Inside the mind of Adrian Newey: the F1 design guru opens up

first_imgShare on Pinterest Adrian Newey Read more Twitter Pinterest Ayrton Senna: F1 photographer Keith Sutton recalls a remarkable journey Reuse this content Ayrton Senna Red Bull Motor sport Read more Facebook As a Pink Floyd-loving public schoolboy in the mid-1970s, Adrian Newey found a clever way around his headmaster’s ban on platform-soled shoes. The relevant rule stipulated that if you could pass a penny on its end between the ground and the sole of the shoe, it was illegal. Newey reacted by glueing a strip of aluminium between the heel and the sole, thus reducing the gap while maintaining the desired height of the shoes. “No prizes for spotting the connection between that and what I do now,” the technical chief of the Red Bull grand prix team writes in his autobiography.What Newey does now is find ways around the most complex set of rules ever devised to control a sport: the Formula One technical regulations. Each time they are rewritten Newey sits down to decide how he can make them work to his advantage, ignoring what the rules were intended to do and concentrating instead on what their wording will allow him to get away with. Adrian Newey, second right, and the Red Bull chief, Christian Horner, right, talk with drivers Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, left, at the launch of the team’s 2014 F1 car in Jerez. Photograph: Andrew Hone/Getty Images Since you’re here… Newey’s honesty is balanced by an anarchic sense of fun – well hidden in post-race interviews – which leads him to give witty and acerbic glimpses of the character of the people and organisations with whom he has dealt over the decades. In his first job in F1, with the short-lived Fittipaldi team, he encountered an organisation that “ran on a diet of cigarettes, coffee and beige polyester” (this was the early 1980s). He recalls the big-name French aerodynamicist Max Sardou, whose designs he was assigned to improve, as always wearing a trenchcoat – “even in the middle of summer” – and driving his road car with the wing mirrors turned flat in order to reduce the wind resistance.He remembers Mansell as “an attack dog in the car. When he drove it, you knew it was being bullied into submission. You knew he was giving his best.” Prost, on the other hand, was one of those drivers who would “build up slowly, particularly in testing, never really stretching themselves or the car, so by the end of the day you’d be fretting, thinking: ‘Oh God, this thing’s slow,’ when it was just that Alain wasn’t really extending himself.” There’s not much doubt which approach Newey prefers.In the light of recent events his verdict on Lewis Hamilton, with whom he worked at McLaren, is interesting. “He’s a tremendously friendly guy,” he writes. “True, he’s gone a bit showbiz in recent years but he’s one of the few drivers who will stop and chat, give people the time of day.”Many of those who pick up this book will turn straight to the passages dealing with the early weeks of the 1994 season. They will be looking for fresh information or insights from the man who designed the difficult Williams FW16 that Ayrton Senna drove during his three races with the team. Following the Brazilian’s fatal accident at Imola, Newey was jointly charged with manslaughter before being exonerated by an Italian court. Share on LinkedIn Formula One Share via Email … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Support The Guardian blogposts He has interesting things to say about the circumstances surrounding that melancholy weekend, confirming the impression that Senna had his suspicions about the legality of Michael Schumacher’s Benetton. The opposition, he says, were “not playing with a straight bat”. But it was Newey who, in the runup to the tragedy, devised a welded modification to the car’s steering column in answer to Senna’s request for something to stop his knuckles rubbing painfully on the inside of the chassis. A popular theory suggested the Brazilian lost control when the shaft broke at the improvised weld, or that it fractured after the car had started to break away, leaving the driver helpless.Newey agonises over the possibility but eventually discounts it. “What I feel the most guilt about,” he writes, “is the fact that I screwed up the aerodynamics of the car.” He had produced a machine whose inherent instability contributed to the crash. By the time they got to Imola he had figured out what the problem was but solving it required more work, first in the wind tunnel and then in manufacturing new parts. “Time denied us all that chance,” he concludes.This necessarily sombre note falls midway through the tale of a boy who left school with some pretty damning judgments ringing in his ears – “disinterested, slapdash and rather depressing”, “behaviour extremely silly” – but eventually thought, rather than fought, his way to the very top of his sport.Newey is the most successful F1 designer in history but it is three years since one of his cars won a world championship. What we can be sure of is he will have spent the winter examining the regulations all over again, seeking the vital loophole to which he can apply his gift for “disruptive technology” – his term for getting around the rules.He makes no effort to disguise the price paid for that kind of success. “Marigold [one of his former wives] said I was the most selfish person she knew,” he reports, without flinching. This is, after all, a man who estimates he has spent a quarter of his entire life in a wind tunnel and does not appear to regret it.• Richard Williams’s column will appear in Tuesday’s Guardian from next week It is an endless process. Once Newey has spotted the loophole that allows him to produce a faster car than anyone else’s the rule-makers rewrite the regulations in order to foil him and he has to start all over again. All F1 designers are in this business but for the past 20-odd years, while winning 154 grands prix and 10 constructors’ championships with Williams, McLaren and Red Bull, Newey has been smarter and more creative in response to the challenge than any of his rivals.The attitude that eventually got him expelled from Repton produced the cars that took Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve, Mika Hakkinen and Sebastian Vettel to the drivers’ world championship. Newey is a visionary who approaches the job of designing these phenomenally complex machines standing at an old-fashioned drawing board, making freehand sketches with a propelling pencil, with two assistants on hand to translate the results into digital form. And the job is never far away. On a holiday beach in the Maldives a sudden brainwave has him reaching for paper and pencil.His book, titled How to Build a Car, is designed to look like a workshop manual. It contains diagrams of aerodynamic flow, which is his speciality. But how many workshop manuals include advice on the arrangements a divorced father might make for his children’s visits, or a description of the physical fights that took place when the author’s parents had been drinking? Share on Facebook Topics Sportblog Share on WhatsApp Share on Twitter Share on Messenger Why Adrian Newey just cannot bear to watch the new Senna movielast_img read more

