Brawn and Newey continue their rivalry

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Adrian Newey is the archetypal Formula One boffin, Ross Brawn the tactical brains who masterminded Michael Schumacher's string of titles.

The two men's rivalry as technical directors provided a constant thread through the 1990s and first half of the current decade and, after a brief lull, has resurfaced as fierce as ever this season.

While Newey's former employers McLaren struggle for pace and Brawn's ex-team Ferrari seek to recover from their worst start to a season, the old opponents are back at the top in new uniforms.

"Our paths seem to cross consistently over the years," Brawn agreed at last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix before his Brawn GP team took the chequered flag one-two ahead of the two Red Bulls designed by Newey.

"I was sort of relieved that he (Newey) had gone into a bit of a quiet period until this year. But he's back again with a vengeance."

After five races, the former Honda team that Brawn gave his name to following a management buy-out have won four times with Jenson Button and are leading the championship by a healthy 29.5-point margin.

Their closest challengers, and the only other team to have won a grand prix this year, are Red Bull with a strikingly quick car.

"We do seem to keep clashing against each other on the track, which is great," said Newey, whose calm and thoughtful exterior masks a passion for speed that has given his employers a few jitters over the years when he has raced some of his classic sportscars.

"It's interesting that we end up that way because, whilst at various times we have occupied the same job title, the way we go about doing the job could hardly be more different.

"Despite that very different approach, both appear to have their results," added the 50-year-old.


Brawn, 54, and Newey were briefly work-mates at FORCE, the Haas-Lola team who entered in 1985-86, but since then have been on opposing sides.

A trainee at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Brawn entered Formula One as a machinist with Williams but had left long before Newey arrived as chief designer in 1990 from the short-lived Leyton House team.

Newey helped to design the Williams cars that took Britain's Nigel Mansell and France's Alain Prost to the titles in 1992 and 1993 respectively while Brawn had taken on the technical director's role at Benetton in 1991.

In 1994, the pendulum swung Brawn's way with Schumacher's first title for Benetton followed up by a second in 1995.

Newey's cars won four drivers' titles and five constructors' crowns in his time at Williams but he moved to McLaren as technical director in 1997.

At the end of 1996, the softly-spoken 'Big Bear' Brawn, who has a penchant for munching bananas on the pit wall, had followed Schumacher to Ferrari and the stage was once again set for him and 'Schuey' versus Newey.

Newey's McLaren MP4-13 was a winner in 1998 with Finland's Mika Hakkinen, who won the title that year and the one after, while Brawn's Ferrari team won the constructors' championship six years running from 1999 to 2004.

Schumacher won five titles in a row from 2000.

By the time Brawn left Ferrari, taking a year out to travel the world and go fishing when Schumacher retired at the end of 2006, his Italian employers had enjoyed their most dominant period ever in the sport.


This season both men have benefited from a radical change in the rules and the fact that their teams were not competitive in the previous year, giving them more time for innovative approaches.

"I like these big rule changes, I find them stimulating," said Newey, who joined Red Bull in 2006 and also designed the Toro Rosso that Sebastian Vettel drove to victory in Italy last season before winning with Red Bull in China this year.

"I've known Adrian a very long time and I'm a huge admirer of his work," said Brawn, who could be found only a few hours after the Barcelona win queuing up with F1 fans and holidaymakers for a budget airline flight home.

"He works completely differently to how I do," added the Manchester-born engineer, who joined Honda as team principal last year only for them to pull out in December.

"I'm not on a drawing board any more. My approach is more about harnessing engineers and helping them understand what they need to do and try to manage the situation.

"Adrian is much more hands on and is actually coming up with the stuff himself."

Newey, whose wife was far from pleased when he celebrated Red Bull's one-two in China by taking one of his classic cars out on to the front lawn and performing wheel-spinning turns, agreed.

"Ross is obviously a gifted engineer...from what I hear he takes a fairly managerial approach to the job of technical director," he said.

"Whereas my interest and strength really has never been management. What I love and what gets me up is design in the broadest sense of the word.

"The overall performance package of the car is what I find exciting about motor racing. I like being hands on."

(Editing by Clare Fallon; To query or comment on this story email

Article Published: 14/05/2009