Review - An Evening with Adrian Newey OBE


To view images from the night click here.

Club members and guests were delighted to be joined by legendary car designer Adrian Newey OBE for an evening celebrating his illustrious career in top level motorsport.

The night also recognised Adrian’s book ‘How to Build a Car’ winning the Club’s ‘2018 Motoring Book of the Year’ trophy. It is an insightful autobiography and a thrilling behind-the-scenes look at motorsport at the top level. But the motoring book accolade is not the only Club trophy Adrian has won. Back in 2010 he received the Club’s Segrave Trophy for winning Formula 1 drivers’ and constructors’ World Championships with three teams: Williams-Renault, McLaren-Mercedes and Red Bull-Renault. Prior to this, many drivers have celebrated winning the Club’s British Grand Prix trophy in his cars, most notably Vettel and Webber in 2009 and 2010.

In the Rotunda

In celebration of the evening a version of the Red Bull RB6 was installed in the rotunda, updated with 2019’s livery. The car is recognised as one of Adrian’s most successful designs, steering Sebastian Vettel to his first Drivers’ Championship in 2010. In total, the car delivered nine wins, achieved 498 World Championship points and 20 podiums. It was also relentless pacesetter, delivering 15 pole positions throughout the 2010 Championship.

Guests

Familiar faces were also in attendance on the night, including current Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner OBE who has won four Constructor Championships during the 14 years he has worked with Adrian. Christian shared an anecdote about the challenges of getting Adrian signed to the Red Bull team. By 2005 Adrian was a renowned designer in the sport, so signing him was never going to be cheap. Luckily Christian convinced Red Bull to stretch their budget; a gamble that definitely paid off.

A former teammate in the Le Mans 24 Hour race and the current owner of a prestigious car servicing centre in London, Joe Macari was also in attendance. One of Adrian’s good friends, he offered some comical stories from Adrian’s non-professional life. One episode involved the pair doing doughnuts on a lawn with Joe’s newly acquired Rolls-Royce Phantom!

Adrian’s son Harrison Newey, a rising star in the world of motorsport, also talked of his experiences racing GT3 cars in the 2019 Super Taikyu Series in Japan.

In Conversation

Hosting the evening was Formula 1 journalist and presenter Peter Windsor. Peter knows the genius of Adrian’s designs all too well, having worked as the Williams Race and Test Team Manager during the winning years of Adrian’s Williams FW14 and FW14Bs.

During the interview, Adrian offered an interesting insight into the challenges faced by modern day designers. In his early days at Leyton House March, his big imagination and ambitious designs worked on paper, but could not always be translated into practical designs. On one occasion during the team’s first test at the Imola race track, he discovered there wasn’t enough room for driver Ivan Capelli to change gear in the car. This led to Adrian working through the night on his own to cut out additional space in the cockpit so the car could be ready for testing the next day!

In contrast, Adrian commented on the modern-day challenges of having access to huge amounts of testing data. Whilst undeniably useful, there is often so much information that teams can forget to speak to the drivers themselves to truly understand how a car can improve. He explained a car is a machine responding only to its inputs, meaning the data can tell you what a car does, but it’s the drivers themselves who can tell you why it does what it does.

Among his most memorable races was Mark Webber’s first Grand Prix victory at the 2009 German Grand Prix, made all the sweeter by Mark’s previous bad luck in races. The 1991 Canadian Grand Prix proved memorable for different reasons. His driver Nigel Mansell had the race practically won when his Williams FW14 suddenly stopped half a lap from the finish, reportedly due to a transmission failure. Adrian mused it was more likely that Mansell had let his engine revs drop too low while he was waving to the crowd in celebration, forcing it to stall.

He looked back fondly at his days in IndyCar and remembered his close relationship with driver Mario Andretti, attributing this in part to the fact it was a single driver race team. He commented generally on the togetherness of the IndyCar team fortified by the frequent meals and road trips that the team had together. Comparing IndyCar to the current Formula 1 world, Adrian noted the huge growth of Formula 1 has meant it has lost some of these personal elements.

And the greatest car designer’s favourite car? Adrian named the Bluebird, a car used to achieve both land and water speed records. A vehicle built for pure speed, the turbo propelled four-wheel drive made it the first proper ground effect car, with Adrian believing its revolutionary design is often overlooked.

For all who attended, the evening was a wonderful insight into the world of one of motorsport’s best designers, and the Club will look forward to seeing how Adrian’s latest Red Bull design fares in the 2019 season.

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