Monday, July 28, 2008

F1 Chief designer

The chief designer is the person who has to come up with an overall layout for the car that allows everything to fit and be adequately cooled whilst giving the aerodynamicist the necessary scope for generating efficient downforce. Essential to utilising the aerodynamic forces is the task of coming up with a structure that is stiff enough to withstand them – another job of the chief designer. Reporting to him is a team of designers and structural analysts. At least one team rotates between two chief designers so that one works on next year’s car without the distraction of developing the current one and then goes on to develop his car when it becomes current, leaving the other designer to initiate the next in the sequence.

F1 Chief aerodynamicist

Aerodynamics really determines the ultimate potential of a Formula One car. Even if a team sets up the car just right, it’s never going to shave whole seconds of lap time, only fractions of that. But the difference between a good and bad car aerodynamically can easily be whole seconds. That’s why the chief aerodynamicist carries the heavy burden of responsibility on his shoulders. The calculations are so involved and microscopic that he (or she – Williams currently has a female aero chief) depends on a whole team of aerodynamicists who work beneath to figure out the details, come up with new components, and try them out in the wind tunnel.

The chief aerodynamicist is primarily interested in the overall effect. The aerodynamic performance of a car is expressed in its lift:drag ratio – how much downforce can be had for how little straightline speed drag. The chief aerodynamicist is concerned with this above all else.

F1 Technical Director

The technical director’s job is part-managerial, part-technical. He invariably is a former designer or aerodynamicist, but he rarely gets a chance to actually design stuff in his role as technical director. The technical director is a rare breed: a nutty professor with a core of steel and a real flair for organisation. He sets design objectives and targets and ensures that they are met. He could just as easily be sourcing a new material and going to the team boss for budget approval as he could be brain-storming on an aerodynamic problem. In many ways the technical director is the key to the success or failure of a team. Without a fast car, a team goes nowhere.

Without the technical organisation and a technical director’s guidance, a team is never going to come up with a fast car. Much of the great Ferrari turnaround of fortunes from sad underachievers in the early 1990s to record-breaking world beaters a decade later has been attributed to the organisational and technical knowledge of Ross Brawn, the team’s technical director since 1997. Because of his crucial role in the success or failure of the team, a technical director can command a very big salary – sometimes higher than the driver. A ballpark figure is around $2 million per year, though one technical director is rumoured to make as much as $8 million. But taking the big bucks means he must deliver. This isn’t a job for those looking for long-term employment security.

An engine supplier also has its own technical director, ensuring its Formula One programme’s technical progress runs smoothly. In those teams that build their own engines, the team’s technical director also has reporting to him the chief of engine design. So complex is the whole business that there can be two levels of technical management above the guy who actually designs the chassis or engine.
Chief designers, aerodynamicists, and research and development bosses all report to the team’s technical director. The following sections explain their roles on a Formula One team.

F1 Commercial director

The commercial director or manager is usually a man behind the scenes who oversees sponsorship deals and the terms of commercial or technical liaisons. He must have cold eyes of steel with dollar signs on them. The heads of the finance and accounting departments report to him. Even this definition is a generalisation that applies mainly to the independent teams – but not always! Within the factory teams, the commercial director role is normally filled by someone from within the parent company because most of the finance is actually sourced from the car producer itself.
Then again, at Renault F1, much of this role is taken by MD Flavio Briatore, the team boss. There are no set rules of team structure in Formula One. The commercial director (sometimes called the head of marketing or the marketing manager) usually plays a fundamental role in attracting sponsors to the team and sets up the structure necessary to look after them. He also usually determines which space on the car equates to how many millions of dollars.

F1 Team Management Structure

Each team has its own unique management structure. Broadly speaking, however, most teams are divided into two key areas: commercial and technical. A commercial director and a technical director usually each report directly to the boss (see the section “The Boss” for information on who the big bosses are). Ferrari has an extra role of sporting director, although this merely identifies the man, Jean Todt, who is effectively the team’s boss at the track. Emphasizing how these terms are not interchangeable between teams, Jaguar Racing has a sporting director too – John Hogan. But Hogan’s position is purely commercial, and his role very much that defined by other teams as a commercial director.

There’s an important distinction between the independent teams (who rely on partnerships with manufacturers to supply their engines) and the factory teams (who build their own engines). Manufacturers such as BMW and Honda, who act only as engine suppliers, have their own team bosses, technical directors, designers, chief engineers, and so on. Manufacturers such as Toyota and Renault, who have their own teams, incorporate these roles into the overall team structure.

