Who’s who in British motorsport

We’re always hearing how the UK is at the very centre of the international motorsport industry – and here are some of the reasons why. It’s not just the teams and the factories we have in abundance but the people too.

Cue our who’s who of British motorsport. If you want to know more about someone you’ve heard mentioned, or to find out about the background of someone you’ve been seeing in TV broadcasts or reading about in blogs, then look no further:

James Allen
Former ITV F1 commentator who has carved out a new niche as one of the sport’s most authoritative writers through his blog. The son of a racing driver, he started out as press officer and print journalist, became a pitlane reporter for US sports network ESPN in 1997 and was one of Britain’s voices of F1 from 2001-2008. Has a talent for conveying a fan’s thrill and love for the sport despite insider status. More here…
Ross Brawn
A British engineer credited with masterminding Michael Schumacher’s 15 years at the top of motorsport and his record as one of the greatest drivers who has ever raced. Brawn has worked in motorsport since 1976 as a mechanic and engineer and is credited with one of the sport’s most formidable tactical brains. He worked as technical director for Benetton and then Ferrari until 2006, when a management shake-up led him to take a sabbatical. He returned in 2007 for Honda and, when that manufactuer announced its intention in winter 2008 to withdraw from Formula One, took the team over and won a double World Championship in 2009. Now reunited with Schumi at Mercedes GP. More here…
John Button
Jenson’s dad, allegedly responsible for naming him after either a sports car marque or a racing rival, was a notable racing driver in his own right. Button senior competed in Rallycross where he drove a famous self-built Volkswagen known as the Colorado Beetle as well as running a Wiltshire-based VW/Audi dealership. His most notable results were as runner-up in the Embassy/RAC-MSA British Rallycross and TEAC/Lydden Rallycross championships of the year 1976. Just over 10 years later, he bought his son a kart and took him to an airfield to race it. The rest is history. Check out this 1978 photo for a glimpse of how strongly his son resembles him. More here…
Ron Dennis
The dynamo behind the McLaren F1 team began his career in motorsport with Cooper Racing in 1966. Within two years he was at Brabham and, by 1971, ready to start his own team, Rondel Racing. A couple of other ventures led to Project Four and a 1982 buy-out of McLaren. Very soon the team was a front-runner in Formula One through careful selection of partners including Niki Lauda and Mansour Ojjeh, with Dennis noted for his hands-on approach. The 90s were pivotal with Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Mika Hakkinen and Adrian Newey all on board and a clutch of non F1-related companies growing apace. A struggle to find form in the early part of this decade culminated in Lewis Hamilton’s world championship win last year – he was also hand-picked by Dennis. But in 2009 Dennis handed over to Martin Whitmarsh then cut all links with the F1 team, moving on to manage sportscar production for McLaren Automotive. His departure will be forever overshadowed by the team’s attempt to mislead the stewards at the Australian Grand Prix. More here…
Bernie Ecclestone
As Formula One’s promoter, Bernie Ecclestone has made a billion-pound fortune. He started from humble origins, turned his hobby of riding motorcycles into a business and was soon racing cars. An accident diverted his interest to management and, after a couple of false starts, he bought into Brabham during the 1971 season. By the late 70s his interest had turned to F1 administration and he became involved in the all-important task of negotiating television rights. In 1978 Ecclestone became chief executive of the Formula One Constructors’ Association and formed an association with the lawyer Max Mosley. A series of skilful legal manoeuvres brought the television rights under his control and he set up a company to administer them. In 1997 he negotiated a ten-year Concorde Agreement cementing his position at the heart of Formula One’s financial arrangements. In 2005 he came to a deal with CVC Capital Partners that sold his share in Formula One to a banking group but that also gave him a stake in the company. More here…
Nick Fry
The BAR, Honda and Brawn GP chief executive started work with Ford in the late 1970s, specialising in market research and product development. He stayed with the company until 2002 when he became managing director of Prodrive, expanding its business very successfully into the engineering services market. As a result he was appointed as Prodrive’s Group Managing Director in charge of both engineering and racing at the company. He was soon also put in charge of BAR F1, retaining his management at Prodrive. He survived the team’s rebranding as Honda in 2005, and was appointed managing director of the new outfit, a role he kept until Honda backed away from its F1 team in 2008. He became Chief Executive of the reborn Brawn GP and its successor Mercedes GP. More here…
Mike Gascoyne
