Lamborghini's Fascinating Formula One History
Red Bull isn't the first bull in Formula 1...
Many well-known car companies and manufacturers have a predominantly strong history and strong roots in motorsport. That being said, Formula 1 has had many famous and prestigious car manufactures enter the motor racing championship throughout the decades. Obviously, Formula 1 is a very prominent motorsport, with a lot of recognition globally. A lot of recognition means a lot of publicity. Hence, acquiring many applications from many car companies to race in the sport. When companies such as Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes, Aston Martin, etc. Were hoping to start making a name for themselves, they would join many motorsports and racing competitions to be able to get publicity for their names and cars. Another interesting fact, Ferrari would build cars during the 50s and 60s to be able to fund their racing career. It is crystal clear that motorsport is a huge part of the automotive industry.
Despite the fact that numerous praised and well-known car manufacturers joined Formula 1, when you hear the name Lamborghini, you do not instantaneously or even think about Formula 1. This may come as a shock, but most of you reading this right now probably didn't even know Lamborghini were involved with Formula 1. Although, they weren't really directly involved...
You must be assuming that Lamborghini had their own car, with the infamous bull logo plastered all over it. But, you are wrong. Lamborghini was an engine supplier, unlike Porsche or Lotus who had their own team, Lamborghini was more like Mercedes in the 21st century. During the 90s and early-mid-2000s, Mercedes supplied the Mclaren team with their engines. Mercedes for the second time is going to be supplying their engines to Mclaren starting this year. Mercedes also provide Aston Martin and Williams with their engines as well. Ferrari supply HAAS F1 Team and Alfa Romeo, while Honda is supplying Red Bull until they pull out of F1 at the end of 2021.
As you can see, engine supplying has been occurring since the beginning of Formula 1. And there was a definite time in the 80s and 90s when Lamborghini was the engine provider for Lola, and Lotus. Believe it or not, for one season Lamborghini was also the chassis makers and chassis providers as well. During the 80s and 90s, Lamborghini was a very common household name. They knew that if they got involved in Formula 1, it would give them even more exposure and in return, it would give Formula 1 exposure as well (not like it needed it).
Lamborghini's plan to go into Formula 1 was all thanks to one person. Lee Iacocca. When Lamborghini was bought by Chrysler in 1987, Chrysler's President, Lee Iacocca wanted the Italian team to join Formula 1. They knew during this time engine supplying was very common, which meant it was the best bet for Lamborghini. Lee Iacocca hired Mauro Forghieri, to create the 3.5-litre NA V12 engine for Formula 1 at the time. Lamborghini debuted at the Monaco Grand Prix with the Lamborghini-powered Lola. After a difficult 1988 season, Lamborghini knew they had to grow and improve as an engine supplier. Thankfully, the next year Lamborghini had a tremendous Spanish Grand Prix. Including, Philippe Alliot qualifying P5, while also scoring Lamborghini’s first-ever points in Formula 1.
Surprisingly, in 1990 Lamborghini announced that they would still supply Lola and now the infamous Lotus team as well. You might think Lamborghini got a little ahead of themselves, however, they did alright for being a fairly new supplier. Lotus was only able to secure 3 points in the 1990 season, unlike Lola who was doing exceptionally that specific season. It was evident that the Lamborghini engine was not the problem for Lotus, it was the lotus chassis that prevented them from doing well. In the 1990 season, Lola captured Lamborghini's first-ever podium in Formula 1 with a colossal 3rd place at Suzuka.
In 1991 Lamborghini went from supplying engines, to also creating chassis for a team called GLAS. If you can guess what happened next then I would be very surprised, because the most bizarre thing occurred. When Lamborghini presented the prototype to GLAS, the Mexican businessman Fernando Gonzalez Luna who was financing the team, disappeared on the face of the earth with his money. Yet, Lamborghini being the determined and passionate company they are, did not let this 'minor' issue get in their way.
Lamborghini created a very dark blue chassis and entered it with the team Scuderia Modena SpA. Very random indeed... long story short that didn't really work out, and Lamborghini stayed as an engine supplier till 1993. Lamborghini was looking for more customers such as Mclaren who were also looking for new suppliers. Ayrton Senna and Mika Hakkinen tried out the Lamborghini-powered Mclaren, but the British team decided to go with Peugeot instead. Lola also fell into a finical crisis, there for could not afford to keep Chrysler. Therefore, Chrysler did pull out of Formula 1 while also selling Lamborghini to a group named Megatech. And the rest is history...