Harvey Postlethwaite

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Harvey Postlethwaite
Harvey Postlethwaite.jpg
Postlethwaite in the late 1990s
Born(1944-03-04)4 March 1944
Barnet, England, UK
Died15 April 1999(1999-04-15) (aged 55)
Barcelona, Spain
Cause of deathHeart Attack
Education Royal Masonic School for Boys
Alma mater University of Birmingham
Occupation Aerodynamicist, engineer, Technical Director
Known for Scuderia Ferrari, Tyrrell, Hesketh, Honda F1 project.
Spouse(s)Cherry Postlethwaite

Harvey Postlethwaite (4 March 1944 15 April 1999) was a British engineer and Technical Director of several Formula One teams during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. He died of a heart attack in Spain while supervising the testing of the abortive Honda F1 project. He was married to Cherry and had two children, Ben and Amey.

Formula One is the highest class of single-seater auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) and owned by the Formula One Group. The FIA Formula One World Championship has been one of the premier forms of racing around the world since its inaugural season in 1950. The word "formula" in the name refers to the set of rules to which all participants' cars must conform. A Formula One season consists of a series of races, known as Grands Prix, which take place worldwide on purpose-built circuits and on public roads.

Honda Manufacturer of automobiles, aircraft, motorcycles, and power equipment.

Honda Motor Company, Ltd. is a Japanese public multinational conglomerate corporation primarily known as a manufacturer of automobiles, aircraft, motorcycles, and power equipment.

Honda RA099

The Honda RA099 was a prototype Formula One racecar, commissioned by Honda, designed by ex-Ferrari and Tyrrell designer Harvey Postlethwaite and built by Dallara in 1999. Its purpose was similar to the one surrounding the Toyota TF101 of 2001, in that it was supposed to be a working test car used in preparation for a full-scale assault on Grand Prix racing in the following year/s.


Early career

After leaving the Royal Masonic School for Boys, Harvey Postlethwaite attended the University of Birmingham, England to study mechanical engineering and graduated, with a BSc and then a doctorate, during the 1960s. He was a keen follower of motor sport, competing in a Mallock at club level for a while. After graduation Postlethwaite joined ICI as a research scientist, but bored by this he soon began to pursue a career as a race car engineer, joining March in 1970, then aged just 26. Postlethwaite worked on the fledgling company's Formula 2 and Formula 3 cars but was lured away to join the Hesketh Formula One team who were a March customer. The Hesketh team was well known for an unconventional approach to Formula One—Postlethwaite was himself considered 'eccentric':

Royal Masonic School for Boys

The Royal Masonic School for Boys was an independent school for boys in England.

University of Birmingham university in Birmingham, England, United Kingdom

The University of Birmingham is a public research university located in Edgbaston, Birmingham, United Kingdom. It received its royal charter in 1900 as a successor to Queen's College, Birmingham and Mason Science College, making it the first English civic or 'red brick' university to receive its own royal charter. It is a founding member of both the Russell Group of British research universities and the international network of research universities, Universitas 21.

Imperial Chemical Industries company

Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) was a British chemical company and was, for much of its history, the largest manufacturer in Britain. It was formed by the merger of leading British chemical companies in 1926. Its headquarters were at Millbank in London, and it was a constituent of the FT 30 and later the FTSE 100 indices.

"The Doc's explanation of his move to Hesketh was that 'They got me drunk'." [1]

Formula One

Working to modify and improve the novice team's March 731 chassis, Postlethwaite elevated the team into serious contention and the following year designed the team's car from scratch. 'Doc' Postlethwaite's 1974 Hesketh 308 secured a number of podium positions. The following year he further developed the car's unusual rubber spring suspension and saw his creation take victory at the Dutch Grand Prix in the hands of James Hunt.

March Engineering was a Formula One constructor and manufacturer of customer racing cars from the United Kingdom. Although only moderately successful in Grand Prix competition, March racing cars enjoyed much better achievement in other categories of competition, including Formula Two, Formula Three, IndyCar and IMSA GTP sportscar racing.

1974 Formula One season sports season

The 1974 Formula One season was the 28th season of FIA Formula One motor racing. It featured the 1974 World Championship of F1 Drivers and the 1974 International Cup for F1 Manufacturers, contested concurrently over a fifteen-race series which commenced on 13 January and ended on 6 October. The season also included three non-championship races.

Hesketh 308

The Hesketh 308 and its derived sister model the 308B are Formula One racing cars designed by Harvey Postlethwaite for Hesketh Racing to compete in the 1974 and 1975 World Championships. The car gave James Hunt his first World Championship Grand Prix win in the 1975 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.

By 1976 Lord Hesketh could no longer afford to run the team and sold out. Postlethwaite went with his cars to the newly founded Wolf–Williams Racing, headed by Walter Wolf and Frank Williams, but the results were poor and the owners soon went their separate ways. Postlethwaite remained with Wolf, designing the team's 1977 challenger, the WR1.

The 1976 Formula One season was the 30th season of FIA Formula One motor racing. It featured the 1976 World Championship of Drivers and the 1976 International Cup for Formula 1 Manufacturers which were contested concurrently over a sixteen race series which commenced on 25 January and ended on 24 October. The season also included two non-championship races for Formula One cars.

