February 11, 2013 (F1plus).- It was not a mistake, but yes, in the middle of the crowd gathered at the F138 launch couple of weeks ago, Rory Byrne could be seen. The veteran chief designer of the Scuderia during the glorious years of the first half of the past decade, was there, and immediately rumors began circulating about his alleged involvement in working on the 2014 model, the first in a new generation of cars very different from those of today due in large part to the addition of turbo engines.
The South African Rory Byrne, (January 10, 1944, Pretoria), was the lead designer and a key to the success of Michael Schumacher in his Benetton and Ferrari's days. His cars have won 99 Grand Prix and seven Constructors' Championships, which places him among the best designers in F1 along with Adrian Newey and Colin Chapman.
Although he has maintained a close relationship with Ferrari, Byrne retired from F1 at the end of the 2006 season (but he was kept for few more years as “Consultant”) leaving his post to Aldo Costa, his assistant since 1998, so he could dedicate to his diving school.
Well, today Ferrari has confirmed that Byrne is actively working on the design of the Ferrari 2014 car with Fabio Montecchi who leads the task and reports to Design Chief Nicolas Tombazis. The project is known as the ‘665', and by bringing Byrne, Ferrari hopes to get ahead of the curve.
Byrne's return to the forefront of the battle has generated many questions. On one hand, some people argue that with 69 years under his belt, it will be a big of a challenge to compete with men like Adrian Newey, the “yoda” design of recent years with Red Bull; Aldo Costa, the man who replaced him at Ferrari, or Paddy Lowe (if he does not leave McLaren finally, as it has been rumored).
Others argue that Formula 1 today is far from where it was in the winning years of Byrne. Now you no longer have a virtually unlimited supply of tires, as happened to be with Bridgestone, nor you can test your design as you please in the Fiorano circuit. The ban on private practice has been a drag on Ferrari for some time, with almost every soul din the team complaining; from the guard at factory door, to Mr. Montezemolo.
In its favor is its resume. He was the only one able to leave blank the Newey everyone fears and for a long time (five years), besides he is still respected within the Ferrari ranks. He has participated in the design of road cars such as the new Enzo, the Italian factory, and has the full support of Nicholas Tombazis, Chief Designer, and Pat Fry.
As we all know, most teams have been working on their 2014 machines for a while now, Byrne seems to be one of them. The German publication, Auto Motor und Sport, quoted the 69-year-old as saying in reference to the ‘Project 665’: "It's a nice car, but compared to what awaits us in 2014, it's all child's play".
This might sounds encouraging but it is too early in the game, and it is also unknown what others are putting together. Nevertheless, it brings a good level of reassurance to hear those words coming from such a reputed designer.
The South African will have to change his lifestyle though. He currently spends two thirds of the year in Thailand, which is half a world away from Maranello, and given the dryness of titles for Ferrari the latest years, pressure to delivery a winning machine will mount as the 2014 season gets closer.
So, will Rory Byrne make a big difference?