There’s a lot to be said for going against the grain and being an independent thinker. But if you’re looking for arguments against venturing outside the norm, you can’t do much better thant the story of the Life F1 team. Started by Ernesto Vita (“vita” being the Italian word for life), the team utilized its own engine, a 3.5L W12. Unlike the Volkswagen Group‘s W12, which is basically a pair of overlapping V6s, the Life W12 was three inline-fours sharing one crankshaft. Unfortunately, it was only putting down about 480hp when the frontrunning powerplants from the likes of Ferrari, Honda and Renault made between 650 and 700hp. Couple that with a year-old chassis bought from First Racing (and whose designer proclaimed it would make a better flower planter than racecar), and you have a recipe for disaster. In 1990, Life’s first (and only) season, there were significantly more cars contesting the championship than there were grid positions, meaning the backmarker teams had to not only qualify, but pre-qualify. Of the 14 rounds the team entered, Life made it out of prequalifying exactly zero times. This despite re-equipping the car with a conventional Judd V8 for what would be its final two appearances, the first of those last two being punctuated by the engine cover (which didn’t fit over the new engine) flying off on the first lap of practice. That, boys and girls, is what you call a clusterf*ck.
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