Top ten greatest Formula 1 designers (Part two)

Top ten

Guest writer Tim Ferrone concludes his choice of the ten greatest Formula 1 designers of all time.

5. Mauro Forghieri

Mauro Forghieri, FerrariMauro Forghieri’s long service for Ferrari began in the early sixties. He designed the cars which saw the team enjoy one of its greatest periods of success in the second half of the seventies.

His ascendancy at Ferrari was accelerated by the departure of several top team staff in a dispute over pay in the winter of 1961/2. Success wasn?t long coming – in 1964 the team won both titles, John Surtees winning the drivers’ championship in the 158.

However, a relatively fallow period followed for the remainder of the decade. The British ‘garagiste’ teams ran the table, equipped with the potent and well-packaged Cosworth DFV. By the late sixties Forghieri realised a technological re-think was required, and halted progress on the team’s V12 engines.

Instead he set about creating an engine that featured opposing cylinders. His aim was to lower the centre of gravity of the car using a flat-12 cylinder layout which also allowed for a lower drive train, and hence smoother air flow to the rear wing. Initially restricted to lower than optimum revs, the engine was soon optimised, and became the mainstay of Ferrari?s F1 efforts for the decade, being used for a remarkable 11 seasons.

Forghieri’s skill was not limited to engine design – his strength was in conceiving an entire vehicle. The first signs of progress came in 1974, the 312B3 scoring a trio of wins and keeping its drivers in the championship hunt until late in the season. Ferrari ended the year runner-up in the constructors’ championship, eight points behind McLaren.

Gilles Villeneuve, Ferrari 312T4, 1979This was the precursor to three consecutive years in which Ferrari and its drivers should have scored championship doubles. Arguably, only Lauda’s fiery crash at the Nurburgring in 1976 prevented them from doing so. The 312T used at this time benefited from improved weight distribution, reduced roll and better aerodynamics.

After Lauda’s departure the flat-12 engine enjoyed its final championship success in 1979. Ferrari comfortable won the constructors’ title and Jody Scheckter the drivers’ championship.

Internal politics took their toll as the team floundered in the middle of the eighties, and it wasn?t long before Forghieri departed the team, at one point going on to design the promising V12 engine for the Larrousse/Lola team.

Perfectly suiting the Ferrari ethic for much of his career, Forghieri’s sheer mechanical brilliance was the cornerstone of Ferrari’s success in the seventies.

4. Patrick Head

Patrick Head, WilliamsWhen Frank Williams (picture, right) enticed Patrick Head (left) to join his cash-strapped F1 team in 1977, a partnership was formed which would produce some of the most dominant F1 cars of the next 20 years.

Head’s first design hit the track in 1978. The following year his simple yet effective FW06 turned Williams into race winners. The neat chassis made superb use of the ground effect principles which Lotus had already demonstrated the benefits of. Only early-season unreliability prevented it from being a championship contender.

Head’s next creation, the FW07, was even more competitive and brought Williams sustained success: back-to-back constructors’ titles and a drivers’ championship win for Alan Jones.

The effectiveness of the underfloor aerodynamics on Head’s latest creation was demonstrated by the fact that it was often found to perform better without a front wing. The team were still racing the car at the beginning of 1982.

Head’s role within the team increased in importance when Frank Williams was paralysed in a road accident in 1986. That year the team were constructors’ champions once more, thanks to Head’s FW11 chassis and the prodigious power of Honda’s turbo engines.

Nigel Mansell, Williams-Honda FW11B, Imola, 1987Williams were the class of the field again in 1987 with the FW11B (pictured). It was also during this period that Head began harnessing the use of active suspension, acquiring the knowledge and expertise that would lead to their absolute dominance at the beginning of the following decade.

The partnership of Patrick Head with new recruit Adrian Newey started midway through the 1990 season, and eventually spurred the team on to their highest of highs, delivering constructor?s championships in five seasons between 1992 and 1997. It was a relationship that played to the pair?s respective strengths – Newey aerodynamics, Head engineering.

The departure of Newey and rising dominance of Ferrari lead to Head moving across to the role of ??head of engineering? in 2004. However by this stage, the Williams team had begun a slow decline from the sharp end of the F1 grid.

Head was also a superb spotter of design talent: besides Newey, Neil Oatley, Ross Brawn, Frank Dernie and Geoff Willis were all recruited by Williams and went on to excel in their fields.

Thanks to Head?s technical and design stewardship, Williams became one of the most successful teams in the history of the sport.

3. Rory Byrne

Rory Byrne, FerrariByrne arrived in F1 with the Toleman team, having joined their Formula Two squad. The team made slow but discernible progress over their first few seasons, and gradually the results began to materialise, thanks to Byrne?s improving understanding, manifested in greatly increased driveability and ambitious design.

