The Arrows Grand Prix International team was founded in 1977, by Italian financier Franco Ambrosio (A), Alan Rees (R), Jackie Oliver (O), Dave Wass (W) and Tony Southgate (S) when Rees, Oliver, Wass and Southgate left the Shadow team.
The team was started in Milton Keynes, England and produced their first Formula One car in just 53 days. Arrows signed up Ricardo Patrese who scored points in the US West Grand Prix at Long Beach in the car's third race.
Ambrosio left the team due to being jailed for financial irregularities in Italy. Shadow sued for copyright infringement, claiming that the Arrows FA/1 was just a copy of the Shadow DN9. The team decided to build a new car called the A1. This was completed in 52 days and appeared the day after the High Court in London banned the team from racing the FA/1.
In September, in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Patrese was involved in an accident which claimed the life of Ronnie Peterson and he was banned from racing in America by his fellow drivers. In 1981, Patrese would score the team's only F1 pole position in Long Beach, which he led until retiring with mechanical problems. Arrows finished joint 8th in the Constructors Championship that year.
In 1984 with BMW turbo engines and sponsorship from cigarette company Barclay things got much better. That year they were 9th in the Constructors Championship and 8th in 1985. In 1987, BMW removed support and the engines were badged Megatron, but the British team had their best seasons yet, finished 6th in 1987 and 4th in 1988, the final year for turbocharged engines, thanks to frequent points finishes by drivers Eddie Cheever and Derek Warwick.
Japanese businessman Kazuo Ito invested in Arrows in 1990 and the cars started displaying the Footwork logo prominently. The team was officially renamed Footwork in 1991, and secured a deal to race with Porsche engines, with disastrous results, and in 1992 they switched to Mugen. Arrows retained the Footwork name until Ito pulled out before the 1996 season, whereupon the name of the team was changed back to Arrows. Regardless, Jackie Oliver had retained control throughout the entire period.
In March 1996, Tom Walkinshaw bought a stake in the team, and in September Walkinshaw signed up World Champion Damon Hill and hired wealthy Brazilian Pedro Diniz to help pay for the World Champion. The team nearly secured a maiden victory at the 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix when a combination of race events gave Hill the lead but a gearbox failure in the final laps of the race saw him finish second. In the following years Walkinshaw would buy the rest of Oliver's shares. Brian Hart, who had been the engine supplier since 1995, was employed by the team, designing the Yamaha-badged engines, and later the Arrows-badged engine, in 1998.
In the 2000 Season, Jos Verstappen returned to Arrows where he has driven in 1996 alongside teammate Pedro de la Rosa. The chassis was a Arrows A21 with a Supertec engine. The Supertec engine was not the most powerful, but was still very good, and had been developed further for this season. Allied to an excellent aerodynamic package, and good rear end stability, it allowed the Arrows A21 to consistently set the best straight line speeds around the circuits. Generally, both Verstappen and de la Rosa, were competitive within a close midfield.
A switch to Asiatech V10s in 2001 and the loss of a lot staff left the team rather weaker in 2001 when Tom Walkinshaw decided to replace de la Rosa with F1 debutant Enrique Bernoldi.The team struggled through the season and Verstappen scored the team's only point in Austria.
For 2002, Tom Walkinshaw did a deal to use Cosworth V10 engines and retained Bernoldi (with support from Red Bull) but dropped Verstappen in favour of Heinz-Harald Frentzen who became available when Prost Grand Prix closed down. The team ran out of money in the midseason and failed to appear at all the races at the end of the year. As a result it went into liquidation at the end of the season, also forcing TWR to close. A consortium purchased the team's assets, believing it would gain them entrance for the 2003 season, but were barred from running by the FIA.
A painful detail is that Verstappen was offered a test contract that same year at Ferrari but turned that offer down because he respected his contract with Arrows.
The chassis and intellectual property rights for the chassis were later bought by Paul Stoddart, the then-head of the Minardi team as a potential replacement for his own team's chassis. The new Super Aguri F1 team bought the 2002 cars and ran them as the SA05 during the first races of the 2006 season. They are also based at the former Arrows factory in Leafield.
In its checkered history, Arrows set the unenviable record of 368 races without a win.