ROBERT TAYLOR Head of Vehicle Design, Jaguar Racing Rob Taylor has worked for some of Formula One's biggest teams. Before joining Jaguar Racing in 2002 as head of vehicle design he helped Ferrari return to the top of the F1 ladder when he served...
Head of Vehicle Design, Jaguar Racing
Rob Taylor has worked for some of Formula One's biggest teams. Before joining Jaguar Racing in 2002 as head of vehicle design he helped Ferrari return to the top of the F1 ladder when he served as the design engineer for suspension systems and gearbox. He has also served as the suspension design engineer for the Benetton team between 1989 and 1992.
After leaving college, Taylor worked in the advanced projects department of Rolls-Royce as a design engineer before joining Cosworth in 1987 to help design the HB V8 Ford F1 engine. After his stints at Benetton and Ferrari he joined the Arrows F1 team in 1997 where he was design manager for the carbonfibre gearbox programme.
Q: As head of vehicle design, you must have been pleased with the improvement shown by last year's car?
Robert Taylor: "Looking back, I actually think 2003 was a bitter-sweet season. Structurally the car performed well and showed good speed but the reliability was poor and that was down to a lot of different factors that we now have to work on."
"The bottom line is that if you build components, race them and take them apart again, sooner or later something will break or someone will make a mistake. We actually had very few mechanical failures in 2003 and nothing that happened was down to a major design flaw or problem, we just suffered from niggling faults that came from every area."
"We obviously hope to start this season with a more reliable car and as the team gels we should move in that direction. It's worth pointing out that the R5 is an all-new car, not just a revised 'R4B', so although it has naturally evolved from what we learnt last season there are some quite significant changes that have been built into the car."
"We have worked hard over the winter to improve on our weak areas. The R4 car suffered because it wore out its rear tyres too quickly, so we have made efforts to improve our weight distribution and that means we have had to try out some new manufacturing techniques for parts at the rear of the car. The gearbox, for example, will be stiffer and lighter, which will help the suspension and stop the rear tyres being worked too hard."
Q: How would you compare the new R5 to last year's version?
RT: "The R4 was a pretty good car. It was well-engineered, stiff and light but fairly basic really. It was a sensible, back-to-basics car that worked well. We have now pushed on from there and will bring some new developments to the R5 which will address issues that we had in 2003."
Q: Obviously the aerodynamics department works closely with vehicle design when it comes to building the new car. How does their new wind tunnel help with the overall design process?
RT: "The thing that most helps the mechanical side of car design is having more time to build something! While the new wind tunnel is vital for the aerodynamics department to improve the shape of the car it doesn't actually mean we get to work on building it sooner. This is Formula One after all and in F1 you always push things up to the limit. If you weren't up against the clock and sat back and had that extra cup of tea, it would mean you weren't ekeing out the last possible improvement. It's nice that the aero team has better tools to use but I'd actually be disappointed if that meant we just used our time less efficiently."
Q: Is the overall quality improving across the board at Jaguar Racing?
RT: "My whole job is ensuring that the quality and depth of design is there. Things are improving, so we need to keep doing more of the same and give guidance to the design engineers so that we all move in the same direction. The mentality of designers means that it is very easy to get distracted by something extremely interesting but not necessarily totally productive! Before you know it they can be off down a route they don't need to take. So it's my job to give them the freedom to think but every now and then call them back and corral their creative instincts."
Q: How do you hope to start the 2004 season?
RT: "With a car that won't be as disappointingly unreliable at the beginning. The easier we can make the car for people to work on, the lower the stress levels will be over a race weekend. A car that is hard to work on leads to mistakes somewhere along the line. So if you can lower the stress, be it in people or the car itself, then reliability should improve."