The 1983 car innovatively sported two rear wings, a trait which which was soon to be copied by the other teams. The signing of a young Ayrton Senna for the 1984 season nearly brought the team’s first victory at Monaco.

After he left the team were taken over by Benetton, and the team finally scored its first win with BMW power courtesy of Gerhard Berger in the 1986 Mexican Grand Prix.

Byrne spent a brief spell with the doomed Reynard F1 project before returning to Benetton. With Flavio Briatore and Michael Schumacher in the cockpit, the team went on to great things.

The team were one of few to get close to Williams in their dominant 1992 and 1993 season, Schumacher picking up a win in each. The B193 bristled with cutting-edge technology including a semi-automatic gearbox, active suspension and, briefly, four-wheel steering.

Schumacher won the world championship in 1994 but the team were dogged by allegations of rule-breaking, particularly concerning the mysterious ‘option 13′ menu discovered hidden in their car, which rivals insisted contained banned launch-control software.

Michael Schumacher, Benetton-Renault B195, Magny-Cours, 1995Doubts over the class of the Byrne-era Benettons were dismissed by another consummate performance from Schumacher at the wheel of the Renault-engined B195 in 1995.

Desperate to recapture lost glories, Ferrari lured Schumacher to their team and the top technical staff from Benetton quickly followed, including Byrne.

The 1998 car was his first design, and the following year the team took the constructors’ crown. This was the first of a record six consecutive titles scored by the team, while Schumacher went on to take five drivers’ titles on the trot.

Formula 1?s “dream team” formed an extremely close working relationship with tyre supplier Bridgestone, and aided by a state of the art wind tunnel and unlimited testing, honed their machines to a level the opposition couldn’t match. In 2002 Schumacher finished all 17 races on the podium – an awesome display of performance and reliability.

If Ferrari thought that was good, even better was to follow in 2004. Schumacher won 12 of the first 13 races, ending the year with a record 13 victories.

Fundamental to the success was Byrne?s oft-repeated mantra of ??evolution, not revolution,? seeking to slowly hone and refine a car?s potential, rather than wasting time searching for a “magic bullet” in the unlikely event that it might create a vast step gain.

Never was this mantra more obvious than during this period with Ferrari when, from an already strong base, Byrne and his team sought to systematically improve every area of the car, component by painstaking component. He set the benchmark for engineering detail, whether that was by reducing sidepod size millimetre by millimetre, or through the use of electronic differentials, periscopic exhaust outlets and all-titanium gearboxes.

Unlike most contemporary designers, Byrne could be decidedly old school in his approach, making use of drawing board over the near-ubiquitous computer aided design (a trait shared by his main competitor Adrian Newey), but his achievements were underpinned by a supremely hard working ethic.

Byrne began the process of stepping back from the team at the end of the 2004 season, leading to his complete retirement in 2009. However he remains connected with Ferrari in a consultancy capacity.

Byrne’s role in lifting Benetton to their competitive peak, followed by leading Ferrari into the most dominant period in Formula 1 history, highlight the enormous scale and consistency of his achievements.

2. Colin Chapman

Colin Chapman, Jim Clark, Lotus, Monza, 1963Colin Chapman was Lotus. Although the team enjoyed some success after his death in 1982, and subsequent teams have acquired and used the name, the true Lotus will always be associated with their successes under Chapman in the sixties and seventies.

An interest in cars led Chapman to modifying and later building them. He also raced some of his creations competitively.

Success at trials level served only to fuel the desire and led to progression into sports car racing. Already empowered by a minimalist philosophy of design, victories were not long coming, leading to rapid growth and an entry into Formula 1 for the 1958 season.

Incredibly, despite being up against the might of established manufacturers such as Ferrari and Cooper, Chapman’s team was to claim both drivers’ and constructors’ crowns within five years of top level competition.

Chapman was both the team boss and the principle brains behind the design direction of the cars. Ever keen to follow his own path, Chapman?s ethos was expressed as “simplify and add lightness”.

It was a basis that was to prove devastatingly effective, resulting in three constructors’ championships in the sixties, and four in the seventies, as well as driver?s titles for the likes of Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jackie Stewart and Mario Andretti.

Chapman was an innovator, ceaselessly striving for an idea that would give him an edge over the competition. This often involved taking an idea from another field, such as aeronautics, and finding a successful application for it in motor racing.

