JUNE 8, 2001
Jaguar's legal bid to get McLaren's attention
ADRIAN NEWEY, man who shook the sport last week by apparently signing a multi-million pound deal to move to Jaguar, then to change his mind and agree a similar deal to stay with McLaren, is staying back at base this weekend.
Yet such a strategy has already been overtaken by events. On Thursday, just after McLaren issued a lofty statement announcing their wish "to put this matter behind them in order to concentrate on motor racing," Jaguar Racing played what could be a trump card.
It confirmed that it had obtained an injunction against McLaren at the High Court in London restraining McLaren from entering into or continuing any contract of employment with Newey beyond 31 July 2002.
This was an stark reminder that Jaguar and Ford, its parent company, are prepared to play hard ball to get the point across to both McLaren that they are not prepared to sit compliantly by after the designer turned his back on a firm agreement to join them.
Ron Dennis is understood to have changed Newey's mind by promising him exciting new technical challenges when he tires of formula one - including the possibility of building an America's Cup yacht. Many rivals in the paddock at Montreal were sniggering over this, believing it would never happen and implying that Dennis was prepared to offer the world to ensure Newey did not move.
For their part, McLaren believe that Jaguar was being disingenuous in issuing a media release last week confirming that Newey would be joining them only hours after Newey told Rahal that he had changed his mind and would be staying with his current employer.
The ferocity of the battle over Newey's services also serves as a reminder of the shortage of inspirational top line engineers in formula one today. Such characters are worth their weight in gold, McLaren winning two world championships since Newey joined the team in 1997.
Newey is one of the few men who can make a quantifiable difference in a world where winning or losing are separated by hundredths of a second. He is obsessive about his business, teasing and worrying at a technical challenge which might make one of his cars pick up one-tenth of a second a lap.
Newey might be forgiven for having quite an ego, yet he is extremely self-effacing. He modestly plays down his contribution to the McLaren-Mercedes equation, insisting that he is just a member of a closely integrated team.
Yet he also has a strong individualist streak within him. When he joined the Woking company, one of the first things he did was to have his office decor changed. Out went the sombre dark wood to be replaced by a light and air duck-egg blue paint scheme. It is now firmly fixed in McLaren legend that company chairman Ron Dennis momentarily lost the power of speech when he first saw it!
Newey also has a great reputation as being very open minded. He admits he doesn't know everything and is quite prepared to listen to a colleague who thinks he might have a better way of doing things. In that respect, he is very easy to work with.
"The role of a technical director is wider than that of a chief designer who is responsible for the mechanical development of the car, or the chief aerodynamicist who is responsible for the aerodynamic development of the car," he explained.
"I bring people together and try to orchestrate the whole design process."
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