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Newey plays mind games over new Ferrari design team
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Newey plays mind games over new Ferrari design team
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 May 2011   |  5:22 pm GMT  |  70 comments

It’s a throwaway line, but amusing nevertheless. In today’s Gazzetta dello Sport Red Bull design guru Adrian Newey is asked how he feels to have caused Aldo Costa to lose his job. Costa was moved out of the role of technical director at Ferrari this week, as the team felt his technical leadership was not going to take the team to where it can compete with the dominant Red Bulls.

Newey the point man for Red Bull


Newey says, “It’s nothing to do with me, but I am sorry for Aldo.”

He then asks reporter Pino Allievi who will make the Ferrari cars now and is told Pat Fry and Nicolas Tombazis

“Strange” says Newey, who declines to explain what he means by that.

He knows both men and their qualities well; he worked alongside Pat Fry throughout his time at McLaren and with aerodynamicist/ designer Tombazis from 2003 until his departure for Red Bull in 2006.

It’s a lovely little cameo.

Ferrari have taken the route they have because Newey turned them down last year when they tried top headhunt him to come to Maranello.

He’s asked about the approaches Ferrari made to him, “The first time was in the 1980s when they were thinking of making an IndyCar,” He said. And last year? “Let’s drop it. It’s not polite to talk about these things. I’m happy at Red Bull.”

The paper adds that the timing of Costa’s dismissal is to do with the design of the 2012 car. Fry and Tombazis want a clear road ahead in which to work. But that doens’t mean that the team is giving up on 2011.

“With Ferrari’s history you don’t give up after five races,” said Fernando Alonso. “Remember 2009? Button won six of the first seven races, but suffered at the end with Red Bull. Anything can happen, you just need the vast car in the second half of the championship to fight.”

Alonso added that he did not push for Fry to be made technical director but he does make his feelings clear on the matter, ” Today I saw a very positive atmosphere,” he says. “I’ve seen a motivated team and a positive reaction from the engineers.”

Tomorrow afternoon Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali will speak to the media about Costa’s sacking and the new technical line up at Ferrari

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70 Comments
  1. Jo Torrent says:

    Newey isn’t known for playing mind games so that “strange” is very meaningful.

    Hope the decisions are being well thought rather than hurried measures to ease the pressure.

    Worst case would be if Costa was a fuse allowing Dominicali to keep his seat. In that was the case, Dominicali won’t stay long enough to enjoy it.

    1. Kieran says:

      I don’t think Dominicali should go any time soon. Ferrari needs stability. When Schumacher arrived with Brawn it took a while before they saw any good results but sticking with the team of Schumacher, Brawn, Byrne, and Todt is one of the most important factors in their success.

      Ferrari needs to keep Dominicali in place, they have already signed Alonso until 2016, and they should resign Massa for another couple of seasons. And obviously they need to let Pat Fry do his job and not get rid of him before he gets the opportunity to succeed.

    2. Curro says:

      Who knows. Maybe he’s holding a grudge, maybe those two didn’t see eye to eye in McLaren and he knows it. Maybe he’s joking. Did Pat Fry actually design any McLaren, or did he just race-engineered?

      1. nando says:

        He designed the 2009 Mclaren and was leading the early 2011 design before he left.

    3. ramon j says:

      Very ‘strange’ indeed…
      I read this a an indication of Ferrari recruiting (or having recruited?) someone else. Thought it was striking they didn’t call Nick Fry TD in their first statement after Costa’s resignation.
      I have a vague feeling that there is someone else lining up – Sam Michael?

      1. TJS says:

        or maybe ross brawn…

      2. GP says:

        I agree that they are probably looking at other people. They may not have found anyone yet or are going through the process of hiring and negotiating the individual’s gardening leave.

        However, I hope it’s not Michael. Williams is just patethic now. Rubens made it clear a few weeks ago that Michael is a bad manager. He never set up an effective team structure and that in turn forced him to do too much and couldn’t keep up with his own workload. If anybody knows what a proper team structure looks like, it’s Rubens (from his years at Ferrari, obviously).

