On This Day in #F1: 26 December

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Carlo Carluccio

– 1958: Formula One’s worst nightmare was born.
Adrian Newey
Vittorio Jano, Ferdinand Porsche, John Cooper, Colin Chapman, Mauro Forghieri, John Barnard et al – all brilliant engineers and designers that changed the course of motor-sport designs.

I have to ask would it be fair to include Newey in this exclusive club?

Arguably he is the best aerodynamicist of his generation but could he really be defined as a game changer?

Whilst all the men mentioned above were ground-breakers, innovators that broke new ground with radical new ways of thinking, Newey is merely the 21st century geek that hones his designs in binary, surely?

Newey is the hip-hop genius of the current era, taking ideas pioneered by true innovators and merely polish them to the absolute limit… or is that a disservice to Newey and his predecessors?

Newey was born in Stratford-upon-Avon and an early claim to fame was he attended the same school as Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson.

At the age of 16 he was politely asked to leave the school after he pushed the volume levels up on an amplifier whilst progressive rock band Greenslade were performing.

It was not noted whether the change in acoustics – which destroyed the 11th century stained glass windows – were an early experiment into how to blow gases!

He graduated from Southampton University in 1980 with a First Class Honours degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics and began working immediately for the Fittipaldi Formula One team under Harvey Postlethwaite.

Indycar - Adrian NeweyHe worked for March for several years, as a race engineer in F2 and then designing March GTP sports-cars and their Indycar project. In 1984, his design won seven races including the famous Indy500 and would take the titles in 1985 and 1986.

He returned to Europe and worked for FORCE, the F1 team set up by Karl Haas, but when the team withdrew, Newey was re-hired by March as chief designer.

He remained at March for three seasons, 1988 to 1990, before accepting a call from the Williams team for the 1991 season and the rest as they say is history.

Yet in this video, he speaks of how his initial designs changed the direction Formula One was taking by designing the front wing and chassis in collaboration, as at the time “cars were becoming big and clumsy“.

Formula One in the 21st century has fundamentally changed from the days when a single mind could design and build a complete race car. It has evolved into an organisation which chase milli-seconds at the cost of millions.
It has ignored the sports original DNA of hard, driven, sporting pioneers and morphed into corporations that – irrespective of lip-service to sportsmanship – are all businesses.

Maybe the pioneers would have been swallowed up by the evolution of technology, science and language. Or just maybe, they would have evolved into the kind of man that Newey is today.

Either way, these are competitive men, driven to succeed and pushing boundaries forever.

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13 responses to “On This Day in #F1: 26 December

  1. Hey Carlo – you can bring your stories down my chimney any time…
    However… as a life-long lover and admirer of all things Cooper I have to query whether even John Cooper would have agreed on his inclusion in such exalted ranks… 😉
    At a time when Eric Broadley, Chapman etc. were making ‘spaceframe’ chassis the 1959 Cooper was more like two ladder-frames, one on top of the other. The spaceframe, as you know ‘simply’ joins the relevant suspension/engine etc mounting points with straight pieces of steel tube, and the bigger gaps are filled in with ‘triangulation’…
    I can recall reading that the upper tubes of the Cooper chassis needed to be lower at the rear to take the upper-rear link of the wishbone… so the tube was simply ‘bent’ downwards until it was in the right place…
    A journalist at the time, after examining the precision of the Lotus chassis, asked John Cooper why the tube was bent…
    Allegedly John thought about it… and replied: “What’s wrong with bent tubes…!” 🙂
    I tried this retort on my metalwork teacher – and got a clip round the ear.
    Don’t you just love history… [ That’s a rhetorical question…! ]

    • I’m not sure my white suit and chimneys would work well together 😉

      A great addition about John Cooper but I wonder if any of these mentioned engineers ever looked at themselves and thought of their place in history.
      In my opinion it’s only really the last twenty years – with the expansion of available television and internet coverage that designers have risen to the same level of fame as the drivers.

  2. If anyone is interested – here’s a great book that’s well worth a read.

    Automobile Design: Twelve Great Designers and Their Work

    Synopsis

    This book takes an in-depth look at the lives, personalities and technical achievements of twelve preeminent engineers who made significant and lasting contributions to the design and development of the automobile over the last century.

    From early pioneers such as Amedee Bollee pere, whose first steam-driven vehicle took the road in 1878, to more recent innovators such as Colin Chapman, acknowledged pace-setter of the Grand Prix scene, Automobile Design presents twelve penetrating design and character studies that will fascinate all automobile enthusiasts and historians.

    Twelve Great Designers: The Bollees, Frederick Lanchester, Henry M. Leland, Hans Ledwinka, Marc Birkigt, Ferdinand Porsche, Harry Miller, Vittorio Jano, Gabriel Voisin, Alec Issigonis, Dante Giacosa and Colin Chapman.

    Publisher: Society of Automotive Engineers International; 2nd Revised edition edition (15 Feb 1992)

    ISBN-10: 1560912103
    ISBN-13: 978-1560912101

    I’ve got the first edition which doesn’t include Giacosa and is titled – Automobile Design: Great Designers and Their Work ( 1970 ).

    I noticed that a 1st edition is available on Amazon for $1,028.51 – EEK !

    🙂

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Automobile-Design-Twelve-Designers-Historical/dp/1560912103

    http://www.amazon.com/Automobile-Design-Twelve-Designers-Historical/dp/1560912103

    • Will defo pick this up, although it will be a second edition 😉

      Surprised that Flaminio Bertoni isn’t included. Anyone who designs the DS deserves to be considered a genius!

      I would include Newey in the exhaulated company Carlo mentioned. He is constrained by current regulations, but would still have the capacity to blue sky if allowed.

      I honestly think he is the stand out person of my generation in F1. Including drivers.

      • I hope you do Colin – I’m sure you’ll like it.

        I didn’t realise how dear 1st editions were …….. I bought mine years ago for a few quid.

        Although Bertoni isn’t included – maybe after reading you’ll understand why.

        And there is reference to the other designer of the DS – André Lefebvre – and where the inspiration for the DS shape may have come from …….. ( I’ll say no more – don’t want to spoil the surprise )

        🙂

        @bruznic – although the DS is lovely – I personally preferred the SM.

        I was lucky enough to drive one for a while.

  3. In this day and age it’s a bit harder to join the select group of geniuses that you mention. In their time there was nothing and everything stil had to be invented. Now almost “everything” exist. And the option to perfect it beyond its limits is an option wich brings more results in a shorter time. Would the others be gamechangers in this age? Or would newey be one if he lived in their age? It’s a bit like comparing drivers of certain era’s. Fun to do for us. But not of any value in the real world. Like you say, in the olden days 1 man could design a car. Where now he only does a “small” part. But now they have space materials. i think newey is a genius, but one of a new kind. Adapted to this era of f1. And the automobile sector in general.

    • Agreed 🙂

      Also it’s difficult to quantify Newey against other designers such as in the book, as he has only ever worked in car racing.

      Whereas all the others are essentially road car designers ( Miller being the exception ) – some of whom were also involved in motor racing.

      Maybe a better comparison would be against someone like Gordon Murray ?

    • True, one man did design the complete car and whilst Forghieri worked at Ferrari he also designed their engines. Lauda quite rightly called him a genius.
      All individuals mentioned would have prospered in whichever era they had been born into and I’d like to think that someone like a Da Vinci would have been a genius in the 21st century also.
      The imagination doesn’t stop evolving and it’s only the limits of technology that scupper their ideas.

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