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This is Nikolas Tombazis, the man taking over the F1 baton from Ben Sulayem

This is Nikolas Tombazis, the man taking over the F1 baton from Ben Sulayem

8 February - 15:34


Ahead of the start of the new Formula 1 season, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem made a striking decision: he is not resigning from his position, but will no longer be involved in the day-to-day running of F1, passing the baton to Nikolas Tombazis. Who is this man and what is his background in the king class of motorsport?

Tombazis was appointed to his current position as director of single seaters on 18 January this year, after five years in charge of the technical part of single seaters. He took that step after a long career as an aerodynamics specialist in Formula 1, in which he worked for Ferrari, McLaren and Benetton, among others.

Long F1 career kicked off at Benetton

Athens-born Tombazis graduated from Trinity College at Cambridge University in 1989, which earned him an engineering degree. Three years later, he obtained a PhD in aeronautical engineering from Imperial College London, which put him on the radar of the Benetton F1 team.

That same year, he joined the British racing stable as an aerodynamics specialist, before making it to head of aerodynamics just under two years later. In that capacity, Tombazis was part of a very successful period, which saw Michael Schumacher win his first two world titles and gave Benetton the constructors' title in 1995.

Golden period at Ferrari

In 1997, he travelled after Schumacher, who had left for Ferrari a year earlier. The Italian racing stable appointed the Greek as head of aerodynamics and CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics). Again, Tombazis played a key role in the huge success that was to follow: Ferrari won the constructors' title in 1999 for the first time in 16 years and Schumacher captured the first drivers' title for the Scuderia a year later since Jody Scheckter in 1979.

This began an extremely dominant period for Ferrari, winning six constructors' titles in a row and saw Schumacher become champion five times in a row. Tombazis left the team at its peak to switch to McLaren in 2004. There, too, he went to work as head of aerodynamics, but his stay in Woking was not long-lasting.

Exit to McLaren

At the end of 2005, Tombazis left the British racing stable again and returned to Maranello, this time in the role of chief designer. He remained loyal to the Italian racing stable for nine years, which he left behind at the end of 2014. A year later, he joined Manor Racing, but that move would not be a success. Due to financial problems, the team was not seen in the sport going forward.

Own company and move to FIA

After the fall of Manor, Tombazis decided to set up his own consultancy firm and taught aerodynamics as a guest lecturer at Imperial College London, where he was once a student himself. In 2018, he joined the FIA, where he was put in charge of the technical affairs of single-seaters. After five years, he was promoted to his current role as director of single seaters.

In addition to that promotion, Tombazis will take on a number of responsibilities in the 2023 F1 season. In a letter to F1 teams, Ben Sulayem announced that he will no longer be involved in the day-to-day running of the sport and designated Tombazis as the new point of contact. However, there will be no official changing of the guard, as Ben Sulayem will remain active as usual in his role as FIA president.