        I can’t believe there is only one Adrian Newey in the world…

      3. Peter says:

        There is someone better! Rory Byrne ask Newey how good he is :oP

      4. AB says:

        Maybe they never gave him the budget to set up a proper team…..

      5. Graeme says:

        But did Michael have the budget? I think he was tired of his money purse been to small to get a proper team under him. Time will tell.

        Newey only shone at RBR when the rules changed. The RBR was not in the top 3 for Newey’s first few years.

        G

      6. GP says:

        I hate to say it but Rory Byrne is yesterday’s man. Newey is today’s and unfortunately he has no peer.

        Newey’s first few years were a time of great rules stability wich means improvements were minor. RBR became a force to reckon with when the rules were changed in a drastic way and this is when Newey’s genius is at its best. He has more creativity than all the others.

  2. MR SERIOUS says:

    He can certainly design a car, but Mclaren will develope their’s better.

    Strange?

    Bring it Baldy.

    Mclaren 2 X WC 2011.

    1. Rico Suavé says:

      Baldy? Ahem…Lewis Hamilton?

      1. MR SERIOUS says:

        The HILLBILLY?

  3. Franko says:

    LdM at Ferrari does not hire has been.
    Pat Fry talent plus,Alonso to some currently
    the best on the grid, be it developing or
    driving the two seater,Tombazis yet to prove his worth,
    It may be to late for this season, but the
    bottom line says next year diferent cattle of fish.you bet.

  4. Kieran says:

    I think it was time for Costa to go. He built a bad car, he was given adequate time to fix it, and still Ferrari are way off the pace. Considering the problems they have been rumoured to have with their wind tunnel though it still might be a while before we see some results.

    Saying that they look in good shape this weekend, but then Monaco is unlike any other circuit.

  5. Nesto says:

    The simple fact of the matter is that Newey and RBR have done a better job than everyone else. If you take RBR out of the equation its Ferrari vs McLaren this year and last.

    I don’t think its fair to Costa and even Dyer, mistakes are made, tho they have been costly. Ferrari is still among the top 3. With Alonso, as Domemicali has stated recently, they have the driver to take the championship. Give him the car and he will produce.

    They need to sort their performance on the new hard compound and revise their strategies. The result in Turkey was inevitable but they spent far too much time on the hards and wasted their softs early to cover others’ pit stops. It felt like Abu Dhabi all over again reacting Webber who was going to get past one way or the other.

    1. left says:

      Costa has been making mistakes for 5 seasons now. How many more mistake ridden cars do you want to allow him to design?
      The car is not fast enough. Massa is no mug and look where he is in the pack. And that has nothing to do with strategy. There is a combo of things going wrong at Ferrari. Car, Strategy and pitstops. IMO Domenicali is the biggest problem. He leads the team but he has no technical background. He has final say on strategy at the track but he doesnt have the skill or experience to override anything because he doesnt know any better. I have never met an analytical HR director in my life. How he got this job is beyond me. He does come across as a politician espcially when they screwed up the final races strategy. It was a “team decision”..lol… I think it was either Dyer or him to be fired and he threw Dyer to the wolves.

      1. Stefanos says:

        Some good points. Indeed, it generally pays to be technically trained in this business, though it seems the trend is not to, nowdays. F1 teams (even large corporations, or even governments) tend to go for the charming and motivational leader, rather than the knowledgable decision-maker. Look at Parr, Whitmarsh, or even Horner. Only the latter ever contaminates his comments with facts. Domenicali needs a technical genious alongside him and said genious is proving hard to find..!

      2. left says:

        Agreed. motivational leaders are great to have. Problem is engineers in general don’t always respect the non-technical managers or directors. Because non-tech’s just dont know what they are talking about…Whitemarsh is an engineer and Horner career in motor sport started in 1991 as a driver, since 1997 he has been a team owner. These guys have been around for a long time.

      3. melonfarmer says:

        Welcome to modern engineering! Technical decisions are made by people with no technical background (not just in F1).

        To quote Miriam Keys:
        (slaps left, cheek, right cheek, then left cheek again)

        “I’m awake and that still doesn’t make any sense”.

      4. Bru72 says:

        Don’t forget that Nik Tombazis (chief designer)has designed the last few cars for Ferrari. Costa was technical director.

