Strat Packer's blog
Creative and intellectual output beyond the realm of my day job
Review – How to Build a Car by F1 designer Adrian Newey
It’s the last Friday of the month, which means it’s time for an off-topic post – this time on How to Build a Car by legendary Formula 1 designer Adrian Newey – a book that’s just as much a history of the sport’s recent regulatory changes as it is an autobiography.
It took me an age to read this book. According to my Amazon account I ordered it on Boxing Day last year, and yet here I am in late September having just finished the final pages. To be clear, that’s due to the impracticality of carrying a huge hardback around and not due to its contents – when I could set aside the time to read it, it was an absolute page-turner.
The insights Newey provides in How to Build a Car are amazing. Although I was aware of his role and status as one of the sport’s greats, I didn’t know just how much influence he had in the successes of Williams, McLaren, and Red Bull from the 1990s into the 2010s.
Here we get the detail behind those years, with first-hand accounts of everything from the highs Red Bull’s quadruple drivers’ and constructors’ championships between 2010 and 2013 to the lows of Ayrton Senna’s tragic death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, including tales from the pit lane and a look at how teams innovate around changing Formula 1 regulations.
While I’m not enough of an engineering geek (yet) to be able to understand all the technical details and drawings that Newey lays out in the book, it was fascinating to take a closer took at how the smallest changes can make a big difference on the F1 track, and of course to read the anecdotes about what some of the sport’s biggest names are like behind the scenes.
Newey is also candid about his personal life, on everything from his initial inspirations and efforts to land a job in motorsport to the strain that the demands of Formula 1 put on his relationships and marriages. There are also some more light-hearted tales, like the time Newey performed on stage with Damon Hill and George Harrison at his 40th birthday party.
All in all, this book had the perfect balance of Formula 1 glamour, engineering geekery, and behind-the-scenes stories. With Christmas coming up in a few months, this would make a great gift for any motorsport fan – and I guarantee they won’t take as long as I did to read it!