The monocoque chassis, use of aluminium materials, various aerodynamic principles, inboard brakes, suspension struts, side-mounted radiators, the engine as a fully-stressed part of the chassis, active suspension and, perhaps most famously, ground effect aerodynamics, were among the ideas he conceived, collaborated on or adapted in the relentless pursuit of the ideal combination of speed and handling. Many of these concepts remain fundamental to modern day top level motor racing, which is its own testament to the importance of his ideas.

Chapman was not without his critics. Some felt his pursuit of lightweight materials meant that he was too quick to sacrifice structural integrity to save weight and reduce lap times.

Chapman suffered the loss of two of his world champions within two years of each other: Jim Clark, his great friend whom he?d scored many of his greatest Formula 1 triumphs, and Jochen Rindt, who died before being crowned champion in 1970.

Rindt was another driver who question whether Chapman’s cars took too many risks in the pursuit of speed. Yet he still chose to drive for Lotus, knowing the competitive advantage that came with the risk.

It is hard to overstate Colin Chapman?s influence on Formula 1 design, even approaching the 30th anniversary of his death. It is for his brilliance as a designer, interpreter of ideas and innovator of Grand Prix winning cars, that he is most remembered.

1. Adrian Newey

Adrian Newey, Red BullIts difficult not to rate Adrian Newey as the best of his kind ?ǣ not just through sheer volume of victories/titles, or because he is currently on a roll, but because he?s the only designer to have won constructor?s titles with three different teams.

Moreover, there can be no doubt that his role in each success was absolutely fundamental in the process. His obsessive pursuit of aerodynamic perfection has left his design fingerprints on every F1 car he’s touched – from Leyton House, to Williams, to McLaren and now Red Bull.

Having achieved a degree in aeronautics and astronautics at the University of Southampton, Newey was quickly recruited by the ailing Fittipaldi F1 team in 1980, prior to a move to March. A period spent as race engineer across various different series followed, giving him a crucial insight into the workings of a racing weekend.

It was in IndyCar that his creative input really began to catch the eye. His outstanding design efforts for March helped secure two championships and the Indianapolis 500 before his North American links lured him back to F1 competition with the US-led (but short-lived) Lola team.

It was on his return to the Leyton House (who had taken over March) that his cars began to catch the eye of the rest of the paddock; extremely sleek and slender in design, he sought then (as he still does) to package everything into the car as tightly as possible, the impact of which lead to drivers Mauricio Gugelmin and Ivan Capelli complaining of having too little room in the cockpit.

But the car’s potential became plain for all to see when Capelli came within an ace of scoring a shock victory in the 1990 French Grand Prix.

Riccardo Patrese, Williams, Estoril, 1991It wasn’t long before he moved to Williams. The 1991 FW14 outwardly had more in common with the Leyton House CG901 than the FW13B. Despite suffering reliability problems in the first half of the year as the team ironed out the gremlins in its semi automatic gearbox, it quickly became apparent that the car was the class of the field.

Active suspension in 1992 extended the gap further, allowing Nigel Mansell to dominate in a car that perfectly suited his aggressive muscular driving style. Together they were often a demoralising two seconds per lap quicker than the opposition.

The team repeated their success in 1993 with Alain Prost, the rest of the field still struggling to catch up.

The governing body helped Williams’ rivals by banning much of the technology that had made the FW14B and FW15C so crushingly superior. In 1994, with Ayrton Senna taking over from Prost, the team found the FW16 a tricky proposition.

The team were trying the latest improvements at Imola for the San Marino Grand Prix when Senna, under pressure from Schumacher and yet to score a point, crashed and was fatally injured.

Williams were shellshocked by the crash and Newey, having designed the car, was hit especially hard. A lengthy trial took over ten years to exonerate him from responsibility for the crash.

Despite the trauma Williams held on to the constructors’ title. Newey’s final machines for them put them back at the top, with back-to-back drivers’ and constructors’ championships in 1996 and 1997.

Mika Hakkinen, McLaren-Mercedes MP4-13, 1998Newey joined McLaren in 1998, in a switch that was well-timed to take advantage of a major change in the aerodynamic rules. The MP4-13 was fast straight out of the box, and Mika Hakkinen went on to win back-to-back drivers’ championships, McLaren taking the ’98 constructors’ crown.

The combination of Mercedes power and the finest aerodynamic package on the grid meant that the McLaren was the class of the field. Ever-innovative, this period encompassed Newey?s design and use of the so-called ??fiddle brake,? a second brake pedal that allowed the drivers to independently brake the wheels on one side of the car, and in so-doing reduce understeer.

A relatively fallow period followed during the dominance of the Schumacher/Byrne/Ferrari years, and Newey was ready for a new challenge by the end of 2005. He accepted a role at Red Bull, inspired by the opportunity of taking a mid-field team to the pinnacle of the sport. Too late to impact on the 2006 car, he set about helping restructure the team, and setting up for the future; even negotiating a switch from Ferrari to Renault engines, preferring their capacity to run with smaller fuel tanks and radiators ?ǣ as ever, seeking the most slim-line and efficient design.

