Chapman was an F1 innovator
© Bob Harmeyer/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Meet the stars behind F1’s best cars

Behind every great driver is a great designer, here are 10 of the best.
By Will Gray
5 min readPublished on
Legendary F1 designer Colin Chapman once said: “A racing car has only one objective: to win motor races. If it does not do this it is nothing but a waste of time, money and effort.” That says it all.
Behind every successful driver is an equally great car and behind that is the most important man in the team: the designer. looks at ten of the best F1 designers ever...
Barnard with Schumacher on his first Ferrari test
Barnard with Schumacher on his first Ferrari test

John Barnard

Best known for: Introducing the carbon fibre chassis to F1
Barnard went from making light bulbs to designing a title-winning McLaren in the 1970s and became a true innovator in his F1 career.
Teaming up with Ron Dennis at McLaren, he introduced the carbon fibre monocoque and the ‘coke bottle’ rear end in some of the most attractive, innovative and dominant cars of the mid-1980s.
He then sandwiched two spells at Ferrari around one at Benetton, where he and Rory Byrne built the basis for Michael Schumacher’s success. He now runs his own automotive design company.
Brawn GP won both titles in 2009
Brawn GP won both titles in 2009

Ross Brawn

Best known for: Taking his own team to title glory
Although Ross Brawn is also an F1 engineering legend, his role has always been more as an overseer.
The number of people involved in the design and manufacture of an F1 car has ballooned. It’s now way more than a one-man job and has led to the birth of the technical director role.
Brawn is of the biggest success stories in this position, having led Benetton and Ferrari to multiple world titles before becoming a team principal himself at Honda. He then led his own eponymous team to the title in 2009 and steered Mercedes before retiring in 2014.
Byrne was part of the Schumacher dream team
Byrne was part of the Schumacher dream team

Rory Byrne

Best known for: Being part of the Schumacher dream team
A quiet South African, Byrne shunned the limelight but was a key part of the Team Schumacher success stories at Benetton and Ferrari.
A chemist with no formal engineering training, he began with Toleman and took his first win with Gerhard Berger and Benetton in 1986, where he eventually teamed up with Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher. The successful trio won two titles there before moving to Ferrari and winning six constructors' and five drivers' titles in six years.
Chapman was an F1 innovator
Chapman was an F1 innovator

Colin Chapman

Best known for: His innovative design with Lotus
Chapman’s unyielding focus on weight reduction helped him to enjoy huge success with his Lotus team in the 1960s and 1970s.
“Adding power makes you faster on the straights; subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere,” he once said.
Lotus’ innovations included suspension struts, stressed monocoques, sidepods, wing and ground effect aerodynamics and even team sponsorship; Chapman won titles with Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt and Mario Andretti.
John Surtees drives his Cooper Maserati into Turn #11 at the US Grand Prix October 2, 1966 at Watkins Glens
Putting the engine in the back changed the sport

John Cooper

Best known for: The rear-engined chassis design that changed the sport
In a radical move Cooper and father Charles decided to put the engine in the back of a racing car and revolutionised the sport.
In the hands of Stirling Moss the Cooper T-45 won the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix, beating the previously dominant Italian teams, and in the following two years Jack Brabham raced Coopers to back-to-back world titles.
Costa has won titles with Ferrari and Mercedes
Costa has won titles with Ferrari and Mercedes

Aldo Costa

Best known for: Titles with both Ferrari and Mercedes
F1’s man of the moment, former Ferrari man Costa is now working his magic with Mercedes, helping create the dominant Silver Arrows.
Costa assisted Rory Byrne at Ferrari through the golden years of Team Schumacher and took over in 2006, but after limited success he left five years later to join Mercedes.
He led the design of the 2013 W04 under technical director Bob Bell and has developed the subsequent evolutions that have continued to dominate and still currently lead the way.
Head co-founded the Williams F1 team
Head co-founded the Williams F1 team

Patrick Head

Best known for: Co-founding Williams with Sir Frank Williams
Head co-founded Williams with Sir Frank Williams and dedicated his entire career to the team, leading the engineering side for 27 years.
They won within two years, with Clay Regazzoni in 1979, and took the title with Alan Jones a year later. More success came in the late 1980s with Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet, but when Head brought in Adrian Newey things went to another level.
Their dominant partnership from 1991 to 1997 led to multiple wins and world titles with four different drivers. When Newey departed, the team failed to hit such highs again and Head eventually retired in 2012.
Murray's controversial 'fan car'
Murray's controversial 'fan car'

Gordon Murray

Best known for: The Brabham BT46B 'fan car' that won its one and only race
Murray created some of the most radical and successful Grand Prix cars in Grand Prix history.
He made his name with the Brabham ‘fan car’ – an ingenious design that was withdrawn after taking victory in its only race. Two titles followed before he joined McLaren-Honda and led designers Steve Nichols and Neil Oatley in the team’s late 1980s success. He left F1 to set up McLaren cars in 1991 and now runs his own firm creating lightweight city and sports cars.
Newey made Red Bull Racing a dominant force
Newey made Red Bull Racing a dominant force

Adrian Newey

Best known for: Winning multiple titles for Williams, McLaren and Red Bull Racing
Newey has won titles with three different teams and has racked up almost a century of race victories in Formula One.
Despite being expelled from school, he graduated in aerodynamics and joined F1 with March in the late 1980s, quickly gaining a reputation for putting aerodynamics ahead of any other aspect of design. At Williams, with Patrick Head, he won five titles and he took one more at McLaren before joining Red Bull in 2006, where he, Christian Horner and Sebastian Vettel enjoyed a run of four consecutive titles.
Uhlenhaut helped Mercedes to titles in the fifties
Uhlenhaut helped Mercedes to titles in the fifties

Rudolf Uhlenhaut

Best known for: The title-winning Mercedes' of the 1950s
Uhlenhaut became Mercedes’ head of race car development five years after joining Mercedes from university and created the famous ‘Silver Arrow’ W25 and the W125, one of the most powerful racing cars ever.
After the war, he created the dominant W196R which, with fuel injection based on a Messerschmitt fighter plane and a famous ‘streamliner’ body won nine of its 12 races and helped Juan Manuel Fangio take the 1954 and 1955 F1 titles.