With the second phase of the progressive Turbo ban now being enacted, teams had to choose between continuing for one last year with turbo power (those that still used it anyway) and making the switch to normally-aspirated engines now. The principal two options for the “atmo” runners were Ford’s DFZ engine – a development of the venerable DFV which had been the standard F1 engine from 1967 through 1981 – and John Judd’s CV engine, a V8 based around an old Honda IndyCar engine block. For Benetton, now the official Ford “works” team, the Detroit manufacturer produced a more powerful version of the DFZ, the DFR.
Williams was the only one of the big teams to move over to 3.5l atmospheric engines, opting for the Judd V8. Lotus and McLaren both built new cars for Honda’s new evolution of their successful turbo engine, that had been built specifically for the new restrictions, while Ferrari produced updated versions of their 1987 chassis and motor. Arrows continued with their Megatron-badged customer BMW turbos and Osella with their Alfa Romeos (now badged as Osellas) largely through a lack of alternatives, while Zakspeed developed their own engines and also continued with turbos.
The new regulations had also attracted a slew of new teams. As well as Coloni who entered a couple of 1987 races we would also see BMS Scuderia Italia, EuroBrun and Rial contesting races. However, one famous name was missing: Brabham. Bernie Ecclestone had struggled to replace the departing BMW Turbo engines and missed the registration deadline. Allowances were made, but eventually it was confirmed shortly before the opening round that the team would miss the 1988 season and hope to find a buyer and be back for 1989.
Technical and Rules changes
With all but six teams opting for non-turbo power, the Jim Clark and Colin Chapman trophies were dropped again for 1988. Turbo boost was now restricted to 2.5 bar (down from 4 bar) and atmospheric cars could have a 215l fuel tank as against 150l ( down from 190l) for turbos.
With so many new teams, pre-qualifying was back and one unlucky driver would again be eliminated on Friday (or Thursday in Monaco) to keep qualifying to 30 cars.
Canada was back, to the delight of fans everywhere, but something had to give way – the Japanese race introduced in 1987 had also been a hit and Honda were still in the ascendant. Instead, it was the Austrian Grand Prix that was dropped, at least in part due to safety concerns following Johansson’s “deer” incident in 1987, but also as the track’s narrow start-finish straight regularly saw startline pileups. Otherwise, the season calendar was broadly the same as the previous year.
The fans were excited for the new season which promised to be one of the most unpredictable for some time!