In perhaps his most impressive achievement to date, Newey’s Red Bull had become a front-running team by 2009. The RB5 was only missing one ingredient that would have made it the car of the year from round one: a double-diffuser, a regulations-dodging enhancement that was controversially ruled legal by the FIA.

One was fitted mid-season and, though it was too late to keep Brawn from the silverware, from that moment on Red Bull have been the team to beat in Formula 1. Drivers and constructors titles followed in 2010 and 2011, the latter another season of Newey design dominance, with 12 wins and 18 pole positions from 19 races.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Abu Dhabi, 2009Working closely with chief aerodynamicist Peter Prodromou and chief designer Rob Marshall, Newey stole a marsh on his rivals with the development of exhaust-blown diffusers. The development had first been seen in 1983, but Newey took it to the ultimate.

Engine gasses were used to generate rear end grip both whilst the driver had his foot on the accelerator pedal, and through the use of complex engine mapping technology, even when they did not. Though the majority of the competition were able to catch on to the importance of the effect of exhaust blowing, they were never truly able to bridge the gap.

It speaks volumes for the regard in which Newey is held that the lack of early-season domination of the 2012 car has been greeted with surprise, even when placed up against the enormous resource and technical capacity of the likes of McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes.

Newey himself surmised that the exhaust-blowing effect in particular was so well-honed, that its banning at the beginning of this year was partially to blame for the RB8?s relatively slow start to the season – shades of 1994. Red Bull returned to winning ways by round four of the season and have been on pole position for three of the last four races.

While enjoying a reputation for making intricate and beautiful cars, top flight motor sport is quite rightly a results-based business; and its here that Newey?s track record acts as a powerful indicator of his uncanny ability to focus upon the absolute fundamental areas of design within a given season?s regulations, before going on to design and maximize a car around them.

Perhaps even more so than an Alonso, Vettel or Hamilton, Newey is the one man in the paddock every team would love to have on their payroll.

You can follow Tim Ferrone on Twitter.

Over to you

Of course, there were many names who nearly made the list, and arguably should have done.

What of the likes of Tony Rudd (partially responsible for the ground effect Lotus), John Barnard (numerous innovations, great success in the eighties), Derek Gardner (championships with Tyrell, and the man behind the infamous six-wheeler)?

Should the list include McLaren’s Steve Nichols and Neil Oatley, and the likes of Carlo Chiti, Frank Dernie, Maurice Philippe or Keith Duckworth, vital to the design of many fine cars, yet perhaps not as well credited as others? The list goes on.

Who do you think should have made the cut? Have your say in the comments.

F1 top tens

Read more top tens

Images ?? Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo, Ferrari spa, Williams/LAT, Williams/LAT, Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo, Renault, Lotus/LAT, Red Bull/Getty images, Williams/Sutton, Bridgestone, Red Bull/Getty images

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76 comments on Top ten greatest Formula 1 designers (Part two)

  1. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 18th June 2012, 9:38

    Personally, I think Newey is a little over-rated. Not so over-rated tha he doesn’t deserve to be on the list at all, but I’d be very hesitant to name him the greatest of all time. To my mind, Colin Chapman deserves that title. Newey once said that when he was young and inspiration hit, he had to write it down or draw a design, even if it was three in the morning, but as he got older, he grew confident that the idea would still be there in the morning. I think Chapman would maintained this I-have-to-write-this-down-right-now approach even into his old age.

    I also find that some of Chapman’s innovations were a bit more pure, for want of a better word. When he built the Lotus 88, he could have made something that would have beaten the competition and stayed comfortably within the rules – but instead, he built one of the most creative and precise pieces of engineering the sport has ever seen, and all in the name of pushing the limits of engineering. On the other hand, I can’t see Newey doing something like that, risking the entire car being banned in the pursuit of engineering. To my mind, car racing was just a means to an end to Chapman; a competitive environment would allow him to explore the limits of engineering faster and better than if he did it as a side project.

    I also think some of Newey’s designs are over-stated. A lot of people expected Red Bull to be in front this year, not because they had the best drivers or the best team, but because they had Adrian Newey, as if HRT could recruit him and de la Rosa and Karthikeyan would be fighting for the World Championship overnight. That hasn’t happened for Red Bull; the RB8 is a good car, but it is hardly the standout of the field (right now, I think the McLaren, Lotus and Sauber are probably the three with the most potential). Don’t get me wrong – Newey is very, very good at what he does, but I think far too many people consider him to be the fact that ultimately decides a team’s success or failure, as if the drivers and engineers play no part in it.

    • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 18th June 2012, 10:25

      Adrian nowadays carries around a small notebook to jot down ideas to ensure he doesn’t forget – so maybe he’s learnt a lesson since then.

      I don’t think anyone – be it Champan, Byrne or Newey – has the ability to perform overnight miracles. Everything takes time.

      It takes years to build an overnight success.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 18th June 2012, 19:41

        exactly this

        It takes years to build an overnight success.

        @raymondu999, the turnaround from 2006-2009 for RBR is almost instant success (much as with Head joining Williams at the time). Given the money and 2-4 years, I think Newey would be able to make HRT a team gunning for the podium, or better.

        Sure, its hard to put these superb engineers and designers in a top 10, but I think this is supported by strong arguments and reasoning here.

    • AJ (@ascar2000us) said on 18th June 2012, 12:28


      I think Chapman would maintained this I-have-to-write-this-down-right-now approach even into his old age.

      Seems like you knew Colin very well. We compare 2 different eras here. So pushing the limits and commercial implications then and now demand that one is different. And to consistently produce a race winning car is what is accounted for in this article.
      For me, this could have gone either way between Newey and Chapman. Newey just has a better track record.

    • dkpioe said on 18th June 2012, 12:49

      so if newey was second on this list, would you still call him overrated?

      if you are talking about redbull not being the standout of the field this year, maybe you havent realised, the sport is a lot harder now to be dominant, but what we have seen is results – from being half a second or more slower in qualifying the mclaren at the start of the year, to getting 3 of the last 4 pole positions. when the team was struggling at the start, newey even missed a grand prix, because he was busy working at the factory trying to improve the car, and they are improving because of his input, they were hurt badly by the aero changes this year, but have already caught back. Newey has a lot to do with that.

      Whatever you call “pure” innovations, do you realise how much more the rules are now constraint to have great innovation? if anything, that makes Newey more worthy of number 1, as it is such a tight sport now – these days small innovations can give you .2 of a second per lap, and that is what is needed these days.

      Lastly using the HRT argument is just lazy, you can replace neweys name with chapman or anyone else in that argument to read the same.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th June 2012, 9:21

        so if newey was second on this list, would you still call him overrated?

        Yes. Like I said, I think far too many people ascribe a team’s success as being solely down to Newey’s presence, irrespective of who else is in the team. That’s where the “lazy” HRT argument (which you clearly haven’t understood) comes from – I’m not saying that Narain Karthikeyan would be World Champion in an Adrian Newey car, only that people speak of Newey’s designs as if Karthikeyan could be World Champion if he was driving one, and that plainly isn’t the case. Newey isn’t the deciding factor in a team’s ultimate success or failure. Just look at the difference between Vettel and Webber last year. Both were driving the same car, but Vettel was almost a second faster in qualifying in Australia last year (and don’t give me any of those “Vettel and Webber were driving different cars because Red Bull favour Vettel” – if that were the case in the first race of the season, we would have heard about it at the time, and Webber would not have renewed his contract).

        Newey is an influential designer. But he is not the only designer. As this article points out, the likes of Rory Byrne and Patrick Head were also shaping the designs of cars in the 1990s, which has really lead to the current generation of Formula 1 cars.

    • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 18th June 2012, 13:50

      It’s debatable, but to say Newey is “overrated” it’s too wrong to even discuss it IMO.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th June 2012, 9:34

        @fer-no65 – “Over-rated” doesn’t mean someone has been rated when they shouldn’t be rated at all. When someone is given 10/10 when they really deserve 9/10 – which I think is the case here – they’re still being over-rated. I think a lot of people have misread my comments as meaning that Newey should not be considered on this list at all.

        I’m not saying Adrian Newey shouldn’t be in the list of the greatest designers of all time. I’m saying that he shouldn’t be the greatest designer of all time. To my mind, Colin Chapman deserves that title, with Adrian Newey the second-best designer of all time. Just look at the Lotus 88 – it was never raced because FISA considered it to be far too radical. Peter Windsor wrote an article called “Skirting the Rules” (it appeared in Automobile Year 1981-1982) in which the likes of Patrick Head and Gordon Murray are clearly having trouble replicating the 88’s double-chassis effect; no matter how many times they tried it, they never fully understood how Chapman’s idea worked. Compare that to the RB7, which, despite its dominance, was gradually reeled in over the course of the season. However, after five races in 1981 – a third of the season – some of the designers listed in this very article had absolutely no idea how to harness the potential of Chapman’s idea.

        Adrian Newey can be leaps and bounds ahead of the opposition. Colin Chapman was light years ahead of everyone.

        • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 19th June 2012, 13:16

          @prisoner-monkeys Just like you cannot compare two drivers from different eras, you cannot compare designers.

          What you are describing has nothing to do with Newey’s design capabilities. If anything, it shows the advances in technology and information.

          Back in the day, when the ground effects were “discovered”, the Lotus team said the vast performance advantage came from the differential, so they hid a differential unter a blanket. Others were convinced it was the differential. But it wasn’t, it was the skirts and underside. It took them months to realize what was going on with the 78, and then they tried to replicate that, also taking several months.

          Look at the double DRS from Mercedes now. Three races went by and we already knew how the system worked, not to mention we knew the system existed. Had that happened back in the 80, it’d taken us months to realize that.

          Secrets were hard to spot back in the day. And to catch up with them was a huge business. Nowadays, it’s relatively easier. Not to mention the amount of “innovations” have been massively cutted down because of the regulations and the advances in technology. Back in the day, they knew something worked AFTER they tried on track. Now they run a simulation, and that’s it…

          I’m sorry, I don’t agree. Just for the record, I don’t agree with your reasons why Newey shouldn’t be No. 1. Because I also think Champan should be No. 1 instead…

        • clay (@clay) said on 19th June 2012, 14:39

          @prisoner-monkeys I totally disagree. Chapman operated in an era where massive innovation was still possible – from monocoques, to stressed engines, to wings on stalks, to turbine engines and 4WD, to ground effects, to turbos. Newey has been around when the rules were tight and have only gotten tighter still, yet he has developed many aerodynamic innovations which have revolutionised F1 and have prompted rule makers to change the rules – just like Chapman.

          Chapman was great, yes, however Newey’s record over 25 years with 4 teams, 3 of whom he has turned into champions, the other was a tiny team who he almost won with, makes him number 1 – in this article and in my mind. It is telling to look at the history of Williams and McLaren post Newey. Williams have not won a championship of any kind since Newey left, despite BMW engines being the most powerful in the early 2000s, and Mclaren have not really been as consistent since he left in ’06.

          That’s his impact.

          p.s. the FW06 was never a winner – Williams had to wait for the FW07 at Silverstone in 1979 to win with Reggazoni. But you knew that…

      • Enigma (@enigma) said on 20th June 2012, 23:31

        @fer-no65 I disagree – @prisoner-monkeys saying Newey is over-rated doesn’t mean Newey’s not a phenomenal designer.

        Similar to Ayrton Senna – I consider him overrated. I think he’s easily one of the best drivers in the history of the sport, but he’s often praised so highly I think it’s too much.

    • Bleeps_and_Tweaks (@bleeps_and_tweaks) said on 18th June 2012, 14:58

      @prisoner-monkeys While I can see that you may have thought through some of points you’ve made in your comment, it still smacks of yet another case of “You say X, so I’ll say Y”.
      As Keith points out in the article, it’s not just from a success based view that Newey is best designer in F1, he has also overseen some of the biggest innovations in car design over the past 20 or so years.
      We’re all entitled to an opinion, which is why we’re all here on F1F to discuss things like this, but this topic is such a slam dunk it’s difficult to view calling Adrian Newey ‘over-rated’ as anything but contrary.

    • xeroxpt (@) said on 19th June 2012, 2:54


  2. Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 18th June 2012, 9:50

    Keith, wasn’t Rory’s mantra “Evolution, not revolution”? :)

    Forgot about Forghieri – good catch. But I do agree with PM that Chapman should be #1 over Newey.

    • NDINYO (@ndinyo) said on 18th June 2012, 12:36

      Should be Evolution not Revolution. Doesn’t the fact that Rory Byrne dominated Adrian Newey when they were both in the sport at the same time mean Rory was ultimately the better designer i.e. his approach dominated Newey’s aerodynamic centric approach. Would Newey’s cars can still be the Standard Unit of Measure if Rory had not retired?

      • BigCHrome said on 19th June 2012, 0:34

        No, Byrne benefited from Schumacher, a superior engine and way superior tires to win the championships.
        On the other hand, basically ANYONE can take a Newey designed car to the title.

      • xeroxpt (@) said on 19th June 2012, 2:59

        I’m a Ferrari man and of course we dont know the man behind those 2 great designers but I’d never ever put Newey in front, he has had very poor seasons combined with extra ordinary and that was the reason he left Williams and Mclaren, and maybe if he carries on with his up and down cycles he is going to hit a rock pretty soon, hopefully not cause from an artistic point of view I always enjoyed watching his cars.

      • Kimi4WC said on 19th June 2012, 5:23

        Because engineers are ignorant of each others innovation and neglect to base their future development what is remotely a find of another man.


