Thursday 28 December 2017

Review: How to Build a Car: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Formula 1 Designer

How to Build a Car: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Formula 1 Designer How to Build a Car: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Formula 1 Designer by Adrian Newey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Adrian Newey has been living and breathing cars since he first started sketching them at the age of 12. The roots of this love were seeing his father pottering around in the garage on some project or other. Drawing them was one thing, what he really wanted to do was build them, so a welding course followed one summer holiday. He tried racing karts, having saved to buy one, but even though he enjoyed it, it was not his thing. He worked hard to get into Southampton to do a degree in mechanical engineering, however, the maths was a struggle. Leaving with a 1st, he wrote to Brabham and a lot of the other teams but nothing seemed to be offered until a chance call from Fittipaldi and his interview consisted of a nervous wait while Harvey Postlethwaite took his Ducati for a test ride. He was in the door.

The first car that he was involved with, Newey ended up redesigning the aerodynamics to meet the latest change in regulations. The team folded after the money ran out and he was offered a position at March working on the 83G as well as working on the car for the Daytona 24 hour race. Success in that meant he was seconded to Truesports to help with another Indycar. Then the opportunity beckoned for a place in a Formula 1 team, and he joined Leyton House where he had the chance to design a car from scratch. Other teams noticed his success and soon he was working for Williams on their FW14 to FW18 cars before being poached again by McLaren. Leaving there under a little bit of a cloud, he ended up with the newest team in the paddock, Red Bull. The owner wanted to make a serious investment in the sport to promote the brand and the drink and so began a new era and four world championships.

People are well aware of the drivers who wrestle these cars at 200 mph around some of the fastest circuits in the calendar. There are a few team heads that people can name, but most of the designers, engineers and aerodynamicists are completely unknown. But there is one who is almost a household name, Adrian Newey. To put it frankly he is an engineering genius. He has worked with almost all the big teams, using his wide experience in creating a car that just goes very very fast. These cars have, in the right hands, give some of the best drivers in the world race wins and world championships. I have been an F1 fan since the age of 8. I grew up in Woking, and McLaren has always been my number one team, though their performance in the past few years has not done them any favours. There is plenty of fascinating detail in this book, as Newey writes about some of his personal life as well as lots of information about the cars that he designed and how he solved the particular problems that the constant changes in regulation through up. Definitely a books for the die hard F1 fan.

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  1. This sounds fascinating! My husband and I have been watching F1 for the last two years and I've been thinking it would be fun to read something about it, but a lot of the author bios seem light and get poor reviews. I'd be far more interested in a book like this, that has something to do with the engineering side of things :)

  2. Definitely one for the geek. So I loved it