A big-name aerodynamicist whose career in F1 started in 1989 at McLaren and who has also worked with Sauber, Tyrrell, Jordan, Toyota, Spyker and Force India. He is recognised as a superbly talented engineer but has also been at odds with his employers more than once over the direction and management of their teams. In 2001 he founded the MGI group, a company that offers a range of services including aviation, yacht charter and asset management. It was recently announced that this company would work for Litespeed F3 on preparing a Formula One entry but instead he found a home with the new Lotus F1 team. More here…
Louise Goodman
A pitlane reporter for ITV F1 for the entire 12-year span of its coverage, she became emblematic of the increasingly visible and hands-on role taken by women in the sport. Goodman worked in Jordan’s marketing department before crossing over to television presentation. She also drives competitively, sometimes in charity events, and was the first woman to be part of a pit crew during a live F1 race. She is currently co-presenting live coverage of the British Touring Car Championship for ITV with Steve Rider and has fronted programmes from The Goodwood Festival of Speed and The Goodwood Revival Meeting, worked in the Le Mans pitlane for Channel 4 and presented several other motorsports programmes. More here…
Anthony Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton’s dad is credited with moulding one of the most successful careers in current motorsport from humble beginnings – with no family connections or significant wealth to help him. With his family based close to Stevenage in Hertfordshire, he took redundancy from his position as an IT Manager and became a contractor, juggling numerous jobs to support his son’s career and attend all his races. Lewis has since said that his father’s attention to detail, such as reminding him to keep his kart clean in order to make a good impression, was a major contributing factor to his success with McLaren. Hamilton senior later set up his own computer company as well as working as a manager for Hamilton on a full time basis. He has recently stepped back from a hands-on role in Lewis’ career to join Mark Blundell at North Hertfordshire-based 2MB Sports Management, the company the former driver used to run with Martin Brundle until the latter quit to concentrate on his journalistic career. The pair are diversifying into wider sports management. More here…
Patrick Head and Sir Frank Williams
Founders of one of the most tenacious and successful teams to compete in F1. Williams F1 was Sir Frank’s third venture and was formed in 1977, and its list of collaborators is impressive, including Alan Jones, Keke Rosberg, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna (who was killed while driving for the team, leading to Head, Williams and designer Adrian Newey facing manslaughter charges that were finally dropped in 2005). The team has won nine constructors’ and seven drivers’ titles, with the secret to its success being put down to Head and Williams’ complementary management skills. More here…
Christian Horner
The Arden and Red Bull team principal is a former racing driver from Leamington Spa who competed in British F3, F2 and Formula 3000. He retired from racing after the 1998 season to set up his own team in that series, aged, just 25, employing Darren Manning for two seasons but initially unable to make a breakthrough. 2002 saw Arden take its first title, lost at the last minute after driver Tomas Enge failed a drugs test. The next year saw the title won officially and from then onwards things only got better for Arden, which now competes in GP2. In 2005 Horner was recruited by Red Bull as one of the youngest team principals in F1, and is most famous for jumping into a swimming pool in Monaco in 2006 naked except for the promotional Superman cape worn by David Coulthard on the podium there, as the result of an ill-considered bet. History does not record what Coulthard was doing at the time. More here…
Eddie Jordan
The former owner of what many would consider to be one of the ultimate privateer teams, Republic of Ireland native Jordan is now working as a summariser on BBC F1 broadcasts. Jordan was bitten hard by the racing bug after trying out karting as an adult. He moved on to open-wheel cars and had some success as a driver, also competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1981. He founded Eddie Jordan Racing in 1979, which ran Martin Brundle to second place after Ayrton Senna in the 1983 British F3 championship, then set up Jordan Grand Prix in 1991. The team consistently punched above its weight but eventually fell into decline in the changed financial circumstances of F1 and Jordan sold out to The Midland Group in 2005. The team has since been sold on and renamed Midland, Spyker and Force India. Jordan is reported to have made an unsuccessful bid for a F1 grid slot for the 2008 season but found a home in 2009 as a colourful element of the BBC’s F1 coverage. More here…
Max Mosley
