Head of Aerodynamics 2017-2018

Dirk De Beer

South African Dirk De Beer's first taste of Formula 1 came in the early part of the millennium when he joined Sauber after cutting his 'racing car aero' teeth in Indycar. Spells with Lotus/Renault and Ferrari followed before he joined Williams in 2017 at the beginning of a difficult time in the team's history, and was given garden leave little more than a year later after a disappointing start to the 2018 season.

Having attended Grands Prix in his native South Africa, Dirk De Beer inherited his father’s love of F1 at an early age and set his sights on becoming a Formula 1 aerodynamicist.

After gaining a degree in aeronautics at Imperial College, London, he joined US firm Swift Engineering, then building Indycars for Newman Haas amongst others, where he worked his way up to Head Aerodynamicist.

When Swift withdrew from Indycar at the end of 2000, De Beer took a job with Sauber in Formula 1, becoming their principal aerodynamicist.

When Sauber was bought by BMW in 2008 De Beer jumped ship to Lotus/Renault where he remained for five years contributing to a number of race-winning cars, until Ferrari called and (as is the case for most F1 bods) the lure of the Scuderia was too great to resist.

He remained at Maranello, where he again enjoyed much success, until March 2017 when he joined Williams as Head of Aerodynamics, tasked with giving the team a ‘new aerodynamic direction’.

Since the outset of the turbo hybrid Williams had pursued a low-drag design philosophy, giving them an advantage at high-speed tracks left them on the back foot at slower circuits, such as Monaco and the Hungaroring.

The shift in direction was intended to make the 2018 car a better all-rounder, with the ability to cope equally well with both high-speed and low-speed circuits.

It turned out to be adept at neither.

The design of the Williams FW41 may have been aggressive but it was also a complete disaster, and as a result De Beer found himself out of a job in May of that year when he stepped down following the departure of fellow Williams aerodynamicist Ed Wood two months prior.

By that point in the season, the FW41 had showed itself to be fundamentally flawed, and that its issues were largely around its aero package causing issues with cooling and stability leading to a solitary top ten finish in the opening half-dozen races of the season.

De Beer went on gardening leave, where he remained until he agreed a deal with Renault, with whom he’d previously worked, to become their head of aerodynamics ahead of the 2020 Formula 1 season.

Categories: Team


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