|Adrian Newey designs winning race cars. Every team he has left has taken a nose dive after that|
It was a fantastic season for the Red Bull Racing team when un only their sixth year of completion in the pinnacle of Motorsports they secured both titles, with the constructors championship being sealed at the penultimate round in Brazil and the drivers crown with Sebastian Vettel in the season finale at the magnificent Yas marina Circuit.
Speaking to the team’s official website, Formula One guru and technical director, Adrian Newey, discussed the championship winning RB6, the development of the new RB7 and the thrill of winning yet another Formula One Constructors’ Championship...
Did you always have confidence in the RB6? Did you think it had Championship potential from the first day it rolled out of the garage in Jerez?
Occasionally you can still spot a winning car from day one, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to judge. You will have a reasonable idea of whether or not the car is performing as it’s expected to but you have no idea whether that’s going to be good enough. You simply don’t know what the competition are doing with their fuel loads. It’s difficult to know where you are pace-wise until you start doing race simulations. The other thing to consider is the development race. Having the fastest car at the beginning of the year doesn’t guarantee you a championship by any means. If you get out-developed by your competitors, then you could be well down the grid by the end of the season.
The Red Bulls seemed to really pull away from the field once the season got back to Europe. Was that a case of gaining a development advantage, or were the circuits being better suited to the car?
It’s always a little bit difficult to judge. Actually the race in China was very disappointing to us and when we go to Barcelona for the first race of the European season we had a raft of new part on the car – but so did everybody else. The power circuits with long straights – Spa and Monza – haven’t suited us and I was disappointed in Turkey; although we were leading the race when the drivers had their coming together, I didn’t feel we were pulling away as we had hoped. I think, generally speaking, the pace of development – if you don’t take it race by race but every few races – then the pace of development has been similar between the top three teams.
How do you react when a rival introduces something like the F-Duct. Is there a sense of remorse at not having thought of it yourself?
Not really. There’s no point in beating yourself up about it. If you take the F-Duct, fine, hats off to the young lad at McLaren who spotted that loophole and applied it. But once you understand what they’ve done, it’s just a matter of getting on and doing your own version.
Was it tough to shoehorn the ducting into a homologated chassis?
It’s not ideal because of course the chassis wasn’t designed for it; you have to be opportunistic in the way it’s plumbed. If we were to have another go at an F-Duct with a brand-new chassis we could refine it a bit more. But we managed to get it in and get it done and have it working to a satisfactory level.
The speed of change in F1 at the moment is remarkable. Has the constant demand for new parts changed how you do your work?
I like it; I enjoy that sort of challenge – though the speed at which new parts need to be generated and put on the car very much depend upon the part because it’s all related to lead-time. Something like a monocoque or a gearbox maincase; realistically those have to wait until the start of the next season, whereas trim on a front wing is something that can be ready the next day – and there’s every level in between those two.
The commotion mid-season about the degree of flex in Red Bull’s front wing must have been distracting – how did the team deal with that?
It wasn’t a distraction, but it was an annoyance. I’ve got to say I’ve never known a season quite like this one for the petty finger pointing that’s gone on in the paddock. It’s a shame, but the bottom line is that what we’ve done with the front wing has been endlessly investigated by the press and the FIA. The FIA quite rightly have to look at it, as they have to take these things seriously – and what we’ve done is completely legal.
The other potentially controversial issue with the RB6 has been its pace in Q3. Even now, at the end of the season, other teams still mutter about not understanding how it improves by around three-tenths in that session. Anything to say about that?
It’s a myth! I’m not sure our Q3 performance has been particularly different to our Q1 and Q2 performance, to be honest. I haven’t bothered looking through statistics, but I think it’s one of these stories that starts when once on twice the drivers have improved in Q3 and suddenly everybody writes it and it becomes accepted without any real basis. Sometimes it might be the case that we’ll only do one run on the harder tires to get through the sessions, so it looks different in Q3 with the softer tires – but the basic idea is a myth.
Looking forward to next year, we know you like regulations changes, but isn’t it the last thing a winning team wants to see?
Not necessarily. The unfortunate thing about the changes coming in next year is that they are all restrictions. So, the double diffuser is banned, which once we’ve all got it, banning it removes an area of freedom. Then there’s the change to Pirelli tires… we don’t know anything about them yet. It’s impossible to predict them so it’s impossible to design a car around them.
So, is everybody designing for 2011 with an element of caution? Will the fixed weight distribution of the cars compensate for the unknown characteristics of the tires?
The restriction in weight distribution, which I think is 45:55 ± one per cent is, I suppose, helpful in so much as it should be possible to design a car within that range and then if the Pirelli tires demand one extreme or the other , we can got to that but not beyond it – which was the point of the regulation. But we don’t know which end of the spectrum that will be.
How motivated are you to – very literally – go back to the drawing board. Is there anything left to prove?
The motivations are there because I enjoy my job. The ambition when I joined Red Bull was initially to get the team to a point where it could take race wins; the dream was winning the Constructors’ Championship. Achieving that goal is very special – but it doesn’t change my day-to-day outlook. I enjoy working for Red Bull, it’s a good team to work for, we have a good atmosphere and I enjoy the design aspect of being involved. So, so long as I’m enjoying it, I’ll keep doing it.