Mosley is the former President of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the organisation that oversees international motorsport – and widely viewed as a divisive figure. The fact that his father was the British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley has ensured him a less than straightforward path through life. He developed an interest in motor racing while visiting Silverstone in 1961 and was soon competing enthusiastically, saying this was one arena where he was not constantly judged on his father’s identity. He retired from driving in 1969, having qualified as a barrister in the intervening years, and helped set up March Engineering. The team entered Formula One in 1970, and Mosley quickly became involved in the Formula One Constructors’ Association due to his legal training. After leaving March in 1977 he became legal advisor to FOCA, which was led by Bernie Ecclestone. He represented that organisation throughout the 1980s and a long dispute with the then governing body, FISA, before helping draw up the Concorde Agreement that ran until 2007. He ran for FIA president in 1991, unseating the incumbent, and served four terms before handing over to his preferred successor, former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt. More here…
Adrian Newey
Autosport recently cast the battles of aerodynamicist Adrian Newey and engineer Ross Brawn at various teams as the defining narrative of Formula One over the last two decades. Newey has worked in F1 and in the US Indy Car series in many capacities but is best-known as a designer of championship-winning cars. He has performed engineering feats for Williams, McLaren and Red Bull and recently expressed the sentiment that he may be nearing retirement from F1. What will Ross Brawn do without him? More here…
Jonathan Palmer
These days Jonathan Palmer is best known as a promoter, running the MotorSportVision company that operates Brands Hatch and Snetterton, and overseeing series such as Formula Palmer Audi and Formula 2. But he started out as a racing driver, having first trained and worked as a doctor, racing in nearly 90 grands prix and winning championships in both F2 and F3. Having wound up his career with a period as a McLaren tester in 1991 he went on buy and develop the Bedford Autodrome and to represent Justin Wilson, the first Formula Palmer Audi winner, on his quest for a F1 drive. More here…
Ian Phillips
Known to racing fans as an occasional radio or podcast pundit, Phillips is an F1 insider with years of experience, meaning that his observations are always worth hearing. His most recent role was as Director of Business Affairs at Force India, a team he had worked for since its Jordan days. His background is in journalism after he began working life as a messenger at Autosport in the 1960s. Within a few years he was the editor. During the 1970s he managed Donington Park when it re-opened courtesy of Tom Wheatcroft (see below) then moved on to a cancer charity set up in memory of Swedish F1 racer Gunnar Nilsson who died, aged 30, in 1978. Another spell in journalism followed as Phillips made the switch into public relations, a move that saw him become more involved with team management until he was offered the job as head of March F1. In 1990 he moved to Jordan, and stayed there through its Midland, Spyker and Force India incarnations, eventually quitting ‘by mutual agreement’ in 2010.
Tony Purnell
The former team principal of Jaguar and Red Bull started his career as an academic and researcher specialising in F1 aerodynamics. In the 1990s he founded Pi Research, a company based on software he had developed, and he built it into a global electronics business before selling it to Ford. He became a multi-millionaire in the process. When, in 2002, the company tired of Niki Lauda’s efforts to run its Jaguar Formula One team, Purnell was given the job along with David Pitchforth. Two moderately successful years were not enough to convince Ford to keep the team, however, and in 2004 it was sold to soft drinks magnate Dietrich Mateschitz who turned it into Red Bull. Purnell continued as team principal until 2005 when he was succeeded by Christian Horner. In December 2006 he became a technical consultant to the FIA and has since been a Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor at the Engineering Department of Cambridge University. His FIA connections were severed following Max Mosley’s departure as president.
David Richards
Richards is in his native element as a team principal, having run both the British American Racing and the Benetton F1 squads. But he also raced as a rally co-driver, partnering Ari Vatanen, and his company Prodrive ran Subaru’s iconic entry in the World Rally Championship. Richards is currently chairman of Aston Martin, a luxury car marque which has just revived its Le Mans racing tradition. Everybody feels that something is out of kilter as long as Richards is outside F1 – but he has expressed extreme caution about entering the series until he is convinced an entry is economically viable. He actually won the right to compete in 2008 but did not enter a team due to dispute about the status of customer entries. More here…
Joe Saward
Saward is a well-regarded F1 journalist with a 10-year spell on Autosport to his credit, where he rose to become Grand Prix editor. In 1992 he relocated to France and started his own business. He has written for F1 News as well as setting up the Business of Motorsport newsletter and GrandPrix.com. He is the author of motorsport books including The Grand Prix Saboteurs and The World Atlas of Motor Racing and also maintains a personal blog where he is outspoken on the importance of first-hand reporting to the racing world.
