In the fourth edition of his What Went Wrong series, Aaron Collins analyses the trials and tribulations experienced by the Arrows team in its latter years.
Having made their Grand Prix debut in 1978, the Arrows F1 Team would go on to become one of the few constants within the world of Formula One.
Success was few and far in between, and when things looked bright, cruel fate would intervene. A prime example of this was when Riccardo Patrese lead the 1981 US Grand Prix West at Long Beach from Pole Position and the Italian was on course for victory, only for the fuel flow system to fail on Lap 33.
The team slowly climbed up the order as they received backing from BMW, Barclay cigarettes and American insurance company USF&G and were established midfield contenders by the end of the 1980’s.
So when the likes of McLaren, Williams, Lotus and Ferrari faltered at the front with reliability issues, the likes of Thierry Boutsen, Derek Warwick and Eddie Cheever were there to pick up the pieces and score some valuable points.
In 1990, Japanese businessman Wataru Ohashi bought the team and renamed it Footwork to promote his logistics company of the same name. An initial engine deal with Porsche proved to be troublesome and prevented them from moving forward.
The next three seasons saw Footwork secure a supply of Mugen-Honda engines and went on to score ten world championship points, with Warwick’s fourth place in the 1993 Hungarian Grand Prix being their best result.
Ohashi ended the sponsorship deal at the conclusion of 1993, which meant Footwork subsequently lost its Mugen-Honda engines, but the businessman opted to maintain his shares in the team.
The next two years didn’t see much change in terms of race-to-race competitiveness, though Gianni Morbidelli managed to finish third in the high-attrition 1995 Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide.
At the end of that year, former F1 drivers Jackie Oliver and Alan Rees bought Ohashi’s shares with help from the Stuttgart based Schwabische bank.
Tom Walkinshaw and TWR
By March 1996, ownership had changed once again as Tom Walkinshaw entered the fold after his success in several motorsport categories as a driver and team manager with his own team, Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR).
In addition, Tom Walkinshaw was Technical Director at Benetton when Michael Schumacher won his first Formula One Drivers’ Title in 1994. He was scrutinized when the Enstone outfit were accused of using banned driver aids on the Benetton B194.
He then purchased part of the Ligier team from Flavio Briatore in the hope of taking full ownership. However, the two were unable to reach an agreement and Walkinshaw walked away and invested in Footwork instead.
— Walkinshaw Andretti United (@FollowWAU) January 24, 2017
Jos Verstappen’s sixth place in Argentina would prove to be the only point scored by Footwork in what was a difficult first year for the TWR partnership.
In contrast, Ligier would go on to win the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix with Olivier Panis before they were re-christened Prost Grand Prix.
Arrows sign the World Champion
For 1997, the team was renamed Arrows Grand Prix International and Walkinshaw decided to start with a clean slate on the driver front. They drafted in 1996 F1 World Champion Damon Hill, who had been ousted from the dominant Williams-Renault team.
Brazilian pay driver Pedro Diniz was hired and bought in much needed money to help fund the Briton’s services. Germany’s Jorg Muller acted as the team’s Test driver and Danka were the team’s title sponsors.
Frank Dernie was responsible for the development of the Arrows A18 and reports at the time reckoned that Arrows could use Volvo engines. At the time, TWR oversaw the Swedish manufacturer’s programme in the British Touring Car Championship.
These reports proved to be false as they went on to use a 3-Litre, Yamaha V10 that had been previously used by Tyrrell and produced around 690bhp.
The Japanese power proved to be unreliable with the team having the worse possible start in Melbourne, Australia. Damon Hill’s Arrows broke down on the way to the grid and unfortunately was a sign of things to come.
Neither driver could produce the goods in such a fragile car. It wasn’t until the British Grand Prix in July that Arrows managed to register a point, courtesy of Hill’s sixth place finish.
Regardless of the breakthrough, Walkinshaw criticized Damon for his underwhelming performances:
“Any professional sportsman is only as good as his last race,” Walkinshaw said that weekend.
“If money does not motivate you, then the fear of failure certainly should. It’s an application problem and we need to sort it out.”
So close to success
The Hungarian Grand Prix followed shortly after and Arrows surprised many when Damon Hill qualified fourth on the grid.
The hot weather that weekend saw the Goodyear runners suffer severe tyre blisters, whereas the Bridgestone tyres used by Arrows were more suitable to the conditions.
On the race start, Hill moved up into second before he took the lead from the Ferrari of his nemesis Michael Schumacher on Lap 11.
From that point forward, the Brit drove superbly and demonstrated why he won the World Championship the previously year.
