Crash.Net F1 News
Who is Steve Nichols?
1 December 2000
Jaguar's new technical director is a familiar name on the grand prix scene, but has been out of circulation for the past couple of years.
Born in February 1947, the American completed his education by graduating cum lauda
with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Utah.
Shortly after completing his formal education, Nichols found himself working with the renowned Hercules Aerospace company as a development engineer, undertaking design and structural analysis of rocket motor components using conventional and finite element computer techniques. This role occupied four years of his early career, from 1972-1976, before he moved on to his first taste of working in the motorsport industry.
A senior design position with the Maremont Corporation gave Nichols the responsibility of heading up the Racing Damper Design Group, working on the development of suspension components for various race categories including Indycars, NASCAR, off-road racing and Formula Ford between 1976 and 1980.
From here, Nichols progressed to his first race team, crossing the Atlantic to take up the post of senior design engineer with McLaren International. Joining the team before it really made it big, he was able to play an important part in making McLaren one of the major players in Formula One, including being the chief designer of the all-conquering MP4/4 that won 15 of the 16 races in 1988. At this point, Nichols was a familiar face at the various circuits, acting as race engineer for Ayrton Senna in both competition and testing.
As with so many of the sport's big names, the lure of Ferrari eventually proved too great for the American, and he jumped ship to link up with the Italian team's technical department at Ferrari Gestione Sportiva before the 1990 season began. As chief designer, Nichols was responsible for the design, research and development of the Scuderia's GP machines, as well as engineering in the field at both races and test sessions.
After two years at Ferrari, however, he was on the move again, this time to take up a short-lived appointment at Sauber, where, as technical director, he was responsible for all aspects of the race team's performance.
Sauber transposed into Jordan in late 1993, following several months away from the sport altogether, and Nichols took up the challenge of moving the Silverstone team towards the sharp end of the grid. Although, as chief designer, his main brief was to produce the cars to be driven by Rubens Barrichello and Thierry Boutsen, he also found himself in pit-lane working at developing his creation throughout the year.
His tenure with the Irish team lasted just over a year and, following another disappointing campaign for Jordan, Nichols was quick to accept the chance to return to McLaren.
For three years, between 1995 and 1998, he assumed the role of technical consultant, advising on all aspects of Formula One car design and development. Appointed head of vehicle engineering in 1996, Nichols took on the additional responsibility for all technical aspects of the F1 operation, before moving on again, as head of future projects, in 1998. Responsible for longer term concepts within the McLaren organisation outside of the annual car design cycle, this is where he remained until the opportunity to join Jaguar satisfied a craving to get back to a hands-on role in grands prix racing.
A keen racer himself, Nichols could be seen regularly competing in one of the historic Formula Ford 2000 categories in Britain, although his track activities have had to take a back seat to work commitments in recent years.
He replaces another former Jordan man - Gary Anderson - at Jaguar, and will team up with new CEO, and fellow American, Bobby Rahal, and a technical team headed up by designer John Russell and aerodynamicist Mark Handford as the team attempts to forget a woeful debut season.