NOVEMBER 11, 1996
...but what happens to Barnard?
JOHN BARNARD has been in charge of chassis design at Ferrari since he signed a five year contract with the Italian team in August 1992 but when his current contract expires at the end of July next year all the signs are that Formula 1's highest-earning designer is going to be on the market again.
Barnard's reputation is based on the success of the first carbon composite Formula 1 monocoque - the McLaren MP4/1. The highly successful McLarens of the mid-1980s can all be traced back to this car. Barnard left McLaren to join Ferrari at the end of 1986 and was able to dictate his terms to the Italian company - he was given $2 million and his own design center in England - and from there he masterminded his next technical breakthrough - the Ferrari semi-automatic gearbox. At the end of 1989 he was lured to Benetton on a five-year contract but fell out with Flavio Briatore in 1991 and spent a year working on a secret design study for TOM'S Toyota before being offered another Ferrari contract.
There have been many rumors linking Barnard with Alain Prost's plans to takeover Ligier. This is possible as Prost and Barnard enjoyed working together at McLaren and the pair had long talks in 1989 about going into partnership in their own F1 team. Neither one, however, appears to want to invest his own money in a project and finding others to fund such ideas is not easy.
There have been one or two rumors suggesting that McLaren boss Ron Dennis would like to have Barnard back at McLaren. This makes a lot of sense but the two fell out acrimoniously after their split and it seems unlikely that their two management styles can ever be made to work together.
There have even been suggestions that Barnard might be hired by Tom Walkinshaw, who is rumored to be looking for a technical director as he cannot get Ross Brawn from Benetton.
Barnard may decide that he has had enough of F1 and, having made millions in his 15 year career, may choose to retire.