BEN AGATHANGELOU Head of Aerodynamics, Jaguar Racing Ben Agathangelou is one of the rising young stars of F1 aerodynamics. He was appointed head of the Jaguar Racing aero department in 2002 after a three-year spell as chief aerodynamicist at ...
Head of Aerodynamics, Jaguar Racing
Ben Agathangelou is one of the rising young stars of F1 aerodynamics. He was appointed head of the Jaguar Racing aero department in 2002 after a three-year spell as chief aerodynamicist at Benetton Formula /Renault F1. While there he was responsible for the all the aerodynamic aspects of the B200/B201/R202 race cars.
Prior to joining Benetton, Agathangelou spent 18 months as chief aerodynamicist for the Honda Racing Development Team, a project commissioned to assess the feasibility of the Japanese firm starting its own F1 team. His career began at McLaren as a CFD engineer (where he was later made responsible for wind tunnel testing) before leaving to work with the late Harvey Postlethwaite at Tyrrell in 1997.
Q: Your department has seen the biggest investment so far following the team's restructuring. How would you assess the improvements?
Ben Agathangelou: "They get the full thumbs up, without a doubt. Because the aerodynamics department was the first to benefit from the changes, I can honestly tell everyone within the team about the positives that have come from them. I'm the biggest advocate of what is going on here. There are obviously still lots of things we can do better - you don't become a world championship-winning team within a year - but we are definitely on the right path."
Q: People questioned the new structure when it was presented last year. Some said there appeared to be a lot of 'chiefs'. Was that fair criticism?
BA: "Well there are a lot of chiefs, if you want to use that word, but this is a complex organisation we are running here. Go and look at one of our rivals like McLaren. There are scores of people there with management responsibility. Of course there is a critical mass but we are not a big team and so far the right amount of management is in place. It may have looked top heavy to start with, but if you don't appoint the managers at the start then you can't get the people with the vision to follow. The aerodynamics department is the best example of why Jaguar Racing has got it right. Our department runs smoothly now and I could walk away for a week and be happy that it would all work without me being there."
Q: How have things actually improved for your department?
BA: "Just massively. In terms of motivation, discipline and strategy it is easily the best department I've ever worked in. There are no egos and we just get on with it. We've got nearly 50 people working here (twice as many as when I joined) and everyone knows their role. We all have job descriptions and an understanding of what we need to do and that makes us very disciplined. I'm very proud of that because it means there are not many things that we have got wrong recently."
Q: Do you take risks when it comes to development or is the structured approach always the best way?
BA: "The only risk that we take is when we are trying to understand the unquantifiable. The dynamic behaviour of a car is almost impossible to assess, so in order to learn we sometimes have to take a risk and try something new in the wind tunnel. If we get a hunch that there may be a solution to a problem then of course we will go and track test it, but we will have gone through a very regimented process of wind tunnel work first. We won't run things at a race that haven't been thoroughly tested any more. That happened in the past and still happens at a lot of teams. It may mean our progress is measured but I want to be in a position where we understand our car and don't repeat the mistakes of the past."
Q: Jaguar Racing's managing director and CEO both have aerodynamics expertise. That must help you when it comes to decision making?
BA: "The engineering ethos here is brilliant. I've been in teams before where the only thing that seemed to matter is what you read in the press about what other teams have got. Here it is different. We don't do things without good, engineering-based reason. The people who run this team actually understand why you need a good wind tunnel, for example, rather than just building something because everyone else has got one."
Q: What is your expectation of R5?
BA: "I know that R5 will be a better car aerodynamically but we are not ready to take on the big boys. What I am confident about is that we will make a step in that direction and close the gap a little bit more. We can even see where further improvements are going to come from, we just can't get there as quickly as people would like…"