Thursday May 31st, 2001
By Alan Baldwin
The last time Adrian Newey changed jobs, Frank Williams explained exactly what the move signified for his Formula One team.
"Losing someone as good as Adrian is only half the story," he said of his former designer. "The other half is that in future he will be working against you."
If the reports this week, suggesting that Newey is contemplating another move from McLaren to Jaguar, are borne out then the familiar Formula One landscape is in for some major rearrangement.
Much of the talk in Monaco last week was of future revolution, with major carmakers pushing their plans for a rival series and FIA president Max Mosley giving his personal take on the situation.
But that upheaval, if indeed it ever comes to that, is expected to be years away. Arrows and Jordan also caused a stir in Monaco when they turned up with new radically-styled nose wings and had them promptly banned, a controversy that put the aerodynamics experts briefly in the spotlight.
If Newey moves, and Formula One sources have suggested that the deal is as good as done and could be out in the open in days, the boffins will be really making the news. Apart from signifying a major coup for Ford-owned Jaguar, such a signing will have massive implications.
It would doubtless be premature to predict the end of an era but it could certainly be the start of something big at ambitious Jaguar. Reports in the British media on Thursday talked of a possible three-year deal worth around 12 million pounds from August 2002 when his McLaren contract expires.
A period of "gardening leave" was seen as likely, similar to the time when Newey was forced to sit at home for eight months during his move from Williams to McLaren in 1996-97.
The speculation could yet fizzle out of course, with Formula One always capable of producing the most surprising twists and turns. But whatever the outcome, the talk has turned the spotlight onto the men behind the scenes.
Formula One cars may look pretty similar to the casual observer but they can be poles apart in aerodynamic efficiency, as Jaguar have already discovered to their cost. While the major carmakers can bring their powerful engines and piles of cash to the show, securing the services of a leading and race-proven aerodynamicist who can help shave seconds off a lap time is more difficult.
And it has become a priority for some. There is a battle going on behind the scenes, one cloaked in secrecy and accusations of skulduggery. Already this season we have seen Toyota lure away Minardi technical director Gustav Brunner, a man whose cars have earned a reputation for innovation despite the team's lack of resources.
The paddock rumour mill put Brunner's pay deal at somewhere around $12 million for three years. Newey is in another league again. Just as Michael Schumacher is no ordinary driver, Newey is no ordinary designer.
He has contributed towards six driver's and six constructors' titles in the last decade and is widely seen as an aerodynamics genius, a top man whose input can make a huge difference and whose services are much sought after. Newey has worked with Jaguar team boss Bobby Rahal before in the United States, earning his lasting admiration.
"Adrian is a hell of a race car engineer. When I worked with him in 1984 and 85, he gave me such confidence as a driver that I felt I could move mountains," triple Indycar champion Rahal wrote in his memoirs.
Jaguar, who entered Formula One last season after the Stewart team was renamed, secured the first podium of their Formula One history in Monaco with Eddie Irvine's third place. Even if the talk of Newey's arrival proves premature or downright wrong, it shows that Jaguar is now being talked of as a team attractive to the best talents in the business.
"We need to show that this wasn't a fluke and that is my motivation," commented Rahal after Monaco. "Because I am going to show to the world that Jaguar Racing are for real."
The arrival of Newey would certainly do that.