It was the first launch for Geoffrey Willis at his new team, Red Bull. Willis joined the team in July, taking on the role of Technical Director. The biggest challenge that Willis received at Red Bull was to resolve the reliability problems the team suffered in 2007.
On 23 July 2007, Geoffrey Willis joined Red Bull Technology, taking on the role of Technical Director.
His arrival renewed a partnership with Adrian Newey that dated back to when both men, who share a common interest in yacht design, were at Williams. The Southampton-born Cambridge University graduate worked for the British America’s Cup team in 1987, where he developed hull and keel designs using computational fluid dynamics. His first Formula One role came with the Leyton House team, from where he joined Newey at Williams, eventually becoming Chief Aerodynamicist. He moved to BAR in 2002 and left the Honda team in 2006. After a period of the traditional gardening leave, he swapped compost for composites and flower beds for flow charts as he returned to the world of Formula One.
“When I first started with Red Bull,” says Willis, “I needed time to see what worked and what didn’t work in the team and then to concentrate on the most important problems first. Clearly Adrian (Newey) set the performance agenda for the car, in a lot of areas that I understand well after working with him for many years. The most important thing for me is that I’ve clearly understood what Adrian’s concept is so that we are not working at cross-purposes. It’s fundamentally a good technical team so I’ve been able to work on what needed fixing, ensuring that RB4 is manufactured on time, while trying to help build in reliability that comes from the design stage. Ultimately, these days, a lot of reliability results from the packaging. We are trying to make cars smaller and more tightly packaged and compress the design stage to buy ourselves more time in the wind tunnel, so we make the job harder and harder for ourselves. In the past, there would be discussions about whether you wanted a reliable car or a fast car. Frankly, to be successful in today’s championship, a car has to be both fast and reliable.”
When not hard at work, Willis likes to squeeze in some time on the ski slopes. “Personally, I prefer snowboarding and I’m more proficient at it, but now I have a young son, I think I’m going to have to improve my skiing. I’m still keen on mountain biking, but as I get older I find that crashing mountain bikes just gets more and more painful and the scars take longer to heal. After more than a decade away from riding motorbikes, I’ve succumbed to temptation and bought a new toy - and become, as Adrian insists on calling it, ‘an organ donor’! As a ‘born-again biker’, however, I’m confident that my lack of bravery eclipses my talent limits - ‘tocca ferro’, as we’d now say at home.”