Interview with Tony Purnell

Interview with Tony Purnell, Chief Executive Officer of the Premiere Performance Division. Q: What made you and Richard Parry-Jones decide to revamp the way Jaguar racing approaches Formula One? "Well, I'll answer that in a roundabout way, if...

Interview with Tony Purnell, Chief Executive Officer of the Premiere Performance Division.

Q: What made you and Richard Parry-Jones decide to revamp the way Jaguar racing approaches Formula One?

"Well, I'll answer that in a roundabout way, if I may, in order to provide context and detail. After university, I went straight into a very fast-moving non-academic world: motor sport [with Lola and Newman-Haas]. Decisions got made in micro-time; we worked day and night; we scoffed at planning and all that kind of thing. Our ethos was anti-management, if you like."

New Head of Jaguar Racings premier performance division Tony Purnell.
Photo by Jaguar Cars and Wieck Media Services, Inc..
"Then I moved into supplying the automotive world [with Pi Research] and later the aerospace world [also with Pi Research] -- and I discovered that, if we wanted to do business with those kinds of guys, then we'd simply have to conform to their standards."

"But it took me quite a time to learn that lesson. At first I kept thinking, 'Why can't we just get on with it?' After a while, though, I began to understand that the moment your operation involves more than a handful of people, then the way the rest of the world does things -- planning, management and so on -- simply works better. And when Richard undertook his review of Jaguar Racing in 2002, what he found was a complete absence of that. And now he and I are trying to put that right."

Q: Why has Jaguar adopted such unusual sounding job titles?

"If you consider the role played by the traditional F1 technical director, for example, he's required to be something of a demi-God. Not only is he expected to have a full understanding of every last nut and bolt on his car, but he's also expected to be an able manager of the whole shebang. Yet, from my own experience, I've learned that technically very gifted people are rarely very good people managers. So the first thing we've done is to separate those two aspects of the traditional technical director's role. It's simply too much to expect from one guy."

"I'm not into autocrats; I'm into teamwork. For that reason I've tried to select titles that avoid requiring anyone to be a superman. So we've got no technical director, for example. No chief designer either. We wanted to appoint the right people, and then give them titles that accurately reflect what they're actually going to spend their time doing. So Ian Pocock [engineering director, Jaguar Racing] will be in charge of the management of the technical operation -- while Malcolm Oastler [chief engineer, Jaguar Racing] will be in charge of technical detail only."

"At British American Racing [where Oastler had been technical director prior to moving to a freelance consultancy role at Jaguar Racing in 2002], Malcolm had been in charge of absolutely everything: the traditional 'technical director as superman' role. And, as a result, he wasn't getting the opportunity to spend enough time doing what he's good at, which is engineering detail. And that was a terrible shame, because Malcolm is a very good engineer. But, at Jaguar Racing, no-one will report to him in the formal sense; they'll just do what he says. If he says he wants a certain material for a certain component, for instance, then that's what he'll get. What he won't have to worry about is management. Management is vitally important, but it's not what Malcolm's good at. But Ian's good at it, and that's what he'll spend his time doing."

Q: And what is your role at Jaguar Racing, precisely?

"I'm good at some things -- and not so good at others. In fact, there are quite a lot of things I'm not good at. But I'm lucky enough to have had a very good education. I've got degrees in aerodynamics, material science, mechanical engineering and metallurgy, and I've had a bit of business training, too. And I use that education all the time. Because, when a chap comes up to me and says, 'Look! This is how we're going to make the car go faster!'... then, even though I might not be able to do his job a fraction as well as he does it, at least I can fully engage technically with what he's telling me."

"Management-wise, when I started Pi Research, I learned loads of important lessons -- and I also learned what I wasn't good at. But one area in which I think I can be pretty effective is strategic thinking. I think I'm pretty good at recognising and hiring the right people, structuring an environment in which they can do what they're good at, showing them how to work with one another, and monitoring the whole process afterwards. However, I'm terribly bad at actually managing the process myself. But I know what a good manager looks like, which is why I've hired Ian Pocock and Dave Pitchforth [managing director, Jaguar Racing]."

Q: Why has Jaguar Racing selected two such inexperienced drivers?

"We've tried to ensure that our drivers are very much plugged into our new way of doing things from the start, and both Mark [Webber] and Antonio [Pizzonia] are absolutely with the programme in that sense. Mark, who is of course the more experienced of the two in F1 terms, is just so damned professional. He really is extremely impressive from that point of view. Antonio, meanwhile, is a very quick and talented guy -- and that, plain and simple, was the reason for our hiring him.

"I'm not into prima donnas. I've got no time for drivers trying to take control of everything -- tests, especially -- instead of being part of the team like everyone else. And I think both Mark and Antonio are very much aware of the tasks ahead of them, and will approach those tasks in an enthusiastic, co-operative and, above all, professional manner. And that's the right way, the only way; after all, however much of a megastar he might be, that's what Michael Schumacher does at Ferrari, even now, isn't it?"


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Richard Parry-Jones
Teams Ferrari , British American Racing , Jaguar Racing