Adrian Newey has opened up about Formula 1’s engineering “gamesmanship” and how he has managed to get the better of Ferrari in an extract from his new book How to Build a Car.
Red Bull’s chief technical officer is widely regarded as the best designer in F1 and he explains the length to which other teams, notably Ferrari, will go to try and stop him picking up ideas from their cars.
“After a race is completed, cars are subject to scrutineering checks to ensure they’ve raced in a legal configuration,” wrote Newey.
“Once those checks are complete, there’s an hour of parc fermé during which the cars are held in a compound. If a rival team wishes to make a protest during that time, it can do so.
“Related to this point, there’s a lot of gamesmanship that takes place when cars are held on what we call the dummy grid before a race.
“Engineers such as myself take the opportunity to have a look at other cars. Mechanics, when they see a senior engineer from an opposing team – e.g. me – in the vicinity, will swarm around their car, attempting to obscure the bit I’m looking at.
“Ferrari, in particular, are a veritable hive of activity when I wander in their direction.
“As a result, what I do is amble towards a section of the car I’m not particularly interested in, thus attracting the mechanics my way, like bees to honey, while one of our photographers snaps away at the bit I really want to see.
“Ferrari still haven’t rumbled that one.
“It’s all a bit of a game, to be honest. If I really want to look at a car, I need only wait until after the race, when the cars are held in parc fermé, where nobody’s allowed to touch them for an hour.
“They’re often parked right under your nose, and with all the mechanics busy packing up, you can look at them as much as you like.
“As I say, that’s when the teams can raise a protest if there’s something about the car they don’t like.”
50 years after its debut in the Dutch GP, Sky F1’s Martin Brundle heads to Zandvoort to get his hands on the iconic Lotus 49, owned by Red Bull Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey
Newey on McLaren life under “overly controlling” Dennis
After helping Williams win five Constructors’ Championships, Newey joined McLaren in 1997 and his MP4/13 designed car secured the team the 1998 constructors’ title and Mika Hakkinen the Drivers’ Championship before his 1999 MP4/14 car ensured the Finn defended his crown.
Newey spent eight years with McLaren before moving onto Red Bull, and he has also opened up about life working under Ron Dennis – and a stern warning shortly after the team moved into the McLaren Technology Centre.
“We had just moved into a new Norman Foster-designed factory. On the face of it, our new factory should have been good but, to appreciate why to some of us it wasn’t, you have to understand that one of the best ways to upset Ron Dennis is to sit down in his office, where he’ll usually have a few piles of papers neatly stacked on his desk, and just tip one of those piles by a few millimetres, knowing he’ll then focus on that pile for ages, because he won’t be sure whether you’ve straightened it or made it crooked.
“That’s him in a nutshell. He is very, very neat and organised, which of course are positive qualities until such time as they cross the line into becoming overly controlling.
“To me the new building was oppressive in its ordered greyness. Reminiscent of something from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, it featured rows and rows of desks with nothing out of line. Built by the Empire. Not an environment in which I, among others, found it easy to be creative.
“When we first moved in, we weren’t even allowed glasses of water at our desk, and absolutely no tea or coffee or personal effects. Somebody pointed out that it was probably illegal to deny workers water at their desk, so he had to relent on that, but not on the tea or coffee, and as far as personal effects went, you were allowed one family picture on your desk but it had to be stored in a drawer overnight.
“Meanwhile, if you were part of the workforce, you had to enter the building walking down a circular staircase into an underground corridor with a grey floor and white walls; it felt like you were entering some Orwellian film. You’d then walk back up another circular staircase into the middle of the building, to your workstation.
“I hated walking through the corridor, so instead I would walk along the grass verge, then cross the inner road and enter through the race bay where the trucks were parked.
“I was spotted doing this by the constantly watched bank of CCTV monitors in the basement and sent an email warning me that if I did not revert to using the prescribed route into the office I would face ‘an internal examination’. Crikey.”
How to Build a Car by Adrian Newey, published by HarperCollins, is on sale now.
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