OCTOBER 14, 1996
Brawn to Ferrari, Byrne to retire
BENETTON is rumored to be facing a major reshuffle of its engineering staff with technical director Ross Brawn and chief designer Rory Byrne both rumored to be leaving the team.
Brawn is tipped to be on his way to Ferrari to head the technical department while Byrne is set to retire after 15 years in F1 with Benetton, Toleman and the stillborn Reynard F1 team. The 52-year-old from Johannesburg plans to retire to Thailand where he intends to indulge in his passion for scuba diving. He has been mentioned in relation to a Reynard project to build a factory in Thailand to produce racing chassis for the emerging Asian countries.
Brawn's move to Ferrari has yet to be confirmed, although stories doing the rounds at Suzuka suggested that he has already signed a contract and will be leaving Benetton at the end of December.
Ferrari's current technical director John Barnard has a contract until the end of July 1997 but is unlikely to stay on. The team is already edging him out, planning to close down Barnard's Ferrari Design and Development facility at Shalford and having already terminated his windtunnel program at British Aerospace in Bristol.
The hiring of Brawn would please Michael Schumacher, who worked with Ross at Benetton, but is surprising in that Brawn has worked in the same area of England since he started in Grand Prix racing in 1977 and was not thought likely to be very keen on moving to Italy.
The suggestion in the paddock in Japan was that the Benetton technical directorship will go to Pat Symmonds, the current head of research and development and the role of chief designer will go to 30-year-old Nick Wirth, the former boss of the Simtek F1 team, who joined Benetton in August 1995 after Simtek had gone into liquidation.