But with three laps left, disaster struck as the hydraulic pump broke on the No.1 Arrows and left Hill with a significant loss of power.
This left him vulnerable as he crawled around the circuit and hoped he could keep his former Williams team-mate Jacques Villeneuve at bay. But it wasn’t to be as the Canadian squeezed his way past on the final lap and snatched a well-deserved victory.
Speaking to ITV later that year, Damon reflected on the race in Hungary and the importance of looking towards the future:
“Formula One doesn’t stop for anything, it carries on and you have to keep proving yourself every single race; It’s pressing on from start to finish and never letting up until the chequered flag.”
When Pedro Diniz drove for Arrows. Often overlooked as he was teammates with the reigning World Champion. pic.twitter.com/H5eiulbk1X
— WhenF1WasDifferent (@WhenF1Was) April 21, 2016
Despite Damon’s heroics, Arrows had to settle for eighth place in the Constructors’ Standings with nine points. By the time the 1997 season had concluded, the relationship between himself and Tom Walkinshaw had completely soured.
Arrows goes ‘independent’
The former World Champion had already signed a contract to drive for Jordan in 1998 and was replaced by Tyrrell’s Mika Salo.
With the introduction of grooved tyres in mind for 1998, respected car designer John Barnard was hired to develop the Arrows A19.
Alongside this, TWR rebadged Brian Hart’s V10 engines under the Arrows name, making them and Ferrari the only two teams to produce their own engines.
“We decided that instead of wasting money just renting engines from someone, we would invest it and build our own and hopefully get industry support for it,” Walkinshaw explained.
Once again, the engine proved to be the team’s achilles heel due to a lack of development and was consequently unreliable. This was accentuated by nine double retirements across 16 races in 1998.
A double-points finish at Monaco showcased the worth of the A19’s chassis, with Pedro Diniz’s also finishing fifth place in the famous 1998 Belgian Grand Prix. Coincidently, this race was won by former Arrows driver Damon Hill.
Arrows slightly to seventh in the Constructors’ Championship with just six points.
During the winter break, Pedro Diniz decided that his sponsorship money was being wasted (not for the first time) and left to join Sauber. This angered Arrows, who believed that the Brazilian had incorrectly terminated his contract and launched legal action against him.
The transition to produce their own engines hit them hard as they announced operating losses of around £5.8million for 1998. In contrast, Arrows lost just £246,218 in 1997.
New sponsors and new shareholders
Mika Salo looked set to stay with the team in 1999, but Tom Walkinshaw opted to replace him with the 1997 Formula Nippon Pedro de la Rosa.
The young Spaniard was backed by oil company Repsol, who would become Arrows’ title sponsor that year. De la Rosa was partnered by Toranosuke ‘Tora’ Takagi who, like Salo before him, had joined from Tyrrell.
In mid-January, both Jackie Oliver and Alan Rees resigned whilst on the technical front, John Barnard also handed in his noticed.
Consequently, his replacement Eghbal Hamidy was left in charge of the Arrows A20 – essentially an updated version of the preceding Arrows A19 – and was assisted in its development by Technical Director Mike Coughlan.
On top of this, Arrows had a new sponsor in the form of the mysterious T-Minus brand owned by the Nigerian Prince Malik Ado Ibrahim. He became one of the team’s new shareholders alongside the Morgan Grenfell Private Equity Bank (MGPE).
At the time, it was understood that Tom Walkinshaw had reduced his shares in the team down from 40% to 25%. Prince Ibrahim also gained shares of 25%, whilst Morgan Grenfell took up 45% in the belief that Arrows could go on to become one of the leading teams in Formula One.
Scott Lanphere, one of the directors at MGPE at the time, was quoted saying that both Walkinshaw and Ibrahim “promised that Arrows would be the best in the business.”
Yet, the results that followed were far from this target.
Although Pedro de la Rosa scored a point on his F1 debut in Australia Grand Prix, once again Arrows had produced a slow and unreliable car. As a result, they struggle to beat the traditional backmarkers Minardi.
Their only saving grace was that the unreliability experienced of the new BAR team prevented them from finishing bottom of the Constructors’ Standings.
Their lack of competitiveness wasn’t helped by Prince Ibrahim not being able to deliver on the money he’d promised for 1999. Unsurprisingly, he’d been ejected by the time the Formula One paddock had arrived in Hungary.
Because of this, Walkinshaw had no choice but to setup a long-term loan with MGPE to keep the team afloat. To help understand the team’s climate at that time, Arrows published operating losses of £22.7million that year and required urgent investment.