      • DMC (@dmc) said on 19th June 2012, 18:27

        I agree i think byrne started the current trend of bullet proof reliability too. Neweys designs were often uncompromising and led to fragile cars, even affecting the red bulls when he refused to accept kers in his packaging.

  3. Damiano said on 18th June 2012, 9:50

    Great pair of articles, really enjoyed reading them. Surely Bryne’s mantra was “Evolution, not Revolution”?

  4. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 18th June 2012, 10:13

    Great article, thanks! Couple of typos: “Tyyrell”, “on a role”, “another driver who question”.

  5. dragoll (@dragoll) said on 18th June 2012, 10:45

    Great article, I was fearing that you might throw in John Barnard… After 1996, I think he damaged his reputation. He did create a great car in the 80’s, but damn, that Ferrari was just, woeful… I’ll never forget Schumi pulling up after somehow winning the Belgian GP and trying to get a marshal to get something to stop his Ferrari from rolling cos the park brake wouldn’t engage…

  6. Drop Valencia! said on 18th June 2012, 10:54

    Thanks for 2 fantastic articles Tim, can’t really disagree but to say that I think Brabham could have been in 9th…

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 19th June 2012, 3:45

      Or Brabham, should have at least merited a mention, I heard he was involved in Cooper moving the engine to the back and I believe this because I watched a race (my 1st.) at Orange NSW in the mid fifties in which a rear engined “Jowett jupiter” special performed surprisingly well against the much larger and bigger engined competition, wish I could remember the drivers and the other cars but I was too young. Apart from Coopers, Jacks own designs were fairly successful ,especially winning the title in the first year of the 3litre era.

  7. Muulka said on 18th June 2012, 11:23

    TBH I wouldn’t have put Chapman so high up. From what I can gather he was the sort of guy who just came up with big ideas, told them to his staff and let them get on with it; he wasn’t a real detail engineer, but an innovator. Perhaps instead of Chapman you could have him and his team in the 60s and 70s?

    Just my views.
    I would have placed Gordon Murray higher up as well, but that’s just me!

    • No27Forever said on 18th June 2012, 11:58

      And Newey isn’t aided by an even bigger team of engineers and designers, not to forget windtunnels, CFD and simulators?

      • dkpioe said on 18th June 2012, 12:53

        i think he is right, newey is a bit more hands on

        • xeroxpt (@) said on 19th June 2012, 3:02

          “hands on” isnt drawing “hands one” is do it yourself and that’s why Colin should be on top of Newey, yes Colin was born in an era where alot was to discover but Newey exploded on an era where computers were emerging, i’m not saying that Chapman would get his hands really dirty but he would make everything to win he had the character to be both a designer and team boss.

  8. melkurion (@melkurion) said on 18th June 2012, 11:42

    No barnard in the top 10…?
    Ok I can see why not, although imo it’s open for debate. But adrian newey before chapman…? NO WAY! Otherwise, great article!!!

    Ps Stewart a champion with Lotus? Me thinks not ….

    • Mads (@mads) said on 18th June 2012, 12:06


      But adrian newey before chapman…? NO WAY!

      Why not?

      • melkurion (@melkurion) said on 18th June 2012, 13:01

        Chapman’s innovations are legion, chapman flaps , engine as a stressed member, monocoque’s active suspention, ground effect . Most of these are still used today (as far as the rules permit them) And he did them all in a time before widespread information technology. Newey is a GREAT designer, don’t get me wrong. He was the first to design the “narrow chassis” that we still see today, and has made great strides is aerodynamics. But I feel Chapman’s achievments are more impressive because of their more lasting impact, greater leaps they made, and not in the least for the surcomstances in which they were achieved. Newey has a far bigger team, vastly greater amounts of data, etc .

        I have great respect for Adrian, he is very good and undoubtly very smart, but Chapman , Chapman was a genius

        • I Love the Pope said on 18th June 2012, 13:21

          I’m sure most of us would refer to Newey as a genius too.

          • melkurion (@melkurion) said on 18th June 2012, 16:01

            I ‘m sure you would, which is why, just before that fonal comment, I also wrote about 20 more lines of text in which I tried to elaborating why I think chapman should be above newey ;-)

        • Mads (@mads) said on 18th June 2012, 18:01

          True, but Champman had very few regulations within he had to operate.
          Newey is given nothing to work with, and still he comes up with new and exciting innovation, as well as dusted off others which didn’t work before, and then made them work.
          It is very difficult to compare the designers, because the regulations over the years has become tighter and tighter, so a revolution these days seem very subtle compared to what they were in the early days of motor sport, but that is in a long way down to the regulations.
          Not to say that Newey is the best, I simply don’t know. But who actually knows?
          Its like the Schumacher vs Senna debate. There is no factual answer, its just ones word against the others.
          I just think your statement that it in no way could be Newey over Chapman is a bit of an overreaction : )

          • Mads (@mads) said on 18th June 2012, 18:02

            On another note, what are these Chapman flaps you mention? I haven’t heard about them anywhere, what are they actually?

