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Debbie Harris's 1969 Grand Prix

2021 October
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Car and Driver: Safe Sexy: The 1969 Pininfarina Sigma F1 Concept Race Car Still Drops Jaws


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As much as the Geneva auto show prompts us to imagine our four-wheeled future, sometimes a glimpse into the past can be just as cool. This year, the Pininfarina stand gave us a chance to do both.


As the design house introduced its H2 Speed concept, which attempts to solve the current challenge of reconciling ultimate performance with eco-friendliness, it whipped out the sexy Sigma F1 concept car it produced way back in 1969 to address the challenge of safety in Formula 1 racing. Using a period Ferrari 312 F1 car as its starting point—complete with its gorgeous V-12 perched behind the driver—the Sigma F1 featured a flat form with front and side impact absorption, versus the 312 F1’s more cigar-like shape. A stand-up spoiler behind the driver also provided rollover protection, while the fluorescent paint made it easier for other drivers and emergency crews to see. Other modifications include a seven-point safety harness for the driver and a self-extinguishing fuel tank.


1969 Sigma Grand Prix


Ultimately, not all of these safety systems ended up being embraced by F1 race-car builders of the time, but safety has been taken far more seriously in the intervening decades, starting with the campaign led by world champion driver Sir Jackie Stewart in the late 1960s. Undoubtedly, the Sigma F1’s creation stemmed from the often heated conversations taking place at the time.


Could the H2 Speed offer a level of prescience on par with the Sigma’s? Either way, the H2 Speed should be so lucky to look as good 47 years from now as the Sigma F1 looks today.






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