From a teenage project rebuilding a vintage motorcycle to dreaming up race and championship-winning Formula One machinery, Chief Engineering Officer, Rob Marshall, has been taking on major design projects all his life.
Born in Taunton, Somerset in the UK in 1968, Rob developed a passion for machinery early in life, prompted in large part by his father's work and interests.
"My father was also an engineer," says Rob. "He had a lathe, so we were always building bits and pieces. For example, on my 16th birthday I got given a 1930 AJS motorcycle in the form of two tea chests full of parts and I had to figure all that out."
Rob's boyhood fascination took him to Cardiff University, where he naturally studied mechanical engineering and then eventually to a career in aerospace, working for Rolls Royce. “I simply loved engineering – planes, boats, trains, cars, anything that moved really,” he says of his role in Rolls’ advanced projects design department.
By the late 1990s Marshall was ready to move on however, and pursuing a career in motor sport, he eventually secured a role at a Benetton F1 team in transition following its Michael Schumacher-led heyday. It was a move he would not regret as he instantly became entranced by F1’s incredible ability to innovate at speed.
“It’s so immediate, it’s such a quick and emotional thing. You have a problem with something, fix it, put it on the car that weekend, it works and you have success. That is a fantastic feeling.”
Through a period in which the team was taken over by Renault, Rob worked his way through the ranks to eventually become Head of Mechanical Design. After Fernando Alonso scored his first victory in Renault’s RS23 at the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix, the 2004 car delivered another win, courtesy of Jarno Trulli at the Monaco Grand Prix. The curve was clearly upwards and the following year, Rob and his team delivered on that potential, with the R25 taking Alonso to his first title win.
Despite the success, Rob was keen to take on a new challenge and it quickly materialised in the shape of Red Bull Racing, where he took on the role of chief designer.
"I never saw it as a step back, moving from a team that won championships to a new team," he explains. "It was simply a different challenge, and a much more daunting one. Fortunately, it was made easier by the fact that were some very good people working here."
The result was an even greater wave of success with the team winning eight world titles between 2010 and 2013. The introduction of hybrid engines to Formula One led to a leaner spell, though the podiums (57 of them) and the victories (12) have still kept coming. Throughout, Rob has been driven by a simple goal – the relentless pursuit of performance and perfection. It’s a task that he’s even keener to get to grips with as the team enters a new era of competition.
"Formula One is a constantly moving target," he says emphatically. "Nothing is ever good enough. There is no ceiling to what you can do. There is always a way of making the car better."