Barbara Behlau made it happen that Roland Ratzenberger made his debut in the Formula One in 1994 with Simtek. After Ratzenberger’s horrific dead in Imola, Barbara was impressed how the team kept the spirit for Ratzenberger alive within the team. This was one of the reasons she purchased 30% of the stakes in the team. Only a year later during the Monaco Grand Prix she became the true saviour of the team. When she went to the supermarket to provide the team with food and drinks as the Simtek team was as good as bankrupt. So who was Barbara Behlau?
It was a hack of a research, where I first thought there was lots of information available in the magazines and documents I own. There wasn’t much info in it eventually. Most of the information is the information that is already available on the internet. Mostly involving her influence in the career of Ronald Ratzenberger and how she eventually became a team player within the Simtek team. My research went even so deep to look into her family heritage.
During the year Barbara Behlau has become a footnote in the Formula One, of an era that has many footnotes. If you ask me she is not just a footnote in the Formula One. Besides her involvement with Roland Ratzenberger she became one of the saviours of the Simtek team.
Barbara Florentine Behlau was born in 1944, and had a Dutch mother and a Monegasque father. During the 1980s, what I could uncover, she established her company “Agence Barbara M.C.” 7 avenue Saint Roman in Monaco. Via her agency she helped sporters in several disciplines. It seems she also had several artists under her wings. As well-known she became involved in the Formula One in 1994 via Roland Ratzenberger. Some sources say she was a German or Austrian though that’s false.
Ratzenberger and Behlau became friends as they both lived in Monaco. As Ratzenberger showed his potential in Japan the previous years Barbara Behlau decided to invest in Roland. He would make his debut for the Simtek team in 1994 thanks to Barbara, who paid 500.000 dollar for the first five races.
When the Formula One came at Imola Ratzenberger showed some of his talent and there were already talks with other sponsors as well to keep him longer in the F1. Sadly, Ratzenberger died Saturday after an horrific crash.
After that horrible weekend the team decided to keep the spirit of Ratzenberger alive in the Formula One. This was also the reason for her to invest more in the team. Eventually she owned 30% of the stakes in the Simtek team. In 1995 she would even get a bigger role within the team. According to several Dutch papers from that time, she was addressed as “presidente”. What basically means she was part of the management. Though not the Chairman.
In 1995 the Simtek team appeared with the S951 on the grid with Jos Verstappen as one of their drivers. He showed the potential of the team and the car. The team had a deal with Benetton which offered them technical support and let the team use their gearbox. However, it became more and ore clear that the Simtek team was on the edge of bankruptcy. Especially Jos showed the potential of the car. Jeroen Demmendaal even figured out that she became the teams commercial manager.
The team, under the lead of Barbara, was looking for new sponsors to keep the team alive. Barbara told several media outlets that there was a wealthy Dutch person that was willing to invest a couple of millions in the team. This happened just in front of the Grand Prix weekend in Monaco. When the team arrived there it was nearly bankrupt. The flight tickets and salaries were only paid days before after Barbara found a “sponsor” that got involved and paid for it. Eventually the other wealthy Dutch sponsor, which up to today is unknown who it was, did not continue it’s deal.
When Simtek appeared in Monaco the team was bankrupt. It is Barbara Behlau herself that went to the supermarket to purchase drinks, foods and so on for the team member with her own money. As the team did not have the money anymore to even buy this. This is the point that Behlau was looking for new sponsors especially in the Netherlands. As Jos Verstappen managed to settle the Formula One in the Netherlands. Sadly, there were no sponsors that had the needed money.
After the Monaco Grand Prix it was the end of the road for the team. A deal was made with the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone, at that time the F1 supremo, that the team would not be fined the 300.000 dollar for missing a Grand Prix. While they tried to bring the team back on the grid after Canada, there were were other talks with a Dutch investor. He and Behlau were in speaking terms of taking over the stocks of Barbara Behlau(30%) and Conrad Schmidt(10%). It would mean that 40% would be sold. Eventually, this never happened either and Simtek disappeared from the grid.
After the team went in bankruptcy and their assets were sold via an auction it seems that Barbara went to the background. There isn’t any info available about the period from the Canadian Grand Prix in 1995 and the Monaco Grand Prix of 1997.
Out of sudden Barbara is back in 1997. When Tyrrell announced they would use the new Ford ED5 engine from Monaco on. There was also the news that Barbara would support the Tyrrell team the rest of the season. This was the 2nd of May 1997. It became official the 29th of May 1997. The logo of her company appeared from the Monaco Grand Prix on several places on the car and the racing suits. She wanted to become a sponsor to keep the name from Roland Ratzenberger alive in the Formula One.
There were talks to be a sponsor of the team as well in 1998. However, due to the sell out of Ken Tyrrell that never materialised. The team was purchased by BAT and would be rebranded in 1999 as British American Racing (BAR).
After her involvement with the Tyrrell team it seemed the was done with it. Nothing much has been heard of her afterwards. There were some small bulletins stating that she was linked with the Arrows team in 2000 as Jos Verstappen would race for the team. Though that was all. In 2006, at the age of 62, Barbara died. Nothing much is known about her life nor about her last years on this planet.
For several she is just a sidenote, a name they once heard when reading about Ratzenberger or the Simtek team. Though I hope with this article, how hard it even was for me to uncover any new info I hope she became for some of you more then just a sidenote in the Formula One!