New livery, new promise
As Arrows entered the new millennium, it seemed that their fortunes were going to turn for the better.
As Tora Takagi had failed to settle at Arrows, a fact not helped by his inability to speak English, he departed and returned to Formula Nippon. Jos Verstappen then took up the vacant seat alongside Pedro de la Rosa.
Meanwhile, the Coughlan/Hamidy combination came up with the designs for the Arrows A21, which was armed with the 780bhp V10 Supertec FB02 Engine.
Australian airline magnate Paul Stoddart used the team to promote his European Aviation brand, as he previously done at Tyrrell and Jordan in the late 90’s.
Additionally, Stoddart’s team in Formula 3000 was re-branded as the European Arrows Junior Team for 2000. He then gave Mark Webber and Christijan Albers their respective debuts in the series.
Moreover, the French telecommunications company Orange became the new title sponsor of the Arrows team. Further sponsorship support came from Red Bull, Chello, Lost Boys and Eurobet, the latter of which was owned by shareholders MGPE.
“There is no pressure on us, we can only do better than we’re forecast to do,” said Tom Walkinshaw before the start of the new season.
“I think we’ve assembled one of the best engineering teams in Formula One, here, we’ve got a good engine. I’m sure we’ve got a good car once we get it developed and we’ve got two good drivers.”
As it turned out, Arrows had indeed developed a fast car as the A21 was the fastest through the speed traps over the course of the season. Despite the breakthrough, unreliability yet again held them back.
Despite this, Jos Verstappen recorded the team’s best finish of fourth in Italy. The car also proved to be quite handy in the rain, as both drivers recorded points finishes in Canada and Germany respectively.
More losses, more problems
The upturn of pace helped Arrows to finish seventh in the Constructors’ Championship with seven points. The positive news wouldn’t last long, as Paul Stoddart went on become the new owner of Minardi and consequently pulled his backing from Arrows.
Eurobet also suffered losses of $70million that and had to significantly reduce their contributions to the team with immediate effect. Arrows also recorded another financial loss, albeit a smaller one of £1.6million.
Red Bull stepped up to increase their investment in the team and fill the void left by Eurobet. As a compromise for doing so, they inserted a clause in their contract to ensure Enrique Bernoldi would drive for Arrows in 2001 alongside Jos Verstappen.
The Brazilian had scored just seven points across two full seasons in Formula 3000 and forced Pedro de la Rosa to seek refugee at Jaguar.
Numerous changes took place at the Leafield Technical Centre as well, with Eghbal Hamidy being replaced by Sauber’s Sergio Rinland as Chief Designer and pencilled the Arrows A22. The 2001 challenger used the Asiatech-branded 800bhp Peugeot V10 engines that had been abandoned by the Prost team.
The decision to use a small fuel tank helped the team create plenty of high-profile strategies during the races.
The most famous example took place at the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix in monsoon conditions, where Jos Verstappen ran as high as second place before dropping to seventh.
This method produced just one solitary point for Arrows that year, courtesy of Verstappen’s sixth place in Austria. A limited budget prevented them from testing and saw them fall down the order.
Enrique Bernoldi was the fastest of the two drivers in qualifying but was unable to utilize this promise on race day. The Brazilian famously held up McLaren’s David Coulthard for the majority of the 2001 Monaco Grand Prix.
Arrows’ past comes back to haunt them
The climate Arrows found themselves in ahead of the 2002 season was tough and unforgiving. The purchase of Cosworth CR3 V10 engines for the Arrows A23, which were originally made only for Jaguar, made the team financially vulnerable.
Their scenario worsened by the verdict of the court case with Pedro Diniz went against them. Arrows were ordered to pay $700,000 in compensation and cover the legal fees, which cost them valuable assets.
On top of this, Arrows lost even more money when Jos Verstappen sued them for breach of contract after being dropped for 2002 in favour of Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
The start to the 2002 season was an absolute travesty for Arrows, as both drivers were disqualified from the Australian Grand Prix. Enrique Bernoldi added to the misery when he failed to finish any of the six races due to more teething problems with engine reliability.
And though Frentzen managed to score two points thanks to a pair of sixth places in Spain and Monaco respectively, they would be the only bright spots for the team.
Their situation went downhill fast and in the build-up to the British Grand Prix in July, the extent of how cash-strapped Arrows were started to come to light.
During a hearing at the High Court against shareholders MGPE, it was revealed that Arrows owed Cosworth $4.7million in unpaid engine bills. The judge of the case, Mr Justice Lightman adding that the team were in a “dire financial position.”
