PEOPLE: DR. HARVEY POSTLETHWAITE
Name: Dr. Harvey Postlethwaite
Nationality: Great Britain
Postlethwaite studied at the Royal Masonic School in Bushey, Hertfordshire before going on to Birmingham University where he studied mechanical engineering. When he left college - with a doctorate - he joined ICI as a research scientist in the petrochemical department. He became very bored because his passion was motor racing and in 1970 he applied for a job with the newly-formed March Engineering. He joined a junior designer and produced March Formula 2 and Formula 3 cars until he was lured away to work for Lord Alexander Hesketh, who had big ambitions in F1 and a wild young driver called James Hunt. Harvey modified a customer March F1 car and Hunt rapidly became a serious contender in F1 in the course of 1974. That winter Harvey designed the Hesketh 308 and Hunt put the new car on pole for the Race of Champions. A few weeks later he won the International Trophy at Silverstone.
That year Hunt took the 308 to three third places and finished eighth in the World Championship. The following year - as Postlethwaite developed his innovative rubber-spring suspension - Hunt won a famous victory at the Dutch Grand Prix.
Hesketh's money was running out, however, and at the end of the year the team's assets were sold to Walter Wolf, a partner in the newly-formed Wolf-Williams team. Harvey went with the cars - which became known as Williams FW05s. The team was not a success and a few months later Frank Williams and Wolf split. Williams set up Williams Grand Prix Engineering and Wolf created Wolf Racing. Postlethwaite designed the Wolf WR1, a conventional Cosworth package. For 1977, Jody Scheckter was hired from Tyrrell and the team surprised everyone (including themselves) by winning their debut race in Argentina. Scheckter went on to win the Monaco and Canadian GPs and scored six other podium finishes to end the year runner-up in the World Championship to Niki Lauda.
The package was the same in 1978 but the arrival of ground-effect made it a less successful season and Scheckter was lured away to Ferrari for 1979. Wolf hired James Hunt but his motivation was gone and he quickly retired, to be replaced by Keke Rosberg. By then, however, Walter Wolf had grown tired of his F1 adventure and sold the team to Emerson Fittipaldi.
Postlethwaite designed the Fittipaldi F8 and Rosberg drove it with some success, overshadowing Fittipaldi in most events in 1980. Emerson gave up driving that winter, intending to run the team, but the money dried up and in May 1981 Enzo Ferrari asked Postlethwaite to move to Italy and teach the Italians how to build competitive F1 chassis. Postlethwaite designed the 126C2, powered by Ferrari's remarkable V6 turbo engine. The team won the 1982 Constructors' Championship, but the achievement was overshadowed by the death of Gilles Villeneuve and by the accident which maimed Didier Pironi. The following year Ferrari won the Constructors' title again with Harvey's 126C2B.
Postlethwaite loved Italy and stayed at Ferrari despite the politics, until the summer of 1987 when the team edged him out by hiring John Barnard. Harvey moved to Tyrrell where, working with Jean-Claude Migeot, he developed the groundbreaking raised-nose Tyrrell 019 with which Jean Alesi stunned the F1 community in 1990.
Harvey was in demand again and in 1991 joined Sauber to oversee Mercedes-Benz's return to Grand Prix racing. When the Stuttgart company decided to do it unofficially, Harvey went back to Ferrari. By then the political battles at Maranello had reached monumental proportions and after a year Harvey was pushed out again. He convinced the Tyrrell Family to give him 10% of their team and went back to Ockham.
While the Tyrrells tried to find the money, Harvey ran the Tyrrell F1 team and eventually became managing-director. In many ways it was his team. Money was always short but Postlethwaite built up a young and talented engineering team, including Mike Gascoyne. They dreamed up the hydrolink suspension, a pneumatic semi-automatic gearbox and the famous X wings.
At the end of 1997, the Tyrrells sold out to British American Racing. Postlethwaite had little choice but to stay on to run the operation until it closed down. He then went to be head of the new Honda Racing Developments team in Bracknell, running a prototype F1 car which had been built by Dallara in Italy. He was overseeing the testing of this when he died on a heart attack.
Postlethwaite was also an important member of the FIA Advisory Experts Group.