Rob Smedley
As Felipe Massa’s race engineer at Ferrari, the former engineer for Williams and Jordan was very nearly the closest Englishman to the world championship – if it wasn’t for that pesky Lewis Hamilton. He moved from Jordan to the Ferrari test team after the 2003 season with the aim of working in a more technical role then, mid-2006, he replaced Gabriele Delli Colli as Felipe Massa’s race engineer with profound consequences for the Brazilian driver. Under the guidance of the older man, with his extensive racing experience and discipline gained from years in the British scene, Massa was able to outperform team-mate and World Championship winner Kimi Raikkonen to come within one point of taking the title himself. More here…
Pat Symonds
The head of engineering at Renault has been working in motorsport since the early 1980s – and with the same team, in several different incarnations. What is now Renault used to be Benetton, and before that was Toleman, and Symonds worked for all of them. He’s held a wide variety of technical jobs, including working as race engineer to Michael Schumacher and as the team’s head of research. He became Technical Director in 1996 after Ross Brawn left for Ferrari, then Executive Director of Engineering in 2001. His career appeared to have ended in ignominy in 2009 after Nelson A Piquet accused the team of cheating in the previous year’s Singapore Grand Prix to secure a victory for Fernando Alonso. He was serving a five-year suspension from the sport but a recent settlement with the FIA has reduced that to three years. This means a return is possible but maybe not probable. More here…
Tom and Kevin Wheatcroft
Tom Wheatcroft is the man who saved the Donington Park racetrack for the nation. Born locally, he had little formal education, preferring to spend his time watching racing at the track through a hole in the hedge. He served as a tank driver during the war then returned to the East Midlands to found a flourishing construction business that eventually netted him a fortune of more than £100 million. But he wanted to see nothing less than Grand Prix racing returning to the defunct Donington park, and so set about making it happen. He set up his own racing team in the 1960s then, in 1971, he bought the part of the Donington Hall estate containing the circuit and rebuilt it. He also moved his collection of classic racing cars there, forming the basis of an exhibit that can still be seen today, and persuaded Bernie Ecclestone to stage the 1993 European Grand Prix there. He died of cancer in October 2009 at around the time it became clear Donington Park would not be hosting future F1 events. His son Kevin has taken over the circuit management and is setting about bringing it back into commission. More here…
Martin Whitmarsh
The McLaren Racing CEO and team principal has spent much of his career with the company, having joined as an engineer and manager from British Aerospace in 1989. He’s been quietly working away behind the scenes ever since, assuming more and more of the responsibilities originally held by Ron Dennis. Whitmarsh was promoted to Managing Director in 1997 and to CEO of McLaren Racing in April 2004. He became team principal in March this year when Dennis announced his intention to concentrate on developing the production car side of the McLaren business. Since then, Whitmarsh has determinedly walked a path of co-operation, compromise and the winning of allies for his beleagured team. More here…
Peter Windsor
One of the men behind 2010 F1 hopeful USF1, Windsor is also well-known as a motorsport journalist and F1 insider. He worked for Autocar for 15 years as well as producing location reports for US cable channel SPEED TV and overseeing F1 press conferences. His background with the teams is in marketing and management – as sponsorship manager at Williams, then in management roles at Ferrari and again at Williams. In 1986 he was a passenger in the car crashed by Frank Williams in southern France, leaving him paralysed. Windsor escaped with minor injuries. He worked as Grand Prix Editor of F1 Racing magazine and helped putting together the unsuccessful USF1 bid along with American motorsports engineer Ken Anderson. More here…

Is there a name we’ve missed off this list that you think we ought to include? If so, why not let us know? Bearing in mind that our remit is to cover British drivers in open-wheel racing, we will welcome your suggestions – just drop us a line here.

Information from the online encyclopedia Wikipedia has been used in compiling some of these entries. For more information on the terms of re-use of its material, visit this page.

 
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