ever since.
To complement the tighter, more rounded nose, the sidepods would go from rectangular boxes with radiator cooling vents to being slightly more contoured on the edges and curved along the sides. These sidepods would be pulled tightly in at the rear to funnel more air to the rear diffuser.
Inside the cramped cockpit, the controls would be simple. The 018 would carry-over the same six-speed gearbox that had made its debut with the later-generation 017B. Besides that, there would be little else in the cockpit to distract the driver from his task of driving on the edge.
A fair amount of the differences between the 018 and its predecessor could be found at the back of the car. Besides a rear wing with mounting pillars raked-back compared to upright, the 018 would have a much more aerodynamically-shaped airbox and engine cover. Whereas the 017 would look as though the airbox just sat right on the top of the intake flutes, which it really did, the 018 would have much more lovely, sweeping lines that completely hid the fact there was an eight-cylinder engine underneath.
Tightly packaged, aerodynamic and quite good handling, the 018 would be a rapid improvement for Tyrrell. Further updates for the 1990 season had many within the Formula One paddock convinced the car likely was one of the fastest on the grid had it not been for its rather paltry 3.5-liter Ford DFR engine. Nonetheless, it had enough tools at hand to battle the best teams. This would be evidenced by Jean Alesi's 30 laps in the lead of the United States Grand Prix in 1990.
In spite of its lack of horses under the hood, the car would demonstrate more than enough heart enabling Alesi to score a 2nd place result in the United States Grand Prix. Furthermore, the 018 would help Tyrrell reclaim some of its former glory. It would be one of the last of Tyrrell's great cars.By Jeremy McMullen