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Prost, Senna, Schumacher… Noël spent 20 years with the greatest Formula 1 drivers

Noël Cavey and Michael Schumacher during tests on the Magny-Cours circuit (Nièvre), in 1996. The two men are forever linked by the German’s five world titles at Ferrari. (©DP)

What a journey Noel Caveyfrom his parents’ farm in La Haye-du-Puits (Sleeve) to the Formula 1 tracks for about twenty years.

He could have lived his life in the middle of fields and cows, “because I spent all my school holidays on the tractor, we had to help, no choice! “. On the contrary, he rubbed shoulders with the greatest champions of his time: Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna or even Michael Schumacher!

A king of mechanics

It’s unclear if he repaired his parents’ gear, but Noel Cavey is a king of mechanics. A state scholarship holder, his many years of study led him to engineering profession. “I was good at school so the social ladder worked well for me,” says the man, now aged 64 years old.

Since Maths Sup, I read Sport Auto magazine and I was passionate about F1. I saw the course of the men who worked in this universe, it made me dream and I was inspired by it.

This is how he entered the National School of Petroleum and Engines: “It was not the most prestigious but she opened many doors for the future,” says Noël Cavey. As he finishes his military service in Cherbourgthe proposals are indeed pouring in.

His debut at Renault

Renault makes eyes at him and he is hired in 1984 to work on engine reliability series. Four years later, he managed to join the team of Renault Sportswho has just announced his return to Formula 1. “I started on 1er January 1989 to work on the atmospheric V10 engine, 585 horsepower, 11,500 rpm, 3.5 liters and 140 kg (for connoisseurs… Editor’s note), remembers Noël Cavey as if it were yesterday. I was development manager in a team of 10 engineers. I worked on the reliability of test engines and racing engines. »

First success with Thierry Boutsen’s victory at the wheel of his Williams-Renault in June 1989, and even the double for the team with Riccardo Patrese. A 2and victory will come at the end of the year in Australia.

In a reduced team for track tests in 1997 around Schumacher (Noël Cavey is squatting, 2nd from the left).
In a reduced team for track tests in 1997 around Schumacher (Noël Cavey is squatting, 2nd from the left). (©DP)

Alain Prost was “very picky”

Nigel Mansell quits Ferrari for Williams-Renault in 1991. With happiness since he won five races and finished 2and in the championship, behind a certain Ayrton Senna. “We did three doubles with Patrese and we finished 2and in the constructors’ standings that year. Mansell would be world champion the following year, and the Renault engine would win the constructor’s title six times from 1992 to 1997.

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The meeting between Noël Cavey and Alain Prost dates back to 1992: “He had just been fired from Ferrari and was therefore on a sabbatical. I had gone to test tracks, we worked together at Estoril in Portugal”, still laughs the Manchois.

At the start he wasn’t happy with the engine, he was very picky. And indeed, thanks to him, we detected a problem with the spark plugs! He was nice but tough, he wanted to manage everything, he needed everything, right away.

The attention to detail on the part of the two men to improve the machine will bring Alain Prost his 4and and last title of world champion in 1993 (after seven GP victories), ahead of Senna.

Ayrton Senna: “My idol has become my work colleague”

The Brazilian who, precisely, will join Renault, before the tragedy of Imola and his accidental death on 1er May 1994.

Ayrton Senna arrived in our team at the end of 1993. This is how my former idol became my work colleague. He was a scientific pilot, with an extraordinary method from which I have always been inspired thereafter. He taught me my job! He was friendly, we discussed face to face during the tests to find how to develop the single-seater at best…

With “Schumi” at Ferrari

The Holy Grail for any F1 fan: join Italy, the Scuderia and the temple of Maranello.

It was Jean Todt who recruited me in 1995, with an offer that was hard to refuse, even if Renault inevitably grumbled… I stayed there until 2007. We worked in trust, complicity and in all honesty… great years!

In 1996, the new star Michael Schumacher, already crowned with two world titles, joined the dream team set up at Ferrari by Jean Todt. He will collect five consecutive world titles from 2000 to 2004.

On this photo,
In this photo, “Michael Schumacher shakes my hand”. (©DP)

Beyond the sporting aspect, the little guy from Lithaire fell in love with the German driver. “A great character, a great professional, a hard worker very interested in all aspects of mechanics. A real pleasure to work with him and to rub shoulders with him, because we were colleagues but also friends. I knew his wife and children, we spent beautiful evenings. I was really shocked by his skiing accident…”

With Schumacher it was great, with an incredible team led by Jean Todt. 1+1=3, the interaction between the men was so effective. To win so many titles, you have to work. And Michael was a hell of a hard worker, we wore out the pilots, you had to be really muscular and athletic!

“In the same crazy kind of mechanics, there was then Kimi Raikkonenwith whom we won the title in 2007.” The last for Noël Cavey, before turning the page on F1.

18 world championship titles

The Mancho engineer had a career in Formula 1 for 19 years, from 1988 to 2007. He knew 20 drivers, including the most prestigious, and obtained 18 world championship titles: 10 “constructor” titles (3 with Renault and 7 with Ferrari) and 8 individual titles: Nigel Mansell in 1992, Alain Prost in 1993, Michael Schumacher from 2000 to 2004, and Kimi Räikkönen in 2007.

The end of the adventure, a new life

“I wanted to quit F1 in 2007 because I didn’t see my wife often, I was always on the move (100 days on the slopes per year) and I worked 60 to 70 hours a week… When we were together, I was exhausted. It was not a normal life. »

At this time, Noël Cavey was also increasingly alerted by his ecological conscience.

An F1 emitted ten times more CO2 than a classic car, I told myself that as an engineer, I had gone in the wrong direction.

Noël Cavey during a recent visit with his wife Dominique to Maranello (Italy), the historic headquarters of the Ferrari team, where he worked from 1995 to 2007 and won numerous titles.
Noël Cavey during a recent visit with his wife Dominique to Maranello (Italy), the historic headquarters of the Ferrari team, where he worked from 1995 to 2007 and won numerous titles. (©DP)

Hence his idea of ​​founding a start-up aiming to manufacture less polluting aircraft engines. Unfortunately, with the crisis, it is an economic failure and he must say stop in 2010. digital revolution, and their impact on society. »

And so he wrote this book of memories grouped into 251 pages.

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