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Geoff Willis out at Red Bull
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Geoff Willis out at Red Bull
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Jul 2009   |  5:32 pm GMT  |  25 comments

Geoff Willis, the technical director of Red Bull Racing has left the team, with barely half of the season gone.

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The exact reasons for his departure are not known as yet but Sebastian Vettel confirmed it in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live’s Holly Samos this afternoon. Vettel added that the team would not be destabilised by the departure.

“Geoff did a lot of work and thanks to him we are where we are now. It’s always very difficult if someone leaves but we have a very good harmony in the team and it shouldn’t affect our performance at all. We know what we have to do and where we want to go.”

After being sacked by Honda a few years ago, Willis was reunited at Red Bull with Adrian Newey, with whom he had formed a strong relationship at Williams in the winning years of the 1990s. Willis was hired to make the car reliable and he has certainly achieved that, but there are suggestions that he and Newey may not have seen eye to eye over the technical direction of the team this time.

Whether he jumped or was pushed, the speculation this evening was that he may be on his way to Ferrari. Willis is a fluent Italian speaker and his wife is Italian. He apparently offered his services to Ferrari but the word I’m hearing tonight is that he is not going there.

Meanwhile my Italian colleagues are telling me that Sunday will be the last Grand Prix for Sebastien Bourdais at Toro Rosso. There have been persistent rumours that the Frenchman is on thin ice, but Bourdais denied them today,

“What can I say? I haven’t received any notice from the team that this is my last race so as far as I am concerned it is still a rumour,” he said.

Apparently it is not a rumour, it is a fact and he will be replaced by the recently installed reserve driver Jaime Alguersuari.

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25 Comments
  1. Dank says:

    Alguersuari isn’t ‘all that’ from what I’ve seen. Promising certainly, but without the backing from Red Bull and Repsol, I doubt he’d be on the radar at the moment.

    And for Willis leaving Red Bull: I guess his work there was done, in that he made Newey’s designs reliable and success has now come to the team. Would it be just a coincidence that his equal has also recently left Brawn?

  2. Blythy says:

    whey, from what I saw at silverstone at the weekend, Alguersuari is not all that great. Oliver turvey would be better. Better still, would be marcos martinez who looked pretty good in the R28 given it was his first few laps in an f1 car.

  3. parrafone says:

    “Willis was hired to make the car reliable and he has certainly achieved that”

    Do you really think so James?

    The RBR has been dumped out of several practice sessions by reliability problems. Not to mention last year’s woes, with Coulthard adequately displaying the car’s ability to be destroyed! :D

  4. Hammad says:

    That’s a bit unfair on Bourdais…

  5. Andy says:

    Maybe Geoff is on his way to one of the new teams?
    As for Bourdais race seat, if you believe what he says Hartley must be kicking himself right now

  6. Andy says:

    Because replacing a proven multiple champion with a schoolboy will REALLY help counter the fact that the car is too slow…

    Why don’t they just give the team back to Paul Stoddart or Giancarlo Minardi and say ‘here you are, we don’t have a clue what to do with it, good luck’?

  7. rpaco says:

    It must be a little daunting to be in a team with Seb Vettel as your competition. Even more so for Jamie (whose surname is always spelt wrongly) now that Vettel’s brilliance is an established fact.

    More news please James about Geoff, on twitter when you know something.

  8. Travis R says:

    I have a strange feeling Mr. Willis will end up with USF1 or one of the other new teams.

  9. daniel says:

    “Still a rumour” is clearly not the same as “just a rumour”. Poor Sebastien. It never really worked out for him.

  10. doctorvee says:

    I find it interesting that Bourdais will apparently be replaced by Alguersuari just days after Alguersuari was announced as Red Bull’s and Toro Rosso’s reserve driver, in place of Brendon Hartley. Did they not have enough confidence that Hartley would do a good job?

  11. Carsten Bieker says:

    It seems like the cost cutting has already started. Zander left Brawn, now Willis, T. Glock lost his long time race engineer, too. Bourdais is sponsored, but who knows. Or maybe the new teams starting to recruit people to gain some knowledge.

  12. Mr. C says:

    Why isn’t Max Mosley finding a new job? I haven’t followed it closely, but MI6 might be on the lookout for someone new. Max is ideal, he could be called M like in the movies, probably has never heard of facebook, and on top has some hands on personal experience in organising clandestine meetings…

  13. Steph says:

    “Apparently … it is a fact”

    Great one, James. You’ve made my day.

  14. Martin says:

    I remember being very excited about Bourdais’ arrival from Champ Car on the back of his multiple championships. I watched some of those races, he was so far ahead in some of them he could have stopped for a picnic and still won. He was racing at epic tracks like Laguna Seca and Long Beach, and everyone was driving the same chassis of course. And he once memorably got involved in some mid-race fisticuffs after an altercation with the not-much-liked Paul Tracy which was pretty impressive for someone who wears glasses. OK he was not coming in to a top F1 team but even so he looked like he would have the credentials to do reasonably well. So it’s disappointing to hear he may be getting an early bath.

    Maybe he genuinely wasn’t able to get the Toro Rosso to suit his driving style, or perhaps its a statement about whether US open wheel racing is a suitable proving ground for F1 drivers. If USF1 plunder the Indycar ranks for their team it will be interesting to see how their chosen pilots fare in comparison.

  15. Proesterchen says:

    With the bad press Sebastien Bourdais has been getting for the better part of the year, you’d think he was a second slower than his teammate, when in fact he was ahead of Buemi in every session in Silverstone.

  16. David says:

    It will be sad to see Seb go but lets be honest, all he did was moan about something with the car. For a top class driver to say that a car doesn’t suit their style just boggles my brain.

    Can you imagine Alonso or Hamilton saying that? Never in a million years, they will grit their teeth and make a plan. That was something which Seb was never willing to do.

    Don’t get me wrong, he is clearly a fast and talented driver but his attitude and drive just didn’t suit the cut throat world of F1.

  17. Silas Denyer says:

    According to Motorsport.com “Red Bull, meanwhile, confirmed that Geoff Willis has departed the Milton Keynes based team because his role as technical director became redundant.” Link: http://www.motorsport.com/news/article.asp?ID=335898&FS=F1

    This rationale seems to have been confirmed by RBR.

    If the role of TD is redundant, what does that say for the rest of the team?

    1. James Allen says:

      I think he upset a few people there and they are restructuring things a bit, so he was surplus to requirements. But he served an important organisational function and he will be missed.

  18. Aaron James says:

    James,

    All these driver rumours etc- any news on Heikki Kovalainen?

    1. James Allen says:

      Marting Whitmash said tonight he’s talking to Heikki’s management. Sounded supportive but non-committal

  19. Silas Denyer says:

    James, what I find interesting are the comments from Newey. Despite now – it seems – having line management and technical leadership responsibility for the heads of the technical departments, he has re-iterated his dislike of such management (the role Willis filled), and instead has very publicly given those department heads collective responsibility for managing and leading themselves!

    Methinks Mr Newey was not the architect of this shake-up :) Time will tell, but it sounds like Newey is preparing the ground for a “I told you so” moment some time in the future when things start to go wrong.

    Hence you’re quite right; his function was important, and he will undoubtedly be missed. Let us hope – for the sake of the racing – that the “management experiment” works.

  20. James Allen says:

    This year’s car is looking pretty good to me

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