          • Karthikeyan (@ridiculous) said on 18th June 2012, 18:44

            @mads I’m assuming its the skirts for ground effects which he is referring as flaps

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 18th June 2012, 19:44

            Surely those are not Gurneys, are they?

          • melkurion (@melkurion) said on 19th June 2012, 10:24

            That is true, I have to admit I hadn’t considered the narrower scope of the rules that Newey has to work with as opposed to chapman. One could also argue however that because the rules are more restrictive, there are also fewer areas which newey has to focus on innorder to unleash his creativity, whereas chapman had to consider a vastly broader spectrum when comming up with new ideas.

            Ultimatly you are right, they are difficult to compate and it comes down to peoples personal oppinion and preference.

            As for Chapman flaps, it has always been my understanding that rearwing “flaps” arecalled Gurney’s but that frontwing ones are “chapman’s” ( or other way around…)

  9. egsgeg said on 18th June 2012, 11:50

    Rory Byrne is a South African.

  10. Sasquatsch (@sasquatsch) said on 18th June 2012, 12:02

    Great top 5, but I am missing a few names, some of which I already mentioned in part 1.

    Gioacchino Colombo for instance, the designer of the Alfa Romeo 158 and 159 and the Maserati 250F. And maybe Gary Anderson for the Jordan 191 or Mike Coughlan for the McLaren MP4/23 (imho one of the most beautiful F1 cars of all time). Or Rudolf Uhlenhaut for the beautiful Silver Arrow Mercedes W196.

    I definitely can live with Adrian Newey as the number one. His Leyton House CG901 was the beginning of a new (aerodynamic) era in Formula One, which can still be seen in todays Formula One cars.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 19th June 2012, 3:56

      Adrian is the ultimate aerodynamicist in an era when virtually all other areas of development have been regulated out, maybe he could shine in other areas if allowed but that is only speculation, hence some people think other designers were more complete and therefore more worthy. Truly we will never know.

  11. Ilanin (@ilanin) said on 18th June 2012, 12:02

    You appear not to have known that Chapman also designed the lightweight Vanwall VW5; meaning he arguably won constructors’ titles with two different teams. For this, and many other reasons, I would have ranked Chapman ahead of Newey.

  12. dkpioe said on 18th June 2012, 13:04

    I think 1 and 2 were the right choice and in the right order.
    People will romanticise about previous golden eras of f1, and Chapman is seen as a superhero figure from past f1 days – and fair enough too. but this is surely a much more harder era now for designers to build a race winning cars. in the old days there wasnt as much constraint in the design rules. and even with these constraints, newey has still create innovations, and still build championship winning cars with 3 teams.

    • I Love the Pope said on 18th June 2012, 13:22

      Newey has set the bar very high indeed.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 19th June 2012, 4:02

      I may romanticise previous golden eras, but they are part of my experience so I feel I am better able to judge than those that dismiss anything that happened before the were born as irrelevant .

  13. IDR (@idr) said on 18th June 2012, 14:02


  14. DaveW (@dmw) said on 18th June 2012, 15:26

    This was a great series, and Newey is the correct pick. But I have to flag this curious segway in the Newey summary:

    “A relatively fallow period”

    It’s a critical juncture worth elaboration in several respects. This was the period of the self-immolating, sefl-destructing McLarens never to turn a wheel in a race. And as it would have appeared, a fall from grace for Newey, as well as a famous falling out an illustrious employer. It was also the beginning of a down period for McLaren—they have never since had a dominant car, and the relatively good 07-08 cars obviously bore Newey’s modern style running stright from th Leyton House March. Of course, some of those failures of the MP4-18/19 were due in part to Newey’s earliest forays into a very aggressive EBD design. So there is some irony here that, when he appeared back at the front, it was with very sophisticated EBD system. McLaren of course, struggled to copy the new EBD…..because it kept barbecuing the car. McLaren were, relative to this concept, exactly where they were when he was turned out. He was vindicated, in more than one respect.

    A curious fact about this list is that none of these guys, beside Newey, are now in the sport. Newey has few possible rivals if he does not stumble again as he did in 04-05.

  15. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 18th June 2012, 15:28

    Jackie Stewart didn’t win titles with Lotus…he won titles with Matra and Tyrrell. Otherwise a great read!

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