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Part 5 - 1977 - A Dream Lost

Written by Jay Walker. Posted in P34 History

With Ken and the team in high spirits from the winter testing and the P34 looking better than ever thanks to its new body shell, the 1977 F1 Season got off to a start in Argentina, Patrick Depailler looked promising by qualifying 3rd while Peterson was still struggling to come to terms with an F1 car with six wheels and qualified 14th. unfortunately neither car finished the race, Depailler retired with an overheating engine and Peterson spun out of the race on lap 28.

Both P34's out in the first race of the season was not the result Tyrrell was hoping for, but this unfortunately set a patten that was to be repeated throughout the season. Many of the problems were blamed on the new body shape. The overheating problems were put down to the oil radiators not getting enough air.

In reality, the P34 was still suffering from the two main problems of the 1976 season, in that it's front tyres were now far behind in terms of development and the front brakes would regularly overheat.

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A dissillusioned Derek Gardner and the Tyrrell team tried valiantly to resolve the problems by constantly modifying the P34, at almost every race there was something different about the car, but none of the solutions worked enough to get over the two basic problems. It all got too much for Derek Gardner at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, by this time the rears of the P34 were calculated to be almost two seconds a lap quicker than the fronts, a difference as extreme as this was almost impossible resolve as it upset the balance of the car to the point of it being almost un driveable.

the commitment from Goodyear the P34 was doomed to fail, realising this Derek resigned from Tyrrell and turned his back on F1 forever.

Ken replaced Derek with Maurice Phillippe who tried to resolve the P34 problems, he moved the oil radiators from under the rear wing to the nose of the car in an attempt to fix the overheating engine problems and most radically widened the front track and by doing so all the benefits of the six wheel concept were lost, all the Tyrrell team could do now was to grit their teeth and hope to get through the remaining races of the year. 

Tyrrell P34 Race results for 1977

Event

Peterson

Depailler

Buenos Aires  Qualifies 14th, spun out on lap 28 Qualifies 3rd, retires on lap 32 with overheating engine
Interlargos Qualifies 8th, crashed on lap 12 Qualifies 6th, crashed on lap 23
Kyalami Qualifies 7th, retired on lap 5 with failing fuel pressure Qualifies 4th, finishes 3rd
Long Beach Qualifies 10th, retired on lap 5 with fuel line problem Qualifies 12th, finishes 4th
Jarama Qualifies 15th, finishes 8th Qualifies 10th, retires on lap 12 with engine problem
Monaco Qualifies 4th, retires on lap 10 with brake problem Qualifies 8th, retires on lap 46 with brake & gearbox problem
Zolder Qualifies 8th, finishes 3rd  

Qualifies 5th, finishes 8th

Anderstorp Qualifies 10th, retires on lap 7 with ignition problem Qualifies 6th, finishes 4th
Dijon-Prenois Qualifies 17th, finishes 12th Qualifies 12th, crashes on lap 21
Silverstone Qualifies 10th, retires lap 3 with engine problem Qualifies 18th, crashes on lap 16 due to failing brakes
Hockenheim Qualifies 14th, retires lap 42 with engine problem Qualifies 15th, retires lap 22 with engine problem
Osterreichring Qualifies 15th, finishes 5th Qualifies 10th, finishes 13th
Zandervoort Qualifies 7th, retires on lap 18 with ignition problem Qualifies 11th, retires lap 31 with engine problem
Monza Qualifies 12th, finishes 6th Qualifies 13th, retires lap 24 with engine problem
Watkins Glen Qualifies 5th, finishes 16th Qualifies 8th, finishes 14th
Mosport Qualifies 3rd, retires on lap 34 with fuel leak Qualifies 6th, finishes 2nd
Fuji Qualifies 18th, crashes on lap 5 Qualifies 15th, finishes 3rd

Overall Ronnie Peterson came 14th in the 1977 Drivers Championship and Depailler came eighth, the P34 scored a disappointing 27 points for Tyrrell giving them 6th place in the 1977 Constructors Championship.

Clearly after such an awful season and without the commitment of Goodyear to develop the front tyres Tyrrell had no option but to abandon Project 34, and developed the 008 for the 1978 season, a car with just four wheels. The P34 was resigned to the history books and the cars sold to private collectors as historic F1 oddities.

The P34 had been born out of passion and the guts to try something different, there are those who say that the concept was flawed and that the six wheelers offered nothing over the standard four wheel cars, there are also those who say that it was ahead of its time. Some say that the P34 broke the Tyrrell teams spirit to a point which they never fully recovered from, the project caused Derek Gardner, one of the most respected F1 car designers of the time to turn his back on F1 , however he never really accepted the failure of his six wheel F1 concept, if Goodyear had fully developed the tyre it needed and the overheating brake problem was resolved who knows what might have been possible ?