Tag Archives: Adrian Newey

Circuit Paul Ricard

F1 circus returns to Paul Ricard

As 2018 won’t see any major regulation changes following on from Lewis Hamilton’s fourth driver’s title, the focus on the new this year falls on a circuit that is in fact anything but.

Last used 28 years ago, the Circuit Paul Ricard was home to the French leg of the Formula One calendar for 14 seasons between 1971 and 1990 before the organisers switched the Grand Prix away from Le Castellet to Magny-Cours.

Technically, this layout of the track hasn’t seen a F1 race since 1985, where the circuit switched from its original length of 5.809km to a shorter, ‘club’ version, removing the loop around Saint-Beaurne and the first half of the colossal Mistral Straight.

The track has not, however, been left exactly the same as it was 33 years ago. In keeping with the push on safety this season, epitomised by the ‘halo’, the 1.8km of tarmac before the terrifying right-hander of Signes has been split right down the middle, where a right-left-right chicane has been introduced.

According to the director-general of the circuit, Stephane Clair, this new feature will create a more of a “spectacle” for fans, as it introduces a huge braking zone to aid overtaking.

Whilst this has been so far unpopular with the supporters, he goes on to make the valid point that F1 cars reach their top speed in far less time than the straight anyway, making it pointless to have nearly 2km of a car at full speed with next to no overtaking.

Fine line

Despite the introduction of a chicane to slow the cars down, the organisers did nothing about the aforementioned Signes corner, a right-hander that, according to FIA simulations, will be taken by drivers at 343 km/h.

Whilst Mexico decided to replace the famous Peraltada corner for safety reasons, the decision to keep Signes in France helps to balance the fine line that the FIA have drawn between safety and excitement.

‘After finishing second all those years ago, it seems as though Newey and Red Bull may well have to settle for second-best again on 24th June’

Beyond the history of the layout itself, the track in fact made history back in 1990, when it helped to spark the career of one of F1’s great designers.

Already a famed IndyCar designer, Adrian Newey was looking to get a foothold in F1. Whilst working at March, he helped to design both F1 and IndyCars before the team was bought out by their title sponsor Leyton House, a Japanese real estate company.

At the last Grand Prix held in the south of France, Newey’s Leyton House 881 car, the first from which he designed from scratch, featured a host of aerodynamic traits that are now considered standard practice across the grid.

The driving position, front wing design and other aerodynamic features all culminated in Le Castellet, when Ivan Capello and Mauricio Gugelmin both drove their cars from seventh and tenth on the grid into first and second for much of the race, before Gugelmin was forced to retire and a misfire meant that Capello finished second.

Sought-after designer

Leyton House’s Judd engine was way down on power compared to the rest of the field, especially compared to the top teams of Williams, Ferrari and McLaren at the time.

As a result, the aerodynamic capability demonstrated by the 881 helped to catapult Newey from a successful IndyCar aerodynamicist into a sought-after F1 designer.

As a result, both through his talents at the drawing board and due to the arrest of Leyton House’s team owner and the constructer’s eventual demise, Newey moved in 1990 to Williams, where he would design arguably the most advanced Formula One car ever made, the FW14b.

Since moving to Williams, on to McLaren and now Red Bull, the 59-year old has amassed 10 constructor’s titles to his name, more than any other designer in the history of the sport.

After finishing second all those years ago, it seems as though Newey and Red Bull may well have to settle for second-best again on 24th June.

After the second test in Barcelona, Mercedes once again look ominously quick on harder tyres than the rest of the field, and Paul Ricard’s clear need for out-and-out speed will once again favour the defending champions and their all-dominant works engine. 

Image by Gilbert Sopakuwa via Flickr Creative Commons under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Book Review: How To Build A Car by Adrian Newey

Usually a quiet figure who glides up and down the grid pre-race with a notepad taking notes on other cars, Adrian Newey has been at the forefront of Formula One for 18 years.

Now, since he took a step back from the day-to-day research and development and took on a wider role at Red Bull, the Old Reptionian has written a book, How To Build A Car, excellently encapsulating his time so far in motorsport.

Split into ‘turns’ rather than chapters, each one asks how you would go about designing each of Newey’s most iconic cars, starting with his time at March building IndyCars and then at Williams, McLaren and Red Bull.

The book perfectly highlights the process of Newey’s mind when it comes to sitting at his drawing board.

When the rule changes come through for an upcoming season, the art of the designer is to read between the lines, and not simply abide by what is in front of you. Looking for the slightest aerodynamic gain is what has given the 59-year old both 10 constructor’s titles and an OBE.


Despite going into great detail about the development of his greatest machines, it doesn’t mean the reader also needs a first class hours degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics. The drawings done just for the book help to visualise exactly what Newey is talking about.

As a child, the labels on Tamiya model car kits helped him to understand what parts of the car were. His sketches are our childhood Japanese toys.

‘During the promotion of the book, Newey revealed that he was offered the top job at Ferrari multiple times’

However, for those not so interested in the finer details, each ‘turn’ goes into the stories of the seasons gone by, and his younger life as a troublemaking student at Repton, culminating in him being one of only two students being expelled from the school in the 1970s, the other being Jeremy Clarkson.

Whilst many of the stories that are told are ones of unrivalled success, whether it be at his early years at Williams or his ongoing time at Red Bull, the stories where things aren’t going to plan stand out as the most gripping, with the 1994 season being the hardest-hitting of them all.

As the lead designer of the FW16, and as one of the leading men in the garage in Imola, Newey is better placed than anyone to help to answer the many unanswered questions surrounding the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994.

Beyond the technicalities of the engineering surrounding the failure of the car on May 1st, the glorious writing from Andrew Holmes, who Newey credits in his acknowledgements, perfectly encapsulates the emotions of what the whole Williams team must have felt at the time.

Ferrari offers

The waste of life, the age-old questions about whether it’s all worth it, are all thoroughly dissected through both the memories of Newey and the writing of Holmes.

Obviously, the aerodynamicist’s time at the pinnacle of motorsport has run alongside the rise and fall of F1’s most successful team.

Throughout the book, he seems to channel the frustrations of many of the engineers across the paddock who have to contend with Ferrari and the FIA (Ferrari International Aid as they are known across the garages).

According to Newey, Ferrari’s financial might and huge support have given them both increased funding from motorsport’s governing body and also far more leverage when it comes to decision-making and rule-breaking, which he has had to contend with for much of his career.

During the promotion of the book, Newey revealed that he was offered the top job at Ferrari multiple times during his career and promised wages that no other team could ever match. Despite the offers, the man born in Stratford-upon-Avon could not be drawn to Maranello and has stayed in Milton Keynes for 11 years.

How To Build A Car allows us to enter the mind and the life of a man who has been at the forefront of motorsport technology for near two decades.

The book opens up both his genius with a pencil in his hand and lets us see the tearaway side to him that you’d never know he had based on his interviews in the paddock.

How To Build A Car is published by HarperCollins.