In the same way that accidents will always attract onlookers, so there is a degree of vicarious pleasure in observing an F1 team in its dying throes.
What ridiculous sponsorship deals will they sign? Which drivers, thought retired, will pop-up for a cameo? At what point will they draw the line and shut the doors to avoid having to run Ricardo Rosset?
Lotus in 1994 arguably crossed the line in accepting anyone with a large enough wallet when Phillippe Adams popped up in the car for the Belgian and Portuguese Grands Prix. To say he was uncompetitive is beyond charitable.
Unlike last week’s Lapped Legend, Adams had shown some talent. In British Formula Three, during arguably its most competitive era, he was second in the 1992 championship. However this was his fourth year in F3 and third in the British series.
Onwards and well, sideways, to British Formula 3000 in 1993 saw Adams claim the title on appeal from a field of driving talent matched only by your average supermarket car park.
1994 initially saw Adams scale down his racing, moving into the Belgian Procar series where he was very competitive. However after the investment in his career to date this hardly represented a logical next step in the move into F1.
Lotus in trouble
Meanwhile, by mid-1994 the once great Lotus team were in a similar mess. In Johnny Herbert they had a quick and committed driver, but the team’s pay cheque, Pedro Lamy, was out for the season following a massive Silverstone testing shunt.
Suddenly the hunt was on for a number two who could pay the bills – not an easy task when the 1994 Lotus had the straight line speed of Andy Fordham and the cornering ability of a zimmer frame.
By the time the Belgian GP came around Lotus were getting desperate, the promised engine revisions from Mugen still hadn’t materialised, and the team was scraping from race to race. In stepped Philippe Adams and his father’s wallet and influence.
Star at Spa
I was in the paddock at Spa in 1994 and can remember the whole affair in detail.
Adams was quoted $1m for the Belgian GP weekend and duly donned the Lotus overalls, which he didn’t remove once all weekend, prancing through the paddock like a Mugen-endorsed peacock.
Now, as anyone who has attempted to get close to an F1 driver on race weekend will tell you, the drivers are scarcer than a dodo in the wild or a supermodel in my bedroom.
Not so Adams, who was so desperate to be asked for his autograph, that he went on lengthy escapes into the public tribunes on the exit of La Source, in his overalls, in the hope of recognition. Sadly the programme was quite nice that year so nobody wanted it graffitti-ed.
While Adams was striving for recognition there were some issues with his payment. His father’s companies were reported to be in financial difficulty, so much so, that other sponsors on Adams’ Lotus asked for their logos to be removed, lest they be implicated.
Thanks to some changeable weather in qualifying Adams scraped onto the grid in 26th place (out-qualified by Christian Fittipaldi who set his time on a soaked track), but didn’t actually take his place on the grid, instead preferring the 27th place slot behind Jean-Marc Gounon’s Simtek.
For the following 16 laps Adams duly followed the Simtek around, even waiting at La Source for Gounon to recover from a spin. However on lap 16 Adams got the exposure he wanted by parking his car in the gravel directly in front of the TV cameras.
Alex Zanardi was given the nod for the Italian GP, but by the time Portugal rolled around (quite literally in Damon Hill’s case) Adams was back in the Lotus, qualifying 25th a mere two seconds adrift of Johnny Herbert.
In the race Adams finished 16th and last, four laps adrift. Although contracted for the European GP at Jerez, Lotus could stand the embarrassment no longer, reinstated Zanardi, and with that Adams was out of F1.
Subsequently Adams moved full time into Procar and Sportscar racing where he has competed with some success.