Serena Williams won’t break Margaret Court’s record – and that’s OK

first_imgUS sports Share on Twitter Read more That’s not a slight to Court so much as context essential to grasping the scope of Williams’ body of work in a sport that’s never been more globalized and competitive, an evolution that’s only accelerated since Williams turned professional way back in 1995. Yet it’s never been clearer the final steps to yardstick supremacy may be a bridge too far. “I’m, like, so close, so close, so close,” Williams lamented after Saturday’s defeat, “yet so far away.”Four summers ago when Williams won Wimbledon for a sixth time to become the oldest player to win a grand slam singles title in the Open era, she improved to a preposterous 21-4 in major finals, redoubling her reputation as the greatest closer in sports. Since then, she’s 2-6 at the final hurdle. Of course it’s a testament to her greatness that she’s even playing that far into majors at an age when most players have decamped to name-brand academies or the broadcasting booth, but there’s no question the loss of her finishing kick, for which she has no answers, is what’s troubled Williams the most.The women’s field today is as deep as ever and the young lionesses of the tour, who for years cowered in Williams’s presence before the first ball went up, are no longer intimidated by the sport’s grand dame. Last year it was Osaka. This year it was the fearless Andreescu, now the first player born in the 2000s to win a major, who’s gone more than six months since losing a completed match. It’s not going to get any easier from here.It cannot be said enough we’re lucky to be living in Williams’ time. The story of a black female Jehovah’s Witness from Compton, who came from nothing and honed her craft on cracked public courts and persevered in the face of racism, sexism, illness and family tragedy to rewrite the history of a sport predominantly owned, played and watched by rich white people, is the ultimate American folk tale: a champion of the marginalized shining on the world stage. Like Tiger Woods, she’s brought people into the orbit of a sport who never would have bothered to watch a tennis match. And she’s blazed a path for a new generation of African American stars, like Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Taylor Townsend and now Coco Gauff, who are no longer cast as outsiders by default.Surely it’s possible Williams grinds out one more major title to tie Court’s mark or even the two she needs to surpass it. We know she’s more than capable of beating any player on the tour on a given day. She will have more than a puncher’s chance at the notoriously unpredictable Australian Open in January, where she’s already been installed as the betting favorite, or the friendly grass courts of Wimbledon next summer where her thunderbolt serve translates so well. Still, time runs short.Nature may finally be catching up to Serena, but her true impact transcends trophies and leaderboards. Finishing on either side of 24, now more than ever, is immaterial. Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Topics … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Tennis Share on WhatsApp Share on Messenger US Open Tennis 2019center_img Support The Guardian US Open tennis Share via Email Since you’re here… Share on Pinterest Serena Williams comment Bianca Andreescu sees a remarkable vision come true at US Open Reuse this content Anyone who’s followed the women’s tennis tour closely over the last year wasn’t too surprised when Serena Williams came up short in the US Open final against Canadian ingenue Bianca Andreescu in her latest bid to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 major singles titles. The only question entering Saturday’s match, same as last year’s championship showdown against Naomi Osaka, was whether a wildly talented youngster in her first grand slam final could hold her nerve against a champion twice her age. And, same as last year, it wasn’t long before it was obvious Andreescu could.Williams, who has won grand slams in her teens (one), 20s (12) and 30s (10, a record), but has been stuck on 23 titles – one behind Court – since the 2017 Australian Open, has reached the final in four of the seven majors that she’s entered since coming back from the birth of her daughter, failing to win a set in any of them. She turns 38 at the end of the month and is no longer so far ahead of the pack that another title feels inevitable. This is how sports work.Serena is not going to break this record. And that’s OK.Williams is the greatest women’s tennis player ever, a fact acknowledged deep down by even her most vehement critics. The record, or, specifically, wanting it to be beyond any plausible argument, is merely completism. Yes, major championships are the sort of established metric of greatness that sports fans dine on by mooring otherwise impossible cross-generational comparisons, but it’s fair to consider that more than half of Court’s 24 titles came before the Open era when the sport’s four bedrock events allowed professionals to compete with amateurs. Eleven came at the Australian Open during a time when many of the world’s best declined to enter due to the distance and comparatively minute prize fund on offer.last_img read more