      5. Eish says:

        yes and he allowed it. the car was no better when costa was chief designer.

      6. Bru72 says:

        I’m pretty sure the world championship winning Ferrari cars of 2007 and 2008 were Costa’s.

  6. Phil R says:

    James, talking of mind there seem to be a few quotes coming from the Mclaren drivers that are less in line with the great mates image that has been portrayed:

    “At the moment the only person who has an answer to Sebastian is me, and in a car that is not as good as his, and I’m quite happy with that,” Hamilton told Press Association

    Was a pretty derogatory statement to Jenson, with Jenson flatly denying Hamilton’s earlier comments about the Torro Rosso’s helping Red Bull.

    Any thoughts?

    1. Lalit says:

      I think Hamilton is way ahead of himself; has always been.

      Talk of Redbull being only a drinks company? At least they made it on their own rather than banking on Ron Dennis.
      He may be talented, but he is just way too much spoiled, and really not that special.

      Think of MSc, and think of how he worked through as a mechanic working on his brother’s cart,

      [mod]

      1. Damian J says:

        Lewis Hamilton’s comment about Redbull being a drinks company was a brilliant riposte to the provoking comments made by Horner that “Hamilton is not going to be happy if he has another barren year”.

        Fair enough I think! :)

    2. san says:

      Next question please, this is not a comfortable one :D

    3. Kristiane says:

      Not exactly a Hamilton fan here, but I gotta agree with Hamilton. Hamilton can match Vettel in an inferior car. Put Vettel in the same car as Lewis and Lewis will blow him away.

      1. Stefanos says:

        Its better when your infinite superiority is recognized by first others, rather than yourself…

  7. Red5 says:

    Adrian can be mischievous at times, it’s nothing personal.

    Interesting that Red Bull have also yet to maximize their overall package, however, in Ferrari’s case there were high expectations for the 2011 car and they failed to deliver.

    The optimism during winter testing was replaced by a touch of spring cleaning.

    Alonso is playing an important role; recognizing the need to find more performance whilst committing and devoting himself to the Ferrari team.

    You sense that behind the scenes Vettel is pushing very hard, same as last year the pace of development could be crucial.

  8. Bevan says:

    I’m growing a tad weary of everyone proclaiming Newey’s greatness,”oh he’s all that alright”,but if the FIA would stop making regulations that suit the legal fraternity more than motor racing then he’d be brought back to earth in a crashing heap.
    Simple fix,put exhaust back out through roof of engine cowl,greatness equalized,controversial 1 + second a lap (life time)advantage over nearest competitor nullified.

    1. Steven says:

      Thats shortsighted. If you ban the EBD all the teams currently using it will suffer the same performance drop, not just RB. In fact, McLaren might fall further behind RB than they are now, the RB is supposed to have so much more downforce than everyone else.

    2. GP says:

      I have to disagree, much to my regret.

      I absolutely hate the fact that this guy has no peer in the entire world of moto racing.

      Just look at his bloody record. Even when he designed a car for Jim Hall for Indy they dominated just like RBR is doing today. During his time at McLaren and Williams both teams won championships.

      A few years ago a racing magazine, I forget which one, did a very interesting comparison between Newey and Michael Schumacher. They compared their salary against their number of world championship points. Newey came out as a better investment.

      I just can’t believe there is no other engineer on his level in the entire world of motor racing.

      F1 is always looking for ways to improve the show; maybe the FIA should ban Newey. ;-)

      1. Hisham Akhtar says:

        It’s called Rory Byrne but he retired and now everyone talks about Newey. Not taking anything away from Adrian but Rory Byrne was brilliant.

      2. Peter says:

        much better if u ask me :)

      3. Steven says:

        I wonder what makes them better than anybody else. Is it the detail? Is there something that they know but nobody else does? I mean, theres only so much you can do with aerodynamics.

      4. Rhett says:

        The stats speak for themselves. Rory Byrne > Adrian Newey.

      5. Graeme says:

        Yip. But it was a team effort and unlimited testing that Ferrari did to perfect their car.

