Yesterday saw the death of Bob Fernley, former Force India team principal. Robert Fernley (alias Bob Fernley), former Force India team principal in Formula 1 between 2008 and 2018, died on Friday 30 June at the age of 70.
Bob Fernley was involved with the Ensign F1 team and Indycar racing in the 1980s before becoming a key player in the Force India Formula team after his close friend Vijay Mallya bought the Spyker team in late 2007.
An impressive career in F1: Jordan
In the early 1990s, Fernley’s career took a significant turn when he joined the Jordan Grand Prix team in Formula 1. He initially served as the team’s commercial director but quickly rose through the ranks to become the deputy team principal. During his time at Jordan, he was a key figure in steering the team to some of its most successful years in Formula 1.
Fernley’s time at Jordan was marked by numerous highlights, including the team’s first-ever Formula 1 victory at the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix with driver Damon Hill. He was instrumental in managing the team’s operations and nurturing the talents of young drivers, such as Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Eddie Irvine.
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 29, 2023
Red Bull Racing
In 2005, Fernley moved to the Red Bull Racing team, taking on the role of team manager. He played a pivotal role in building the team’s infrastructure and helping them evolve into one of the sport’s leading contenders. During his tenure at Red Bull, the team enjoyed immense success, securing multiple Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships with Sebastian Vettel as their star driver.
Fernley’s next significant venture in Formula 1 came when he joined the Force India team in 2010 as the deputy team principal. He played a crucial role in the team’s transformation into a competitive midfield force. Under his leadership, Force India consistently punched above its weight, achieving remarkable results on a comparatively smaller budget than some of the top teams.
During his time at Force India, Fernley was involved in managing the team’s financial affairs and negotiating with stakeholders. His ability to secure vital sponsorships and forge strong partnerships was instrumental in the team’s sustainability and continued growth in Formula 1.
In 2018, the Force India team faced financial difficulties, and it was placed under administration. However, Fernley’s leadership and determination were vital in securing a deal that resulted in the formation of a new entity known as Racing Point Force India (later renamed Racing Point and now Aston Martin).
Despite the challenges, Fernley continued to guide the team through its transition, ensuring its survival and competitive presence in Formula 1. His efforts were crucial in maintaining the team’s stability and securing its future.
Indycar & FIA duties
In 2019, Fernley had a brief stint as head of McLaren’s Indy 500 programme, which ended in frustration when two-time world champion Fernando Alonso failed to qualify. He was also involved in promoting young engineering talent through an association with the National Center for Motorsport Engineering at the University of Bolton.
In 2021, Fernley took on a new challenge in his career by taking over as head of the FIA’s single-seater commission from a certain Stefano Domenicali, who had become CEO of Formula 1.
On Friday June 30, the Aston Martin team – formerly Force India – announced the death of Bob Fernley at the age of 64: “Today we were saddened to learn of the passing of our friend and former colleague, Bob Fernley. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time,” said the British team in a short statement.