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On view  |  Lobby, Education and Research Building, Floor 1

John Barnard, Ferrari S.p.A., Maranello, Italy. Formula 1 Racing Car (641/2). 1990

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John Barnard (British, born 1946), Ferrari S.p.A., Maranello, Italy (established 1929)

Formula 1 Racing Car (641/2)

Ferrari S.p.A., Maranello, Italy
Honeycomb composite with carbon fibers, Kevlar and other materials
40 1/2" x 7' x 14' 6 1/2" (102.9 x 213.4 x 448.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of the manufacturer
MoMA Number:
Audio Program excerpt

AUTObodies: speed, sport, transport

, June 29–September 16, 2002

Curator, Peter Reed: The name Ferrari is practically synonymous with speed, and what better color to convey this than bright red : the color of Ferrari's racing team. The Ferrari Formula 1 is the only car in MoMA's collection designed exclusively to be driven by a professional in competition racing. It was made to win the Grand Prix. This actual car won six Grand Prix races. Among the decals, you can find the name of the man who drove it, the renowned Alain Prost. People are surprised at how small the monocoque, or cockpit, is. In fact, many professional drivers are quite small like jockeys.

When this car appeared in 1990, it was the most sophisticated racing car in production....Chief engineer, John Barnard, is still one of the foremost race car designers in the world.

John Barnard: As chief designer I am responsible for the whole car. Though I'm not involved in the detail design of the engine I have to ensure it integrates with the rest of the car to give a complete package. You’ll notice the Formula I is wide and low. This allows it to corner fast without overturning. Another important factor is aerodynamics. Carefully shaping of all the surfaces the air moves over, thereby minimizing drag or resistance when the car cuts through the air, a force which actually pushes the car onto the road. That keeps the car on the track, whether it’s cornering hard or traveling at over 200 mph. Look at the bottom of the car: you'll see it’s flat until just before the rear tires. Then, it kicks up slightly. When the car moves over the ground and through the air, this shape lowers the air pressure beneath it, creating more downforce.

Now, walk around to look at the car from the front. On either side of the nose are two black horizontal panels. Look down the car, and you’ll see more panels again at the rear, mounted up high. The panels are shaped like the wings of an aeroplane, but here we mounted them upside down. That creates downforce too. In fact, at 180 mph, this car produces around 5000 lbs of downforce. Since the car and driver weigh around 1350 lbs, you can see the importance of aerodynamics. Technology helps me with the design: wind tunnels, computers, precision machine tools, and test benches to measure engine performance.

In 1980 I was the first person to make the monocoque or cockpit shell from carbon fibre, which is stronger and lighter than the aluminium then in use. Today, most open wheeled racing cars have a carbon fibre monocoque. Another first I introduced on this car was the semi-automatic paddle shift gearbox. At the back of the steering wheel are two small levers. The driver simply pulls the right hand lever to shift up, or the left hand one to shift down. His hand never leaves the steering wheel. The onboard computer looks after the clutch and the engine revs. I like to make my cars look good, so I'm careful to get the lines and shapes to flow together whilst complying with technical requirements. They say if it looks right it usually is right.

The Museum of Modern Art , MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 319

This Formula 1 Racing Car—with an exterior body designed by Barnard and interior chassis engineered and designed by the Ferrari company—clearly illustrates the modernist dictum "form follows function." The shape of its exterior has been determined by the laws of physics and aerodynamics, and falls within the rules and guidelines set up by the governing body of the sport of automobile racing. The sleek and sculptural silhouette of this Ferrari allows air to pass over the body with minimal drag and maximal down–force, which ensures precision handling even at speeds in excess of two hundred miles per hour.

High–performance racing cars represent the ultimate achievement of one of the world's largest industries. Painstakingly engineered to go faster, handle better, and stop more quickly than any other kind of automobile, they are the most technologically rational and complex type of motorcar produced. Experimentation and innovation in design, stimulated by the desire to win, are constants in the ongoing quest for the optimal racing machine.

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