Giancarlo Minardi, the founder of Italian minnows Minardi, expressed his fear for the fate of the Arrows and other privateers in the sport:
“For me, it is a problem for Formula One, not just the small teams,” Giancarlo said.
“First Prost goes down, then Minardi is struggling, now Arrows – slowly it goes up the grid. All the teams have problems.”
“Money is a serious problem for Minardi, but also for the big teams. F1 is not on a good road.”
In contrast, Renault Team Principal Flavio Briatore showed no signs of sympathy:
“Like any business, some do well, and some do badly.”
“I sold Ligier to [Alain] Prost when it was fifth or sixth in the championship with 30-odd points. Soon it had nothing. Management is very important,” Briatore added.
“This is a very difficult competitive business. I don’t think F1 is in crisis. When times are difficult, you need to be efficient.”
During the weekend of the French Grand Prix later that month, the uncertainty over the future of Arrows meant that Frentzen and Bernoldi were ordered to purposely not qualify.
As there were no signs of forthcoming investment, the team could not afford to run their cars. But, as per the regulations stated in the Concorde Agreement, an attempt to qualify would allow them to avoid a fine of up to $500,000.
Takeover talks at the eleventh hour
Reports at the time suggested that Arrows had turned up to Germany with a deal in place with Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, but nothing materialized.
Former BAR boss Craig Pollock was also in the frame to buy into the team on behalf of a consortium, and wanted to between 20-40% of its shares.
However, many alleged that Walkinshaw asked for too much money during negotiations, which led to both parties walking away from a potential takeover deal.
The race at the Hockenheimring would prove to be the last outing for Arrows, with both cars unable to finish the race. After a three-week break on the calendar, the team failed to show up for the Hungarian Grand Prix in August.
However, Arrows managed to reappear in the paddock during the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps despite the inability to compete in the race.
The FIA rules stated that if a team misses a race due to insolvency, they will lose their rights in F1. This included prize money and their entry in the championship.
However, Arrows announced earlier in the week that they’d signed a pre-contractual agreement with the American billionaire Cal Smith. The then 80-year-old had amassed his fortune through mining.
By this point, Heinz-Harald Frentzen had left over unpaid salary and asked for his release to re-joined Sauber for his swansong season in 2003.
Like Verstappen before him, Frentzen also bought legal proceedings against the team which crushed the slim chances Arrows had of surviving.
Although Renault’s test drivers Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Bourdais were allegedly lined up to replace him, a takeover deal failed to come into fruition.
A painful death
As a result, Arrows were disqualified from the 2002 Formula One World Championship for going into administration.
Last ditch attempts were made by the team to re-enter the F1 championship in 2003, but these were rejected. The Leafield Technical Centre and the remaining assets of the team were then sold off.
The Arrows A23 chassis and its intellectual property were bought by Minardi owner Paul Stoddart. Amongst this were the designs constructed for the unbuilt Arrows A24 intended for 2003. This information was then used to help develop the Minardi PS04B for the 2004 campaign to help save money for the Italian team.
Speculation around this time suggested that the PS04B basically an updated copy of the Arrows A24 that featured parts from Minardi’s preceding PS03 and PS04 chassis’. This helped them overcome the regulation which stated that all Constructors must build their own cars.
Arrows F1 auction Leafield 2003 pic.twitter.com/RNyi8Pwlvs
— CATERHAM F1.CO.UK (@KevTs) November 14, 2016
After selling Minardi to Dietrich Mateschitz in 2005, Stoddart then sold on the remaining Arrows chassis to newcomers Super Aguri Team, ahead of their F1 debut in 2006.
In a ironic twist, the Japanese team were based at Leafield and produced the Super Aguri SA05 for the first half of the 2006 Formula One season.
Arrows Grand Prix International was eventually wound up on 15 September 2006, before being officially liquidated on 8 December 2012.
Sergio Rinland went on to focus on his consultancy company, Astauto Ltd., while Mike Coughlan spent the next five years with McLaren. He would then get sacked for his involvement in the infamous Spygate scandal.
As for Tom Walkinshaw, his TWR racing group went into liquidation alongside the demise of Arrows, only for the Australian arm to be bought out by Holden.
2005 saw Walkinshaw return to team management in the Australian V8 Supercars Championship. He then helped Holden win consecutive championships with Rick Kelly and Garth Tander in 2006 and 2007 respectively.
Tom Walkinshaw then remained active within V8 Supercars before he sadly passed away on 12 December 2010, aged 64, after suffering complications from cancer.