Designer & Aerodynamicist 1978-1988

Frank Dernie

Raised in Lancashire and Educated at Imperial College, London, Frank Dernie's first foray into Formula 1 was with the Hesketh team in 1976 who'd seen the suspension geometry software he'd developed whilst at college. Here he designed the Hesketh 308E - his first Formula 1 car. When Hesketh folded he moved to Williams Grand Prix Engineering under Patrick Head as aerodynamic assistant. Dernie's first car, the Williams FW07 was an unmitigated success and he and Williams continued producing winning cars until he was poached by Lotus to replace Gerard Ducarouge as Technical Director in 1987.

On arriving at Williams, one of the many areas Dernie would transform was Williams’ use of computer technology, becoming the first person/team in Formula 1 to design a car using CAD software.

His other responsibilities included aerodynamic development, for which he was solely responsible, something that was vastly improved when Dernie built Williams first wind tunnel at as a means to greatly increase the aerodynamic efficiency of their cars.

He would later be instrumental in the development of Williams’ active suspension that would ultimately develop into one of Williams’ key advantages of their championship winning FW14 and FW15s.

Dernie left Williams in 1989 to join Lotus as Technical Director, but by then the classic British marque was on the slide, and Ross Brawn – once at Williams with Dernie – enticed him to Benetton for 1991 where he was tasked with racing car development and strengthening the race team.

On leaving Benetton, Dernie worked for French constructor Ligier and British stalwarts Arrows, both by now midfield runners edging closer to F1’s scrapheap, before leaving F1 altogether to join Lola Cars as engineering chief in an effort to revive the British engineering firm’s fortunes.

He returned to Williams in 2003, first as an engineering consultant in an effort to boost the technical knowledge of the team, and then as ‘special projects engineer’ remaining at Grove for four years, before taking one last F1 gig with Toyota as an consultant aerodynamic and chassis engineer.

But Toyota’s F1 involvement was short lived and they withdrew in 2009.

Categories: Team


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