Max Mosley

A trained lawyer, Max Mosley entered racing as a driver in the 1960s but found rather more success as the founder of March, a racing car constructor that fielded its own Formula One team between 1970–77 and sporadically thereafter. Mosley, along with Bernie Ecclestone, became a key member of the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA) that changed the commercial face of Formula One. His dazzling brain and legal training made him the ideal man for this role. He resigned from his position at FOCA when he was elected President of the FIA, the world governing body of the sport.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bernie Ecclestone

A working-class boy made very good indeed, Ecclestone rose from secondhand motorcycle and car dealer to become the most powerful and influential man in the sport. In between those two periods, Ecclestone owned Brabham and was in charge there when Nelson Piquet won two world titles for the team in 1981 and 1983.
As a man who set great store by presentation, the Ecclestone-era Brabhams were always beautifully liveried and prepared. Other than that and keeping a rein on the budget, Ecclestone ran the team from a distance, allowing chief designer Gordon Murray to make many of the operational decisions.

Jack Brabham

Jack Brabham remains the only man to have won a Formula One World Championship in a car bearing his own name, a feat he accomplished in 1966, when he was 40. Brabham first made his name as a driver for the Cooper team in the 1950s and won two world titles there in 1959 and 1960. Always a highly technical driver, Brabham decided to set up on his own in 1962. He chose an engineer named Ron Tauranac to design the Brabham cars, and together the two men enjoyed much success but there was never any undue fuss – Brabham was renowned as a man who would never use two words when one would do. At the end of the 1970 season, he decided to sell up and return home to Australia. The man who ended up owning the team was Bernie Ecclestone, the future Mr Big of the whole sport.

Ken Tyrrell

Ken Tyrrell began racing in the 1950s, as a sideline from his timber business. He soon retired from the cockpit and became increasingly successful as a team owner in the junior categories and won the 1964 British Formula Three championship with a young driver named Jackie Stewart. Later, the two men formed one of the greatest partnerships ever seen in Formula One, winning the World Championships of 1969, 1971 and 1973. Tyrrell continued after Stewart retired but never again with such success. He sold his team at the end of 1998 to British American Tobacco and died from cancer in 2001. Tyrell was tough, shrewd, and practical, and he gained a reputation for developing young drivers into fully-rounded professionals. Unfortunately his team didn’t embrace the commercial age of Formula One fully. In its later years, the team lacked the funds to be successful.

Colin Chapman

The founder of Lotus, Chapman was an extraordinary man. He is remembered as arguably the greatest and most original racing car designer of all time, who, when he wasn’t designing, found the money and ran the team. Before committing his future to the running of Lotus he had shown considerable flair as a driver, and it was probably only his concentration on the development of his team that prevented him becoming a successful Formula One driver. Chapman was also the man who brought commercial sponsorship to Formula One. He died from a heart attack in 1982 when he was only 54. With his lightning-quick mind, Chapman often left those around him bewildered and his impatience with lesser intellects occasionally boiled over. He could be utterly charming, but his track record also revealed him to be absolutely ruthless when necessary.

Enzo Ferrari

Founder of the colossus of a racing team that carries his name to this day, Enzo Ferrari died at the age of 90 in 1988 when he was still in charge of the team. Ferrari began as a moderately successful race driver in the 1920s but made more of a reputation as a general “fixer” for the Alfa-Romeo team, then one of the top teams of Grand Prix racing. His influence was directly responsible for bringing that team the brilliant mix of designers and technicians who brought it much glory.
For a time, Scuderia Ferrar – the name of the team Enzo founded – became the official competition arm of Alfa-Romeo, but the two went their separate ways just before World War II. The first Grand Prix Ferrari appeared in 1948 and was winning major Grands Prix by the following year. The team took its first World Championship in 1952 and has been winning them on and off ever since. Enzo remained as boss of the team even after Fiat bought the company in 1968.
Ferrari the man was autocratic and ascribed his success to “a flair for the agitation of men.” He would often set one engineer or driver against another, believing this was the way to get their best efforts. He rarely got close to his drivers but made occasional exceptions.

The sponsor boss – a rarity

Because he is providing the money you might assume that the sponsor has a big say in how the team is run. In nearly every case, you’d be wrong. Sponsors typically hand over the money in exchange for certain guaranteed rights such as the use of team images in their advertising, an agreed number of days of exclusive access to the team drivers for any promotional events the sponsors want to do, hospitality for the sponsors and their guests at the races, an agreed amount of the sponsors’ livery on the cars and team clothing, and so on. But these rights almost never extend to a say in the running of the team which is left to those best qualified for the job: the team boss and his directors.
Certain exceptions exist, however. Sometimes the sponsors are the car manufacturers who, in addition to supplying an independent team’s engines, also make a contribution to the team’s budget. Manufacturers tend to have more of a say in key technical decisions and even sometimes driver choice. Another exception is when the sponsor becomes the team owner. This situation occurred when the Benetton clothing empire progressed from sponsoring a team to buying it outright. Another example is BAR (British American Racing), which was set up from the start with the tobacco company British American Tobacco as the majority shareholder. Although representatives of the tobacco company don’t specify what angle they’d like the cylinder “vee” of the engine or the shape of the sidepods to be, they ultimately decide who does make these choices.