The Secret Diary of Adrian Newey first appeared on the ITV.com website in 2002. The title was adapted from Sue Townsend’s hugely successful book and TV series The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and ¾. At the time, Adrian was very close to 43 and ¾. Now, with Adrian approaching 53 and ¾ his world is significantly different, though some things do remain the same…
Well then trusty tome, the 2012 season beckons. Our American colleagues have a saying, “another day, another dollar”. We have a saying at Red Bull, “another season, another 345 million dollars”. Or, if Christian Horner were able to edit this compendium of intimate jottings, “another season, another sum totally in line with the Resource Restriction Agreement.”
I knew the coming year would be a challenging one, what with undercurrents about active ride and the problems of a shifting race calendar, but I didn’t think it would be tricky from 9 a.m. My P.A. was promoted just before Christmas and I was too busy, with a most irksome RB8 exhaust vibration issue, to interview her replacement, so Christian said he would sort me out someone suitable. I walked into my office on January 3rd and blow me down sitting behind the outer desk was Marlene, my old P.A. from McLaren days. Going under the name of Jana now.
We had lost contact after I joined Red Bull, though I did get a Christmas card from her in 2004 saying she was working for a banker in the City of London.
“I prefer working for F1 team,” she told me in her characteristically blunt Slavic way, “in City they all want to try and sleep with you.”
“Oh dear,” I think I muttered.
“But F1 team is better. They only want to know what car you drive… And can they modify your suspension.”
I have to say, diary, I’m not sure that someone asking to modify 6-foot blonde Jana’s suspension isn’t a euphemism, but it’s an innuendo that escaped her completely. Chortle chortle. It was probably Paddy Lowe.
Mid-morning the wild Australian boy stuck his head round the door.
“Hiya Prof, happy New Year!” he shouted, continuing his theme that I am Professor Pat Pending from the Wacky Races.
“Shouldn’t you be in a canoe up a mountain?” I retorted. And felt rather pleased with that response.
“Nah, I’m on for a bit of simulator,” he replied and was off again.
I set to work on some irritatingly troublesome KERS issues that had been drawn to my attention when Jana buzzed through mid-morning.
“I have small boy out here,” she said, “he won’t go away. What do you want me to do with him?”
“Is he lost?” I enquired.
“No, he says he needs to speak to you. I already tell him we have no Saturday jobs.”
I scurried to the outer office and there was a very crestfallen Sebsatian looking a little confused with the world. I hastily introduced Jana and told her that he was actually a double World Champion. She looked him straight in the eye and said “At what?”
I have to tell you diary, both Sebastian and I fell about laughing, because she kept a completely straight face throughout. It brought back memories of my time with her at McLaren (when she was extraordinarily rude to everyone) and because she was my PA (and I was No.5 in F1 Racing magazine’s Most Powerful People In F1 poll) everyone accepted it. At some function she once told Ron Dennis that he should be a hypnotist. And when a flattered Ron replied, “Why, do I have mesmerising eyes?” she said “No, because you send people off to sleep.”
The only time I ever made her laugh was when I referred to Norbert Haug and Ron as ‘The Laurel and Hardy of the pitlane’. “Hah!” she exhaled. “You right!” One laugh in three years. Probably a good strike record with Jana. She thinks that World Champions have to be at least 28 years old, six foot tall and have a six o’clock shadow. So she’ll like Mark. I suddenly realised that there was another link between McLaren and Red Bull, apart from their studious copying of my exhaust systems.
“Remember Scottish David, at McLaren,” I ventured. “You know, the one we nicknamed McVulcan.”
Her face softened, “Yes, I do,” she replied. “He was very nice man. But I never understand why he have symbol for bowling alley strike on his helmet.”
“Well, he drove for us at Red Bull, and then Sebastian took over from him three years ago.” She studied him a little bit more.
“He should have been at school then.”
Safely inside my office Sebastian gave me one of his looks.
“She is quite something, isn’t she.”
“Yes” I replied curtly. Quite frankly I can’t see her staying beyond her three-month trial period, but I think it’s only fair to tackle Christian about it first.
“Oh and congratulations on your OBE,” Sebastian said, faultless in his manners as usual. “What does that mean?”
In two short sentences that is the tyoical Sebastian Vettel. Very polite and also thirsting for knowledge.
“It means,” I said, a whimsical smile playing on my lips, “that you have to call me Lord Newey from now on”. A wicked deception trusty tome, but he expects that from us. He thought about it for a second.
“So that means you are like Lord Voldermort…?”
First soup of the New Year was, I have to confess, a dismally thin carrot and coriander with stale garlic croutons and a lifeless parsley topping. Christian arrived on my second spoonful. He smiled at me knowingly. “How’s it going?”
I didn’t answer the obvious question and told him that Sebastian had come to see me this morning and wanted to know everything about the design of the 2012 car. Everything. Last year he did homework on Pirelli tyres and made a special visit to their factory. This year it’s the car.
“He wants to start off by seeing how a brake pad is put together. He’s going to go through the car component by component. “
Christian muttered something and it sounded a little like his namesake.
“I’ve got so many sponsor events he needs to do…”
Seeing Christian discomforted like that emboldened me.
“And what about my new PA,” I started, “what was the thinking there…?”
At this Christian smiled. “She’s perfect for you Adrian. You’re a perfect match.”
I was on the point of bristling. There is only one perfect match for me and she is at home - but then he continued in his usual irresistible way.
“This is the most critical time of the year. The last thing I need is you getting bothered and distracted by people for no reason at all. Jana’s perfect, I think even I’d struggle to get past her.
“Of course you would,” I countered, “She’s six-foot.”
We paused, both trying to think of someone who could get past her easily.
“What about Helmut?”
“That’s going to be the interesting one.”