Starting in motorsport during his university years, Willem worked his way up from the bottom. He’s worked in the field of aerodynamics for 30 years, bringing hundreds of people into motorsport employment.
In this time, not only has he helped to design race-winning cars but also set up state-of-the-art wind tunnel and CFD facilities. In 1985 he started in F1 with Benetton, helping them to win their first F1 Drivers’ Championship, just before moving to Ferrari as Head of Aerodynamics at the end of 1994. He later moved to BAR/Honda and BMW Sauber. He had a short break from Formula 1 as Managing Director of the RML Group, winning championships in touring and sports cars, before returning to Sauber F1 in 2011.
Willem has also competed in motorsport, racing motorbikes and cars when he was young and has been an enthusiastic and entertaining speed hillclimber, winning events in the British Hillclimb Championship.
Keen to share this lifetime of accumulated knowledge with the next generation, Willem gives guest lectures in aerodynamics and related matters when his Swiss base and F1 work allow. He also gives advice to a number of sports organisations and has a few hobby projects on the side such as data logging on his mountain bike and designing a hillclimb car.
He said: “I think the concept of Formula Student is brilliant as it creates a full but compressed motorsport engineering and business experience for the students. All have to face the realities of financial and resource limits with extreme time pressure and make difficult choices from the beginning of the project to the end.
Students also need to get their hands dirty and learn about the practicalities of building and running a car. I really enjoy seeing the many different ways of optimising a solution to a complex problem – there is always something surprising and positive to see."