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Woman Spotlight Wednesday: Antonia Terzi

Written by Alejandra Guajardo Lozano, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Credit - Imago

Women have played an influential role throughout the history of motor racing. Many have taken to the wheels of motorsport machines, while numerous figures have worked tirelessly on the sidelines in various roles, shaping the motor racing world to the present day. Woman Spotlight Wednesday aims to take a look at the tales of these superwomen, who have surpassed various hurdles to reach where they are today.


A way women have impacted F1 is by being creative and innovative. A woman that stood up in this area was Italian aerodynamicist Antonia Terzi, with ideas surely ahead of her time.


Antonia Terzi was born on April 17th, 1971, in Italy. She had a Master's degree in Materials Engineering from University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, in Italy, and a PhD in engineering, focused on aerodynamics, from University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.


Terzi’s career started in Ferrari, working in the design department under Rory Byrne until 2001. She was part of the team working on the car that gave Michael Schumacher a World Championship. Seeing her great work at the Prancing Horse, Williams recruited her to work for them as chief aerodynamicist, turning her into the woman with the biggest technical responsibility at a Formula One team at the time. She would play a key role in the team’s race-winning push during the engine partnership with German manufacturer BMW half a decade later.


The 2004 FW26, Williams car for the 2004 Formula One season, caused a stir after being revealed for its unique and innovative ‘Walrus nose’ concept. Terzi’s idea was to shorten the nose as much as possible, in order to maximise downforce and minimise drag. Her design didn’t quite deliver the results the team from Grove wished for, and Williams opted for a more conventional nose design by the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Credit - Steve Etherington/LAT Images

Williams ended the season with a win at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Terzi left Williams in November 2004. She moved away from F1 and was later employed as an assistant professor at The Delft University of Technology, alongside Professor Ockels at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. She was also the Head of the Aerodynamics team at Bentley Motors Ltd from 2014 until 2019.


One of Terzi’s projects was the “Superbus', a fully electrical vehicle made of composite materials that had ‘gull wing’ doors, and could potentially carry up to 23 passengers.


Terzi sadly passed away in October of 2021, in a car crash.


Antonia Terzi was an innovative woman who surpassed standards in the aerodynamic world with her design philosophies. Many accusatory fingers were pointed at her for the radical design. However, her design was just one element of Williams’ failure that year. The car’s power unit and gearbox were deciding factors that season, failing in many races, and being BMW’s full responsibility.


Funnily enough, in 2009, Terzi’s idea of high noses became a generalised tendency in F1 cars. You could arguably say Antonia Terzi was just a woman much ahead of her time.


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