Adrian Newey isn’t the type of guy who needs to interview for a job but, once upon a time, he was just like the rest of us…
The British engineer’s body of work includes some of motorsport’s most dominant machines in a career that has included designs to win the Indy 500 and multiple F1 world titles.
In 2023, the Newey oversaw the design of the Red Bull RB19, which became F1’s most dominant car ever as it won 21 of 22 Grands Prix en route to both championships. Over 30 years on from his first F1-winning design, the Williams FW14, it’s hard to imagine Newey having to apply for, and interview for, jobs like a mere mortal…
Adrian Newey recounts beginning of legendary design career
But a mere mortal Newey once was, and he had to apply for jobs like the rest of us – even if the interview process was somewhat different for him!
Appearing on the Formula For Success podcast alongside David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan, Newey told the story of how he found himself pursuing a career in design and ended up having a memorable job interview with Harvey Postlethwaite.
“From about the age of 10, I started wanting to be involved in motor racing as a designer,” Newey reminisced.
“I used to make these little Tamiya model scale kits and then, after a while, when I was about 12, I got bored making other people’s designs.
“I started sketching and making my own models out of bits of bent aluminium and fiberglass and stuff – that kind of really cemented the whole thing.
“So then I went to school, got booted out of school, went to a local technical college, got into girls and bikes, almost lost that direction, but came back to it.
“Then I went to university and studied aeronautical engineering on the basis that aircraft are closer to racing cars than any other kind of discipline. I wrote down addresses for teams, any teams I could find addresses for.”
But Newey was to get his shot, as he managed to get in touch with Harvey Postlethwaite at a time when the designer was working with a small and independent enterprise in the UK. Having had to find new employment following the folding of the Walter Wolf team, Postlethwaite had jumped ship to join Fittipaldi Automotive, where he penned the F8 just before he left to join Ferrari.
But, before he departed for Maranello, Postlethwaite gave Newey the break he needed to start his F1 career.
“When I graduated, this was 1980, so it was well before the internet,” Newey said.
“I generally got the catch-22 answer of ‘We don’t hire people without experience’.
“So I didn’t honestly know what I was going to do when Harvey Postlethwaite, at Fittipaldi at the time, rang me up and, luckily, I was in! He said, ‘Can you come for an interview?’ so I rode off on my Ducati up to Reading from Southampton.
“I sat in the little portacabin and Harvey came out and said, ‘Oh, you’ve got a motorbike’ because I was in my leathers. ‘What bike have you got?’
“I said a Ducati 900 SS, which was actually [bought with] will money from my grandmother. My parents were really pissed off that I bought that bike but, anyway, there we go!
“He asked for a go and I said ‘Yes, of course, be my guest!’ He went off around the industrial estate, disappeared for about 15 minutes, and came back.
“He came back, big grin on his face, took his helmet off, and said, ‘When can you start?’ So that was my one and only interview in my career!”
Newey would thus begin work as chief aerodynamicist on the F8 but, after Postlethwaite had moved on, Newey found a new job with March as a race engineer.