In Formula One circles, any mention of the term “elegant design” would evoke memories of the Lotus 25, designed by the late great Sir Colin Chapman and the Williams and Mclarens of the ’90s designed by Adrian Newey. Newey still towers over the F1 fraternity as a Titan of design. Indeed, his cars are so aerodynamically efficient that Red Bull’s KERS units are smaller than those of their rivals so as not to eat too much space! But there is one other person whose cars where the ones which challenged and beat Newey’s and that was legendary Ferrari designer, Rory Byrne.
Byrne was the one who designed Michael Schumacher’s title winning Benettons in ’94 and ’95 before following the great German to Ferrari. And it was there that he unleashed his potential to develop some of the most successful cars ever to grace the circuits on the F1 calendar. From 1999 to 2004, the Rory Byrne Ferraris in the gifted hands of Michael Schumacher were near impossible to beat.
A car which till date, holds the lap record in almost all the tracks on which it raced, the F2004 was a marvel of modern engineering. In the hands of Schumacher and Barrichello, Ferrari won 15 out of 18 races that season and took 12 pole positions.
The car was so utterly dominant, that Schumacher romped to his seventh championship with four races to spare. It has been praised as the fastest car of all time, and with the way F1 cars are moving towards leaner and efficient designs with smaller engines , it should hold on to that record for a long time to come.
Byrne left Ferrari’s design team at the end of the 2006 season, but continued to assist the team till 2009. And now, after all these years, it has been confirmed that Byrne has been coaxed out of retirement and is working on the 2014 Ferrari design at Maranello. Last years Ferrari had been almost a second off the pace at the first race in Australia. It was only due to some tenacious driving by Alonso that the team were able to save face and remain contenders till the end. However, with Byrne joining the team for 2014 and a fresh set of regulations, it will be interesting to see what the South African interprets from the regulations and whether he will be able to out-think Adrian Newey.
In total, Byrne-designed cars have won over seventy Grands prix, seven constructors titles and six driver’s championships, making him one of the most successful F1 designers of all time. With him coming out of retirement, we will know in a year if that record is set to improve!