The Orange Arrows A21s Were The Very Best Of The Formula 1 Team’s Race Cars
Say the word ‘Arrows’ to a historically-minded Formula 1 fan and it might elicit only a shoulder shrug. The Arrows team in its existence from 1978 to 2002 was viewed roundly as an archetypal midfielder, and a rather ill-starred one, for whom a breakthrough never quite came. But some of its cars bucked that image, not least its A21 raced in the year 2000.
This was a highly-popular car, partly as it was the first Arrows to be resplendent in striking Orange-sponsorship livery, but also it was quick and well capable of giving much bigger teams plenty to think about on occasion. And two A21 chassis actually raced in that F1 season are going under the hammer at RM Sotheby’s London auction on October 24. Both are expected to bring in £100,000 to £140,000.
The A21 was designed by noted technical head Mike Coughlan, ex of Benetton and Ferrari and later of McLaren and Williams (he also was caught up in 2007’s notorious McLaren-Ferrari ‘spygate’ scandal), with ex-Stewart aerodynamicist Eghbal Hamidy. They focused on lowering the car’s center of gravity, aided by its pull rod suspension system, and reducing drag. This meant the A21 was particularly strong on circuits with long straights, especially as it was powered by a Renault-derived Supertec V10 engine, which was a vast improvement on the Hart it used previously.
And its drivers were the rapid Jos Verstappen—yes, that’s Max’s dad—and the talented Pedro de la Rosa who later would become a highly-rated McLaren and Ferrari test driver as well as raced for several F1 teams including McLaren, Jaguar and Sauber.
While a total of seven points and seventh in the final constructors’ table for Arrows in 2000 suggests a modest season–albeit one vastly improved on the one point and joint-last place of the previous year–it masked that the A21 car missed out on a much higher score due to unreliability.
Indeed the first of the cars heading to auction, chassis A21-03, driven by de la Rosa had notable days in the sun. In the Austrian Grand Prix, de la Rosa in it took advantage of a first corner shunt to run in a comfortable third place for the race’s first 32 laps—keeping Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari at arm’s length—before a gearbox problem side-lined the Arrows. Then in the next round at Hockenheim in Germany de la Rosa qualified fifth. He then ran fourth for much of the race but in variable conditions finished sixth in a topsy-turvy race—and one interrupted by a disgruntled ex-Mercedes employee making a protest by walking next to the track with cars speeding past at 200mph!
In total de la Rosa drove the car in 12 grands prix that season, and in it secured three top-10 grid positions. He scored another point in it too, again in Germany for the European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring.
The second A21 heading to auction, chassis A21-05, was less successful. It was driven again by de la Rosa—who’d raced A21-03 for the final time in Hungary in the previous round—in the Belgian and Italian races at Spa and Monza. In Belgium he finished 16th after a stop-go penalty then in Italy, having qualified 10th, he got eliminated in a tragic early crash that claimed the life of track marshal Paolo Gislimberti.
Both chassis are now fitted with an F3000-specification Cosworth AC engine. So as well as representing a rare opportunity to acquire a popular and competitive modern-generation F1 car, both also still boast strong performance as well as practicality and relative cost-effectiveness. They would be no doubt welcome in F1 demonstration events and in contemporary Formula Libre events such as BOSS GP.
Images courtesy of RM Sotheby’s