Yet it turns out that after his move from Williams to McLaren back in1997, a risky decision he made regarding re-decorating his own office nearly cost him his job.
Newey: Office design change nearly got me fired
“I had only been there for about two weeks, so I was working crazy hours trying to get the design of the ’98 car ready,” he told the Formula For Success podcast.
“The office I inherited was John Barnard’s old office, and it was kind of floor to ceiling mahogany panels, there was a dark mahogany table, a black chair, it was really dark brown, dingy carpets – it was just depressing.
“So as we were leaving for Hungary, I said to the factory manager: ‘Can you brighten up a bit over the weekend?’ And I gave him a duck egg blue paint chart, and [asked to] put a tan carpet in and change the chair for something a bit lighter and so on and so forth.
“And he got that all done over the weekend, came back on Monday and it was kind of my office.
“Anyway, that evening, Ron came in about six o’clock to see how I was going on, and as he came into the doorframe, looked up, and I heard ‘Hi Ron’, and he started.
“He didn’t say a word. He started gulping like a fish, like a goldfish and, as he gulped, he went redder and redder until he went purple.
“I thought ‘Christ, he’s going to have a heart attack here and now!’ and eventually, still not single word, gulping, he spun on his heels and walked out and never said another word.
“I think for him, there are two sides. First of all, that his factory now had a bit of colour in it and, secondly, it all happened without him knowing. He’s a bit of a control freak, which is fair enough – probably in motor racing you need to be.
“It turned out years later, I found out from Lisa, his wife, that he came back that evening and said: ‘That’s it! Get rid of him. I’m going to fire him in the morning!’ She talked him down a bit. He wasn’t happy.”
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