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Origins

The Arrows F1 team was established in November 1977 by a breakaway group of personnel from Don Nichols’s Shadow team, including Italian financier Franco Ambrosio, Alan Rees, Jackie Oliver, Dave Wass and Tony Southgate. The team set up headquarters at Milton Keynes and built the first Arrows F1 car, the Arrows FA1, in just 53 days.

Arrows signed up driver Riccardo Patrese from Shadow and secured sponsorship from Varig in Brazil, where the FA1 finished 10th in its debut. Rolf Stommelen later joined, bringing funding from German beer company Warsteiner. In the team’s third race at Long Beach, Patrese scored Arrows’ first points with a 6th place finish.

However, Ambrosio soon left the team after being jailed in Italy for financial irregularities. Shadow also sued Arrows for copyright infringement, claiming the FA1 was a copy of their DN9 car. While the court case went on, Patrese finished 2nd at the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix. Knowing they would lose the case, Arrows built a new car called the A1 in just 52 days, which debuted after they were banned from racing the FA1.

Arrows F1 Team in the Turbo Era

With continued Warsteiner backing in 1979, Patrese was joined by Jochen Mass in the A1B evolution of the 1978 car later in the turbo era. However, Arrows F1 team introduced bullet-nosed A2 which it in June. While not competitive in Formula 1, Rupert Keegan won four races in the British Aurora AFX Championship in an FA1 entered by Charles Clowes Racing.

For 1980, the A3 debuted in Brazil with a 6th place result. Southgate left mid-season and Mass was injured in August, with Mike Thackwell and Manfred Winkelhock unsuccessfully deputizing. Still, Arrows F1 team finished 7th in the Constructors’ Championship.

In 1981, Patrese took pole position at Long Beach in the updated A3 but retired from the lead. Jacques Villeneuve Sr. replaced driver Siegfried Stohr for the final two races. Patrese then left for Brabham in 1982 and was replaced by Marc Surer and Mauro Baldi in the new A4 and later A5 cars.

Former World Champion Alan Jones drove for Arrows F1 team in the 1983 Long Beach GP. Money was tight, with Surer being joined by various pay drivers over the season. Things improved in 1984 with BMW turbo engines and Barclay sponsorship. Surer and Thierry Boutsen drove the A7 debuting in 1984. Boutsen scored 5 points for a 9th place Constructor’s Championship finish.

The BMW influence grew in 1985 when Gerhard Berger replaced Surer, scoring 14 points alongside Boutsen including a 2nd place at Imola. However, after Berger left for Benetton in 1986, Surer returned alongside BMW junior driver Christian Danner. The A9 flopped and designer Dave Wass departed, with only 1 point scored that season.

Arrows F1 in the 1990s

For 1987, Ross Brawn joined as designer and brought several staff from the FORCE team. With drivers Derek Warwick and Eddie Cheever, the new A10 with Megatron engines scored 11 points for 6th in the Constructor’s Championship. The package remained in 1988, with the A10B scoring more points. Warwick finished 7th in the Driver’s Championship and Arrows F1 team placed 5th among constructors.

Brawn’s 1989 A11 design used Ford-Cosworth DFVs in the new normally aspirated era. However, Brawn, Cheever and Warwick all departed at season’s end. The team was then sold to Wataru Ohashi’s Footwork Corporation, renamed accordingly in 1991.

The early 1990s saw struggles with various engine suppliers and drivers. Footwork switched between unsuccessful deals with Porsche and Mugen-Honda engines, while drivers came and went in the team’s ever-changing financial situation. However, Gianni Morbidelli emerged as a fairly consistent points scorer when he joined in 1994, including a podium in the 1995 Australian GP.

As money troubles mounted, Tom Walkinshaw bought into the team in 1996 and moved operations to his TWR facility, dropping the Footwork name. With designer Frank Dernie hired from Ligier and World Champion Damon Hill signed for 1997 alongside pay driver Pedro Diniz, fortunes seemed to improve. At the 1997 Hungarian GP, Hill challenged for victory before a late mechanical issue forced him to settle for second place.

The Demise of Arrows in the 21st Century

Aside from some points finishes in 1998-2000 with drivers like Jos Verstappen and test driver roles for future champions like Takuma Sato, Arrows F1 team began to struggle again in the early 2000s.

Despite a deal for Supertec (rebadged Renault) engines in 2000, 2001 saw a switch to underpowered Asiatech motors. Arrows failed to score points in 2001 besides a single 5th place for Verstappen. For 2002, Verstappen was dropped in favor of Heinz-Harald Frentzen alongside Enrique Bernoldi, but money ran out mid-season.

With increasing debts, Arrows deliberately failed to qualify at the 2002 French Grand Prix. Despite talks with potential buyers like Paul Stoddart and Dietrich Mateschitz, further financial problems ultimately resulted in Arrows F1 team folding at the end of 2002 after nearly 25 years in Formula 1.

No Championships, But Many Memorable Moments in F1

In its storied history, Arrows F1 team participated in 382 Grands Prix, scoring 9 podium finishes but sadly never winning a race. Their best championship finish was 4th in the 1988 Constructor’s Championship.

Many legendary drivers spent time at Arrows, including multiple race winners Riccardo Patrese, Derek Warwick, Eddie Cheever and Damon Hill, along with fan favorite Jos Verstappen and talents like Christian Fittipaldi and Takuma Sato early in their careers.

Following their closure, much of Arrows’ assets went to Paul Stoddart’s Minardi team, while the Arrows engineering office and base at Leafield became the operating facility for Super Aguri upon their entry into Formula 1 in 2006. When Super Aguri folded in 2008, the surviving company at Leafield was renamed Formtech Composites Ltd and continues to produce composite components for various motorsports and aerospace applications.

So while their ambition of becoming World Champions was never achieved, and financial troubles prevented Arrows from realizing their full potential, their determined spirit and unfaltering dedication to competing in Formula 1 despite the odds has become a part of legend and lore in the sport’s history.

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