Changes at Toro Rosso

The word on the street around Bicester is that Scuderia Toro Rosso has axed its head of aerodynamics, Australian Brendan Gilhome.  The logic behind this appears to be that the team did not make sufficient in-season progress in 2017. To be fair, Carlos Sainz finished fourth in one of the cars, as late as Singapore before he departed to Renault. Daniil Kvyat was destabilised for most of the season and Pierre Gasly and Brendan Hartley were both still learning, so the results at the end of the year are not perhaps the best criterion to use. Gilhome is an F1 veteran, dating back to 2005 when he joined Sauber from the automotive consulting firm  FKFS in Stuttgart. A PhD from Monash University in Melbourne, he spent five years with Sauber before joining Mercedes in 2010, where he was a principal aerodynamicist. Prior to his departure to join STR in 2013, he did the primary aerodynamic development of the 2014 Mercedes, which won the World Championship in the hands of Lewis Hamilton. Lured to STR by James Key, with whom he had worked at Sauber. The STR technical office in Bicester, where it has a wind tunnel, now employs 140 staff and has rented more space to fit everyone in. The team’s budgets have increased significantly but the results have not, despite team boss Franz Tost’s annual speech that the team can finish fifth in the Constructors’ Championship. Last year the team was its habitual seventh.

The word is that Gilhome will be replaced in his role by his deputy Ben Mallock, who has been with the team since 2012, having joined from Mercedes. He was a Red Bull aerodynamicist for four years before moving to Brawn GP early in 2009.


34 thoughts on “Changes at Toro Rosso

  1. I’ve heard of ‘you’re only as good as your last result’, but:

    > Prior to his departure to join STR in 2013, he did the primary aerodynamic development of the 2014 Mercedes

    If that’s really true (& I’m not doubting it if you say so), then this is starting to feel like ‘SPECTRE does not tolerate failure’ territory.

    Especially if the response is to replace him with… the guy who was his own deputy. How can things have gone so wrong that the team sacks the top guy and doesn’t hold his number two accountable at all? Did they spend the whole of 2017 arguing with each other?

    1. Being in charge of something should mean that you take responsibility. If aero is under performing, then you hold the guy in charge responsible. IF he’s being fired for poor performance, and we don’t know that that’s the case.

      They have to fill that role, and they might not be able to get a suitable replacement in the short term, so whatever the reason for the departure, putting the number 2 in charge (even if only in the short term) is sensible.

    2. These senior designers and engineers are being paid an awful lot of money. It’s a results based business and if you don’t deliver it is only to be expected that your reign will be curtailed.

      1. A great pity that all business is not run like that. Instead of merely by where your parents paid for you to go to school. Luckily Phillip Green is not involved in F1!

        1. If he headed up the aero for the 2014 Mercedes, he’s competent.

          If you sack basically competent people who make mistakes (instead of setting out to understand how it happened and take steps with those same people to prevent it happening again), you end up with a group of highly competent people who are highly risk averse and invest energy in not being blamed for things, for example by not working on anything that isn’t going well. See Ferrari passim.

      2. I imagine that a lot of the highly paid types are not actually employees of the team, but rather consultants contracting to the team. If they were regular employees, the team couldn’t just fire them. Labour law would come into play, procedures would have to be followed.

    3. Without being on the inside of the team it’s impossible to know, isn’t it? Maybe his deputy wanted to pursue an alternative development path but was overruled by Mr Gilhome, and said deputy has been astute enough to bring to the bosses’ attention that his approach would have yielded better results.

  2. According to McLaren, the Mercedes and Honda engines are designed in a similar way. McLaren have been boasting they’ve have overcome the issues the change from Honda to Renault power their chassis required for this season. Have Toro Rosso shot themselves in the foot by dispensing with Brendan Gilhome, who obviously has knowledge of the Mercedes engine layout?

    Possibly Brendan Gilhome has received a better offer from another team. One without a Latin temperament!

    BTY, It is alleged Bernie was guest of honour at Ron’s leaving party. Wonders will never cease.

    1. Max would have been a surprise guest, not Bernie!

      Brendan G must’ve been lured away, or perhaps it just didn’t work out?

      Renault are doing the most hiring at present.

  3. On the basis this is all based on”the word on the street” doesn’t this come under tittle tattle and as far as I am aware not you style?…..

  4. Joe,

    On further reflection, there seems to be a bit of a pattern in technical people being kicked out quite quickly (well it seems quick to me). I seem to have a mental model that says that technical progress in motorsport is uncertain, not just relative to other teams but against the clock – that mistakes happen, and that development directions that seemed promising sometimes simply turn out not to be.

    Is this no longer true (if it ever was)? Is failure to hit development targets something that simply shouldn’t happen unless someone wasn’t competent?

    If so (& I can just about conceive that it might be), isn’t that going to make team performance even more budget dependent in future, and reduce even further the scope for a team to outperform its budget? Seems to me that that’s not really desirable.

  5. Wasn’t so much the streets of Bicester that first had this story – it was on the Autosprout website a couple of days ago. But they didn’t know either whether Mallock will replace him.

    I suppose that someone leaving an employer can be for complex reasons, so its not necessarily a case that the no. 2 in the aero office is tainted by the same brush as the no. 1.

    It’ll be really fascinating to see how the teams behind the Big 3 will end up at the end of ’18. Most of them say they fancy their chances – but isn’t that always the case?

  6. Ben Mallock worked for me on the Chrysler NASCAR Truck program when he wast Reynard. Great guy and hope he does well. Grandson ? of Capt Arthur M.

  7. You could also mention the numerous engine failures they suffered at the tail end of the season being another factor for finishing in 7th yet again.

  8. James said let’s go North. Brendan said hold on maybe we go north-east, Frantz said damn yuall, one goes south another goes wherever

    1. I suspect that in the motor racing world, as in IT, most of the folk are itinerant contractors. Those, including my son, to whom I have talked do so from choice. Even though I was fairly itinerant during my working life, I find the lack of any real commitment difficult, the contracts are very one sided, but that seems to be the way they like it. life has chnged.

      1. Richard Noble either wrote in a book or said in an interview, that when he was putting one of the Thrust projects together he feared the job insecurity would deter the best people. On the contrary, the best people were confident that if it went belly up they’d soon find something else, so didn’t mind it.

      2. Not all of IT is contract or short term or itinerant. I’ve been in my current department for over a dozen years, with colleagues who’ve been longer than that. And I was at my last place for six years. Very few itinerant contractors in my career path as they’re seen as expensive here-today-gone-tomorrow types.

        1. Presumably different companies different modus. The ones of which I have second hand experience are some of the biggest in the land with a very high proportion of contractors. I can see the attraction from both sides but the desire to stay loose, of the contractors, and they ain’t spring chickens, surprises me. They operate at all levels and do earn big pennies but seem to like the lack of commitment.

      3. Less so now, with IR35 and all that. In my very humble experience, the teams want to tie in the top guys with long contracts with long gardening leave coming out of that. They want to ensure that the contents of their heads are available to their rivals at short notice. Contractors tend to be the lower down folks (like me).

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