Frank Williams (Formula One) Formula One team owner

Sir Francis Owen Garbett Williams is a British businessman, former racing car driver and mechanic. He is a founder and team principal of the Williams Formula One racing team.

Walter Wolf Racing was a Formula One constructor active from 1977 to 1979, which won the very first race the team entered. It was owned and run by Canadian Walter Wolf. The team was based in Reading, UK but raced with the Canadian licence.

Success was immediate with Jody Scheckter taking victory at the season's opening race. Two more wins and a number of podium results followed and Scheckter eventually finished second in the Drivers' Championship.

Jody Scheckter South African racecar driver

Jody David Scheckter is a South African former motor racing driver. He competed in Formula One from 1972 to 1980, winning the Drivers' Championship in 1979 with Ferrari.

Although Postlethwaite remained with the team until 1979 they were never to repeat their 1977 success. When Walter Wolf closed the team down at the end of 1979 he transferred, along with the Wolf cars and driver Keke Rosberg to the Fittipaldi Automotive team. He produced a new design, the F8, for the latter half of 1980 but left to join Ferrari in early 1981. At the time the Italian team were considered amongst the best engine builders in the sport, but amongst the worst chassis designers. Postlethwaite was selected personally by Enzo Ferrari to rectify this problem and by the following year everything was in place for success.

The 1979 Formula One season was the 33rd season of FIA Formula One motor racing. It featured the 1979 World Championship of F1 Drivers and the 1979 International Cup for F1 Constructors which were contested concurrently over a fifteen-round series which commenced on 21 January 1979, and ended on 7 October. The season also included three non-championship Formula One races. Jody Scheckter of Scuderia Ferrari won the 1979 World Championship of F1 Drivers while Scuderia Ferrari won 1979 International Cup for F1 Constructors. Gilles Villeneuve made it a 1–2 for Ferrari in the championship, concluding a successful second half of the 1970s for Ferrari. Alan Jones finished the season strongly for Williams, finishing third in the championship and with teammate Clay Regazzoni scoring Williams's first ever Grand Prix win as a constructor. Scheckter's title was Ferrari's last drivers' title for 21 years, before Michael Schumacher won five consecutive titles for the team between 2000 and 2004.

The 1977 Formula One season was the 31st season of the FIA's Formula One motor racing. It featured the 28th World Championship of Drivers and the 20th International Cup for Formula 1 Constructors, which commenced on 9 January 1977, and ended on 23 October after seventeen races. The season also included a single non-championship race for Formula One cars, the 1977 Race of Champions.

Keke Rosberg Finnish racing driver

Keijo Erik Rosberg, known as "Keke", is a Finnish former racing driver and winner of the 1982 Formula One World Championship. He was the first Finnish driver to compete regularly in the series. He is the father of retired Formula One driver and 2016 Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg.

The 1982 126C2 Ferrari took the Constructors' title despite several serious setbacks, including the practice crash at Zolder which claimed the life of Gilles Villeneuve. Despite the loss of their inspirational Canadian driver, Postlethwaite's updated design, the 126C2B, took the Constructors' title again in 1983.

Postlethwaite remained with Ferrari until 1987. After 1983 his cars took several more wins, but were unable to compete with McLaren and Williams for title victory. He was eventually replaced by John Barnard and moved to Tyrrell, where he worked for four years. During his tenure as technical director Tyrrell's results improved noticeably, culminating in the 1990 season opener in Phoenix, where Jean Alesi was able to challenge Ayrton Senna's McLaren for victory and finished second in a Tyrrell 018. Alesi repeated the feat in the Postlethwaite's novel 019 – the first of the 'high nose' Formula One cars – at Monaco. At the car's launch Postlethwaite proved the structural integrity of its unusual front 'gull wing' by standing on it. While at Tyrrell Postlethwaite employed Mike Gascoyne, who became his assistant and protégé.

In 1991, Postlethwaite was signed as technical director of the Sauber team who planned to enter Formula One in 1993. Taking Gascoyne with him, Postlethwaite relocated to Switzerland and designed the team's first car. Despite leaving Sauber before the start of 1993, the designer's car went on to considerable success in the hands of JJ Lehto and Karl Wendlinger regularly scoring points.

Postlethwaite moved back to Tyrrell in 1994 where he remained until 1998 when the team was sold to become British American Racing. Although by the late 1980s and 1990s Tyrrell was a small, and largely uncompetitive team, the designer remained well respected within the sport and was hired as technical director of the abortive in-house Honda F1 project in 1999. Although Honda had not committed to race in Formula One the project produced an evaluation car, designed by Postlethwaite and built by Dallara, and it was during testing of this car at Barcelona in Spain that he suffered a fatal heart attack. The project was subsequently discontinued, although Honda began supplying engines again from the 2000 season onwards, eventually taking over the BAR team for 2006.

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Hesketh 308C Formula One racing car

The Hesketh 308C was a Formula One racing car designed by Harvey Postlethwaite and used by Hesketh Racing in the latter stages of the 1975 Formula One season. The car featured the rubber suspension which Postlethwaite had pioneered on the preceding 308B model and a Ford-Cosworth DFV engine. In 1976, the car was acquired by Wolf–Williams Racing and rebranded as the Wolf–Williams FW05.


  1. Gerald Donaldson James Hunt – The Biography Collins Willow paperback edition 1995 p.105