66 FALL 2016
FORMULA 1 RETRO
own driver [Mark Blundell, then Damon
Hill], own truck and own team. We had
fun there – and learned a lot of lessons.
“But the trouble with R&D is that
you’re always using spare resource to
some degree. You’re on the back foot
trying to grab and borrow bits, time and
effort from people. And if you don’t know
absolutely that it’s going to deliver, you’re
wary of a huge commitment in case it
puts your main program at risk.
“Adrian, for instance, had a lot on his
plate aerodynamically [including the blown
underwing concept] and didn’t particularly
get involved until we reached the point
where the system was nearly ready to race.
“Steve and I, meanwhile, knew how
painful it had been in ’ 88 to race something
[and the program’s initiator] Frank Dernie left
for Lotus in 1989. Patrick kept the faith.”
Technology finally caught up in 1991
and a current FW14 was fitted with active
suspension for the purpose of back-to-
back comparison with its passive cousin.
“Our system was massively more
complicated than 1988’s,” says Lowe.
“Although, if you laid it out on a bench,
you’d think it simpler because it was far
more elegant in its topology. But in terms
of software it did far more. 1988’s had
basically stuck at a constant ride height
at all speeds, the essential part of having
active suspension for aerodynamic
benefit. But we realized that there was
a large untapped area to expand into.
“By now we were scheduling ride
unsuitable, so we were perfectly prepared
to put in the time and effort. We wanted to
win with it, not embarrass ourselves again.
“We were sure that it would work, but
many weren’t. Patrick was very supportive,
though, and provided the resources
necessary for us to keep going after my boss
Nigel Mansell’s 1992
F1 drivers’ title was
the first of seven
– and counting – for
Lowe. Three more
followed during his
with McLaren, while
titles for Mercedes,
season’s, make it
seven so far.
(RIGHT) Nigel Mansell
relaxes before the
start of the 1992
Hungarian Grand Prix.
(FAR RIGHT) A
couple hours later, a
behind Ayrton Senna’s
the Williams driver’s
inevitable F1 World
five of 16 GPs to go.