Derek Stanley Arthur Warwick (born 27 August 1954) is a British former racing driver from England, who lives in Jersey. He raced for many years in Formula One, but never won a Grand Prix. He did, however, win the 1992 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 2005 and 2006 he raced in the inaugural season of the Grand Prix Masters formula for retired Formula One drivers. He has served as the fourth steward for three Grands Prix in 2010 and 2011. He is president of the British Racing Drivers Club, succeeding Damon Hill.
Warwick began his Formula One career with the fledgling F1 team Toleman for the 1981 season. He managed to qualify for only one race that year, the season finale at Las Vegas. Warwick had mainly dismal 1982 and 1983 seasons in the Toleman car, but bounced back, scoring points in the final four rounds of the 1983 championship.
He joined Renault in 1984 after Alain Prost left them at the end of 1983. Warwick, expecting to have a race-winning car, led the Brazilian Grand Prix, his first drive for them, only to retire because of a suspension failure caused by an early race wheel banging duel with the McLaren of Niki Lauda. He finished in second place in both the Belgian and British Grands Prix in 1984 and placed seventh in the championship. 1984 would prove to be the beginning of the end for the factory Renault team, the pioneers of turbocharging in Formula One. Neither Warwick nor new team mate Patrick Tambay won a race in 1984, the first time since 1978 that the team did not win a Grand Prix.
The turning point in Warwick’s career was his decision to stay at Renault for 1985 and reject an offer to drive for Williams-Honda. (The seat was then offered to Nigel Mansell who, accepting the position, went on to win two races at the end of the season.) 1985 was a poor one for Renault and the team withdrew from Formula One at the end of the year. Renault’s withdrawal, and Ayrton Senna’s refusal to let Warwick join him as team mate at Lotus (using his contracted number one driver status in the team, Senna refused to have anyone but a pure #2 as his team mate as he believed Lotus were not capable of supporting two championship contending drivers), left Warwick without a team for the 1986 season and he took up an offer to drive for Tom Walkinshaw’s TWR Jaguar team in the World Sportscar Championship. Following the death of Elio de Angelis in a testing accident in May, however, Warwick was invited to take his place at Brabham. Unconfirmed rumours surfaced that Brabham owner Bernie Ecclestone had invited Warwick to take de Angelis’ place as the Englishman was the only available top driver who had not actually contacted the team offering his services in the days following the Italian’s untimely death. Warwick explained:
“I got a phone call from Bernie, who said that he really appreciated the fact that I didn’t call him five minutes after Elio had died and would I like to drive for him.”
As no Grands Prix clashed with his Sportscar commitments, Warwick was able to race in both world championships.
In 1987, Warwick moved to the Arrows team alongside his Jaguar team mate Eddie Cheever, ending the season with 3 points scored. The 1988 season saw an improvement on the Arrows performance due to the powerful Megatron (a re-badged BMW M12) engine and Warwick finished 7 times in the top 6, earning him 17 points and a respectable 8th position in the championship. His best race of the season was 4th in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza where he finished only half a second behind Cheever. Italy was also notable in that it was the first time since the beginning of 1987 that Arrows engine guru Heini Mader finally solved the problem with the FIA’s mandatory pop-off valve which restricted turbo boost. For the first time this allowed both Warwick and Cheever to fully exploit the power of the 640 bhp (477 kW; 649 PS) Megatron engine (restricted to 2.5 BAR boost in 1988) and be much closer to the front than they had been previously.
In 1989, victory eluded Warwick in two occasions. The first was in the Brazilian Grand Prix, when a disastrous pit-stop cost him more than the 17 seconds he finished behind winner Nigel Mansell. But the real heartbreak came in the Canadian Grand Prix, when Warwick drove superbly and was leading the wet race, only to have his Cosworth engine fail on lap 40 while in second place (Ayrton Senna, who had passed Warwick for the lead on lap 38, would himself retire when his McLaren’s Honda V10 blew 3 laps from the finish. As Warwick was lapping much quicker than those behind him, including eventual winner Thierry Boutsen, its possible he could have scored his first Grand Prix win had he finished). Reliability issues plagued Warwick’s season and cost him good finishes in other races as well, resulting in only 7 points for the season, the last of his 3 years at Arrows.
For the 1990 season, 4 years after Senna’s veto, Warwick finally drove for Lotus who in 1990 would be using the Lamborghini V12 engine. But the glory days of that team were over and Warwick ended the season with a meagre 3 points tally. His greatest achievement of the season happened at the 1990 Spanish Grand Prix where his team mate Martin Donnelly suffered a severe crash leaving Warwick to help morale at the team by qualifying in the top 10 only for the gearbox to fail 10 laps from the end. Following a 3 year sabbatical, Warwick returned to Formula One in 1993 to drive for Footwork, but managed to score only 4 points. He ended his career with a total of 71 Grand Prix points.
Some consider Derek Warwick to be the best Formula One driver never to win a single race.