      6. And Newey doesn’t have a team? Byrne was just more humble in working behind the scenes rather than making the Ferrari story all about him

        He also designed the cars for Benetton that won them back-to-back WDC and WCC and was one of the biggest reasons that team fell apart in 1996.

      7. Lucas says:

        Also, while Newey was untouchable when he got it right, he could be quite bad when he got it wrong. The 2002-2006 McLarens weren’t scaring many people, were them? Even when they were fast, as in 2005, they were still very unreliable. What’s amazing about Rory Byrne is not only that he managed to continuously build amazingly fast cars (while Newey sometimes produced some pretty bad ones – the 2004 and 2006 McLarens come to mind), but his reliability level is simply out of this world. In 2003 and 2004 he built cars that not only were faster than the rest, but they didn’t have a single one mechanical DNFs in those two consecutive years. At the same time, Newey’s McLarens had 14 mechanical DNFs. The total number of Ferrari mechanical DNFs from 1997-2006 may be lower than what Williams and McLaren got in a single season by that time. If I was a team principal and had to choose between Byrne and Newey for a long-term contract, I would definitely go with Byrne. Newey could build a spectacular car once in a while, but Byrne would certainly give a better return in points and championships in the long run.

      8. Dom says:

        Trouble is you’re not comparing like with like – Ferrari probably had a billion USD spend over Mclaren from 2000-2005 so why didn’t they win every race.

        Mclaren should have taken it in 2003/2005 but they didn’t spend as much and the aggrgatate team, as opposed to Newey v Bryne was weaker.

        Maybe Newey at Ferrari would have won more races…..

      9. I’m pretty sure McLaren and Ferrari have very similar budgets and Mercedes (and Toyota and Honda when they were around) had the same budget as Ferrari when they dominated. Also I’m sure Red Bull has a pretty extensive budget as well, especially if you consider the fact that they have TWO TEAMS so that means 4 cars to test things on (I know they aren’t the same team but I’m sure there’s an information transfer between them).

        Also has Rory Byrne ever designed a bad car…EVER? The only bad car Ferrari built during his career was the F2005 and that was designed by Aldo Costa.

  9. AlexD says:

    Newey and I think alike. This was my immediate post here – “strange”. Fry is not Newey. How on earth Ferrari is going to defeat Red Bill, how???

  10. Tim Parry says:

    I read today that Newey finally admitted he had underestimated the impact of KERS and that the team is working to get on top of the situation. God help the rest of the field if they do.

    1. galletto says:

      They may never get on top of it, since they may not have the expertise. At least, to the necessary extent.

  11. Jean-Christophe says:

    He will find another way. What have you got against ingeniousity?

  12. nando says:

    Would Ferrari consider Pat Symonds?

    1. Red5 says:

      Would anybody?

      1. Thomas says:

        They should, Pat is brilliant. And he knows Fernando.

    2. galletto says:

      Why should they?

  13. bones says:

    James you know more than us about this,so what do you think he meant by saying strange?

    1. James Allen says:

      I really don’t. It wasn’t my story, I just picked it up. I did a long interview with Adrian for TV yesterday but we didn’t talk about this. He worked with both men at McLaren, so draw your own conclusions

    2. Kristiane says:

      I think you can put yourself in Adrian’s position.
      You supervised and worked with Pat Fry previously, so you know his strengths and weaknesses. You hear a story about your ex-subordinate got promoted and you give a reply “strange”. It’s obvious that Adrian feels he’s incompetent for the job don’t suit Fry’s abilities.

  14. B Martin says:

    Epic reply. I’m afraid RB will run away with it.

  15. eric weinraub says:

    While I respect Adrian, there is one designer who has kicked his butt consistently…. So, Ferrari, McLaren, or Mercedes…. lure Rory Byrne out of retirement. Undoubtedly Red Bull is the class of the field.

  16. eric weinraub says:

    …Also, Adrian has the benefit of no in season testing… All he had to do is get the best car out the gate at the beginning of the season and its nigh impossible to catch up.

    1. Kristiane says:

      Agree with that. Also I think from past records, Adrian seem to design innovative yet controversial stuff and wait for others + FIA to pick them up before he’s forced to take them off (brake steer is one from McLaren days). I suspect Adrian has designed some controversial stuff and getting a huge bonus in performance. No one has picked these things up yet. The front-wing is still controversial.

