Mike Gascoyne's plan for revamping the Formula 1 two-seater

Not many Formula 1 technical gurus get to re-engineer a car 20 years after they designed it, but that is the challenge now facing Mike Gascoyne with F1's two-seater project

Mike Gascoyne's plan for revamping the Formula 1 two-seater

As technical chief of Paul Stoddart's two-seater 'team', former Jordan, Renault and Toyota man Gascoyne will be responsible for updating a car based on the 1998 Tyrrell 026 that he originally conceived under the stewardship of the late Harvey Postlethwaite.

The project has brought Gascoyne, who was not involved in the original two-seater conversion, back into the F1 paddock for the first time since he left Caterham early in the 2012 season.

Liberty Media has embraced the two-seater as part of its efforts to spice up grand prix weekends, and after a limited programme in 2017 it is set to feature at all 21 races in 2018.

Although usually referred to as the 'Minardi' two-seater - because the cars ran in that team's colours before Stoddart sold out to Red Bull - at its heart the design is still a 1998 Tyrrell, as raced by Tora Takagi and Ricardo Rosset in the team's last season.

Gascoyne's long friendship with Stoddart made him the obvious candidate for the refreshing the two-seater.

"I actually raced with him in the BOSS series in his Tyrrell 022," says Gascoyne. "And I drove one of the two-seaters at Donington and took some passengers round for him, which was great fun!

"He got in touch with me and asked me to look over the technical side of the programme, which is ideal.

"The fact that I designed the original car, the fact that I've driven it, makes it a very complete story."

F1 technology has move on since Stoddart's two-seaters were first built, so an upgrade is needed for 2018.

The main focus will be on aesthetics, although it will go a bit further.

"Paul obviously wants to update these cars to give them a more modern look, and there are some things that we've got to do from a reliability point of view," said Gascoyne.

"We're certainly going to put a modern aero package on it, so a new front wing, bargeboards, and rear wing to reflect the current regulations.

"We're going to make two new chassis, because we want to incorporate changes to improve driver fit, and get bigger passengers in, and make them more comfortable and safer.

"We'll also put new electronics on, because they are probably the weak link from a reliability point of view - they are just not made any more.

"Also we can put dash displays in for the passengers, so they will be able to see where they are on the circuit."

One of the downsides of the two-seater is that the passenger faces the back of the driver's roll hoop, so vision is restricted. Gascoyne intends to address that.

"We can improve the view for the passenger - we can make that seat bulkhead quite a bit smaller," he said.

"The reason these cars have run so reliably is actually that they are very over-engineered from a safety point of view. Without compromising on safety, we can improve it in lots of areas.

"Also, these chassis were done before you had huge composite stress analysis capability and all that sort of thing. They were kind of done with hand calcs!

"We're now able to retrospectively do all of that work.

"We don't need to take weight out of it or anything, what we're looking at doing is improving the experience for the passenger, what he can see, what displays are available to him, comfort.

"For the passengers you don't need to do more than two or three laps before it's quite uncomfortable!

"We'll improve all of that for the passenger, and also get modern cameras in there, so you've got a record."

Reliability is a key as well. The two-seater programme uses finely tuned slots on the weekend schedule - creating space is one reason why support race practice sessions are moving to Thursdays - and so the cars have to run like clockwork.

"If this is going to run at 21 races next year, for us as a team logistically that's a very big challenge," Gascoyne admits.

"We do much less mileage than the F1 cars, but we don't have long-life engines, we don't have long-life gearboxes, so in terms of maintaining all the parts and lifing everything, that's a challenge in itself.

"It's not a technical challenge in terms of producing a competitive car, but you do have to produce a safe racing car that's going to run for four days at every grand prix.

"If you have a five minute slot to put two VIPs in it it doesn't look very good if the engine doesn't start, or if it breaks down!"

The looks of the car may change, but underneath it will still be a 1998 Tyrrell.

"We won't change all the running gear - if you change radiators or something the knock on effect of all those parts is massive, so there's a lot you don't want to change," said Gascoyne.

"If you want to run these things cost effectively - if you go to the complex engines they've got now, just running the hydraulic systems is biblical, and the cost of the programme wouldn't sustain that."

Stoddart sees the programme as F1's "11th team", and the overall look of the ex-Manor garages, trailers and motorhome is very much in keeping with that aim. Gascoyne wants the operational side to run efficiently too.

"A lot of it is ensuring that we operate like a professional F1 team, and that's really my job," he said.

"We're not going racing or qualifying, but we've still got to cope with half a dozen passengers turning up 20 minutes before they are due to get in and not knowing what to do, and yet we have to keep all our timings correct, and operate professionally."

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