Interview with Jaguar's Ben Agathangelou

Interview with Ben Agathangelou, Jaguar's Head of Aerodynamics Q: Your job title is a relatively 'normal' one but some of your colleagues' job titles are rather unusual. How do you all fit in? "I believe good teams are built by bringing the ...

Interview with Ben Agathangelou, Jaguar's Head of Aerodynamics

Q: Your job title is a relatively 'normal' one but some of your colleagues' job titles are rather unusual. How do you all fit in?

"I believe good teams are built by bringing the right people together, and then applying appropriate job titles afterwards. I've always found the traditional way -- where you decide what job titles you're going to have and then hire people to fill those holes afterwards -- is an illogical one. So a separate head of department looks after each technical aspect of the car, and we all report to Ian Pocock [engineering director, Jaguar Racing], with Malcolm Oastler [chief engineer, Jaguar Racing] concentrating on pure engineering rather than any management duties."

Ben Agathangelou, Head of Aerodynamics at the Jaguar Racing Formula One team.
Photo by Jaguar Cars and Wieck Media Services, Inc..
"I'll have regular meetings with all those people, and they're all good guys. For me, the best working environment is where you've got like-minded people and no egos -- and that's what we've got at Jaguar Racing. I've worked for a number of F1 teams [McLaren, Tyrrell, Renault], but this team is the best I've ever worked for in terms of responsiveness to new ideas. I really mean that. I arrived [from Renault] in April 2002, and I was immediately impressed by how co-operative and receptive to change the whole workforce was."

Q: At 31 you're pretty young to be Head of Aerodynamics of a major F1 team. How did your appointment come about?

"Well, I joined McLaren straight from University, and stayed there three years. From there I took a bit of a gamble and moved to Tyrrell, working with Harvey Postlethwaite. That may sound like an odd decision, but it gave me what I was looking for -- which was more of an overview of the whole technical operation of an F1 team, rather than working exclusively as an aerodynamicist as had been the case at McLaren. I was in charge of three or four people at Tyrrell, and I learned a lot there. We didn't have a lot of money, so I learned how to be very selective in terms of what we researched, because you just weren't going to get more than one bite at any particular cherry... unlike at McLaren. So Tyrrell was great for me, very educational."

"After Tyrrell I went to Honda with Harvey, to do the RA099, the car that never raced. And it was my time at Honda that really accelerated my development, to be honest, because it was an all-new project that involved 18-hour days and all that. But when Harvey so tragically died, and the project gradually fizzled out, well, that was very disappointing."

"So I went to Benetton, and overall it went very well. By the end of 2001, we'd developed the B201 from a very low base into a pretty good machine. And I think it's the knowledge that I was a significant part of that very successful development programme that gives me the confidence to tackle my current role at Jaguar Racing -- because we're engaged in the same kind of sensible, logical, methodical, engineering-based development programme as I was involved in at Benetton."

Q: But is a sensible, logical, methodical engineering-based development prograame enough -- or does creating a competitive F1 car require a special 'x-factor'?

"No. Creating a competitive F1 car is an engineering discipline, plain and simple. And, because it's an engineering discipline, it's totally quantifiable. I'm not suggesting that Jaguar Racing is now ready to create a fully competitive F1 car for the 2003 season, but the process has begun. It might take a few years before we're fully competitive with the best teams -- but in terms of evaluating the technical challenge ahead of us, it's absolutely do-able. There's no magic. It's all physics."

Q: So describe the R4...

"It'll be a solid, sensible car. That might sound a bit staid, but that's because 'solid' and 'sensible' aren't sexy words. Well, I'm sorry, but that's what R4 needs to be. It needs to be a solid and sensible base that we can develop throughout 2003 and into 2004 and beyond -- because we can't keep junking everything at the end of every year and starting from scratch again, which to an extent is what happened between R2 and R3. We want R4 to be a rigorously specced car, with no anomalies. It'll be a platform on which to build and develop. So I'm not going to tell the media, 'Come and see the swoopy bits I've designed! Aren't they lovely?!' I'm more likely to say, 'There's our car. It's sensible and solid. It does what it says on the tin. Now we're gradually going to make it better and better.'"

-jaguar-

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Series Formula 1
Teams McLaren , Benetton , Jaguar Racing