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Ferrari 640: The Car That Changed Formula 1

Ferrari’s history in Formula 1 is nothing short of legendary. They have took part in every single season in Formula 1 since it’s inception, and they hold a number of records in the sport.
Most WDCs and WCCs, most race wins, most pole positions, most fastest laps, and so on and so forth. So, it’s pretty much safe to say that without Ferrari, Formula 1’s nothing.
And, it’s not just the number of records that Ferrari holds that makes it the most legendary racing team in the world, but because of it’s heritage and revolutionary cars. For most of the drivers, it’s been THE team to drive for.
When a driver drives for Ferrari, they’re representing the whole of Italy. And, there have been some really legendary drivers who’s driven for the prancing horse over the years.
Michael Schumacher, Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter, Gilles Villeneuve, Kimi Raikkonen are some of the legendary drivers who’ve driven for the team and achieved a lot of success with the team.
Talking about the racing machines that Ferrari’s produces, there have been many that standout. The Ferrari 312T2, the F2002, the F2004, the F2007, and so on and so forth. These cars are some of the most successful racing machines that Ferrari’s produced, but amongst the many legendary cars that it’s produced, there’s one that standout.

Ferrari 640

ferrari 640
Ferrari 640

Going into the 1989 season, Ferrari was under a lot of pressure because the prancing horse hadn’t won a title since 1982. In 1988, Ferrari had snatched John Barnard, who used to work at McLaren, and is one of the most successful engineers in Formula 1 history.
John was a genius racing car designer who was the first person to use a carbon fibre chassis in his racing car during his time at McLaren. The media and a lot of people used to portray him as one of the toughest and difficult men in the sport who wanted things to be his way, all the time.
For the 1989 season, John wanted to build the who chassis of the car himself, as he didn’t trust his Italian fellows to build a chassis that would agree with the design philosophies that he had in his mind
He made the chassis in a way that it was impossible to fix the gear lever inside the car, as he had to build a chassis that had strong aerodynamic characteristics. His solution? The semi Automatic Paddle Shift Gearbox.

The Gearbox

ferrari 640's steering wheel
Ferrari 640’s Steering Wheel

The Ferrari 640 was the first car to use a semi automatic paddle shift gearbox. Before 1989, every car had a manual transmission, and it required the driver to sometimes drive one handed as they had to change the gear with their right hand during a lap.
John wanted to take this into account and wanted to design something that wouldn’t require the driver to get his hands off the steering wheel, thus saving him those microseconds that could prove crucial in the race/qualifying.
His solution was a normal longitudinal paddle shift gearbox that had paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. The driver would use the left paddle shifter to change down his gear, and the right one to shift up.
This was one of the most influential designs in F1 that later was implemented by every team as it just was that good, and a lot of supercars now have paddle shifters as well, and almost all racing cars have implemented the technology.
John is one of the most influential engineers in Formula 1 history, and this design of his might be the most influential of his works.

Harshit Ahuja
Harshit Ahuja
Harshit is a Student Pilot currently working towards getting his Commercial Pilot's Licence. Aside from Aviation, he has an avid passion for Motorsport, especially for Formula 1.


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