When we use the term “legend” in Formula 1, it is ordinarily about the drivers that win the races and championships on track having risked life and limb in the process. However, occasionally, it can also encapsulate the personnel working behind the scenes, and particularly the team owner. Sir Frank Williams is one, and Ken Tyrrell – who would have turned 90 today – is unquestionably another.
Tyrrell was the driving force behind three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart’s success in Formula 1, with each of the Scotsman’s titles coming when working with him. After using a Matra chassis for the first of their title victories in 1969, Tyrrell built his own car from then on which took Stewart to titles in 1971 and 1973, and the team also won its sole constructors’ title in 1971.
From then on, the team failed to attain much success, claiming its final win in 1983 with Michele Alboreto before eventually being sold to British American Tobacco in 1997 which subsequently became BAR.
In fact, the team was perhaps best known for the P34 car in 1976 which had six wheels instead of four (pictured). As crazy as it may sound, it wasn’t totally ridiculous, and even won the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix.
Tyrrell died in 2001 from cancer at the age of 77. The legacy that he left in Formula 1 was huge, having played such an important part ever since the late 1960s.
In fact, his legacy is still being felt today. Tyrrell became BAR, which raced in F1 until 2005 before being bought by Honda as a works team. Honda pulled out of the sport at the end of 2008 and sold the team to Ross Brawn, who christened the team Brawn GP.
In one of the greatest fairytales that the sport has ever known, the team swept to both titles with Jenson Button claiming the drivers’ title. This attracted the attention of Mercedes, who bought the team from Brawn at the end of 2009 and have been front-runners ever since.
So, on May 3rd, let’s wish Ken a very happy birthday. Nearly 50 years after he started in Formula 1, his legacy is still clear for us all to see.