  17. Robert Powers says:

    James, I had just caught wind of some “Ferrari cheating scandal” the day before the Costa story broke.I didn’t read enough, must have left the page.Another spy scandal, sounded credible.Any connection?

    1. James Allen says:

      No, it was to do with Marko’s suggestion that Ferrari was listening in to Red Bull radio to anticipate their pits stops with Webber in Spain. Horner headed that one off by saying he thinks maybe Ferrari was spotting routines prior to the stops. That’s all.

  18. Well, it sounds like a gentleman statement: “Let’s not talk about that” – leaving the Ferrari offer all behind. But I’m wondering about the the “Strange” part – really, what’s so strange about it ? Does that mean that he [AN] thinks that Fry cannot build a good car, or he’s not convinced about Tombazis’ skills ?
    Or probably, AN was expecting someone else to step in ? I’m curious to understand what’s behind that statement, but I probably never will.
    Anyway, let’s wish a joyful weekend at Monaco (and NO SLS on the track!)

  19. I think those posting that Adrian Newey is virtually omnipotent are forgetting the fact that the lap times in F1 are now so incredibly close that, by any standard, all of the design teams in the top five teams are doing a fantastic job – including Ferrari.

    Adrian clearly has a brilliant mind and by far the best track record as a designer : to win both Championships with three different teams is probably something that nobody else will be able to match.

    But he would be the first to admit that a F1 team is about much more than one man.

    Take the development skills of McLaren, so evident last year, and the ruthless organisational skills of Jean Todt : probably an essential requirement at Ferrari and currently missing from the team run by the much more likeable Stephano.

    With significant new rules in recent years and insufficient testing there also has to be a bit of luck in getting a new design to work straight out of the box. Ask McLaren !

    It must be so easy to go down a route that ultimately, and irrespective of development skills, can’t quite produce those last 1,000ths of a second in qualifying.

    Clearly Ferrari are suffering without the huge advantage of test drivers pounding incessantly
    round Fiorano and missing their cosy relationship with Bridgestone.

    Perhaps we all underestimated the advantages that these gave the team in the Todt/Brawn/Schumacher era ?

    As a Brit I would much prefer to see McLaren ( and Williams ) winning more often but I don’t think that another British Team, Red Bull, are anywhere near as far ahead as Ferrari were in the Schumacher years – or McLaren were in the Prost/Senna era.

    1. Bru72 says:

      I know Red Bull are based in UK but they are actually an Austrian team, hence the Austrian anthem is played when they win.

  20. Chapor says:

    Oh, what wouldn’t I give to be able to work with Adrian Newey just for a week. I have nothing but admiration for him, he just takes any set of regulations and maximizes the potential within that given set of rules.

  21. Paul Mc says:

    I would have thought designing a Ferrari formula 1 car is at the top of any F1 designers list. Perhaps the fierce McLaren vs Ferrari days have always placed them as the enemy.

  22. galletto says:

    Well, when those 3 worked together at Mclaren, they won nothing.
    Newey is part of the trio, of course.
    Let’s do not forget that although a Newey’s car is finally doing great, that that came after a very long time of failures.
    A lot of RB performance has to do with the flexy wing, which is still controversial. If it had to be tested with 200kg of downforce as in real life use, it woud not pass the test.

  23. DavidP says:

    Could it just be possible that Newey’s “Strange” refers to either Fry or Tombazis previously confiding in him that they would never work for Ferrari?
    Or Possibly he considers this an underhand attempt by Ferrari to take two of his former colleagues and attempt to deploy them together to outsmart him? Just a thought!

    1. outoftheloop says:

      Tombazis has worked at Ferrari for fives years and this is his second stint.

  24. James says:

    I think it’s missing the point to put everything at RBR down to Newey’s engineering talent. It may be more than that – his ability to push a particular vision and direction, and not allow it to be compromised down. *That* is something all the greats have, whether it’s Brawn or Byrne.

    It’s possible that Newey believes Costa is not the problem.

  25. nando says:

    Why did Mclaren let Fry go?

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