Q&A with Red Bull RB5 designer Adrian Newey
Can you sum up the effect of the rule changes?
"It’s a long time since we’ve had such a big rule change so today is so something of a nervous moment, because it provides the opportunity to come up with something different, but there is always the possibility that other teams have thought of something you haven’t. The last few months have been the busiest time I’ve had in Formula One since my first year at McLaren, because there has been so much to do in such a short space of time. We really got started last April and it’s been flat out ever since."
What’s been the biggest challenge?
"The weight distribution has been a challenge, particularly in dealing with KERS. On the one hand, it’s clear that with the return to slick tires, you need to get a bit more weight on to the front axle, while on the other hand, KERS is putting more weight on the rear. This means you have very little scope to move ballast around. A driver’s weight also affects this equation. You can move the car through its wheelbase a bit, but this tends to carry an aerodynamic penalty."
Has the fact your car has come out later than your rivals’ given you an advantage?
"While we’ve obviously looked at photos of the other cars, we haven’t had time to study them, so there is no advantage in those terms, but the extra time has allowed us to refine some of our own solutions. We are smaller in terms of manpower than some other teams and therefore we have had less wind tunnel time and so the extra time has been spent making up for our different level of resources."
How much difference are we going to see this year in terms of overtaking, thanks to the new regulations?
"The most obvious point is that with such a big regulation change, it is extremely probable that the lap time difference between pole position and last on the grid is going to be much larger than last year, when we had a very tight grid, with four or five manufacturers winning grands prix, which we hadn’t seen in F1 for a very long time. That’s unlikely to be the case this year. Maybe there will be more overtaking, but that won’t change the fact that car performance difference will be much greater."
Is there much difference in the height of the driver’s feet in the cockpit compared to last year?
No, it’s higher, but not by very much at all."
And apart from the obvious look of the car, what other novelties are there?
"This year’s chassis is no longer flat at the bottom as it now has a “V” section."
The rear suspension now uses pullrods instead of pushrods. Why? And why does the front wing look the way it does?
"It was really done to suit the new aero package. We wanted to try and get a very clean airflow at the back of the car and the pull rod is part of that solution. As for the front wing, that’s just the way it evolved from our work. I think there will be a variety of different solutions, as one of the things that happens with a big rule change is that one has to settle on an overall route and concept for the design of the car that we feel will best suit the regulations. Not all the teams will have gone down the same route and history will tell in only two or three years time which was the best, as the design of all the cars will then begin to converge. But this year, we will see these significant differences between teams."<
Will the new rules allow you to close up on the top teams?
"I don’t know, but I do enjoy going through a regulation change, because it gives you a better chance of starting with a clean sheet of paper, rather than just working on small evolutions of established themes. Whether this will favor Red Bull or not is hard to say. It can be a good thing if you’ve come up with the best solution, or on the other hand, it might just suit the biggest teams who can explore lots of different avenues."
Is RB5 an example of you being aggressive in terms of design?
"Yes, it is an aggressive design, quite different to anything that’s gone before and hopefully that is down to sound engineering reasons. You need the discipline not just to come up with ideas, but also to ensure that they really do give something positive in performance terms, rather than just doing it to be different. That’s what we’ve tried to do with RB5."
Will you use KERS in Australia?
"We will run it when we feel we are ready to run it and that it will definitely be a benefit. It will also have to justify its cost, because for the flyaway races for examples, the shipping and freight costs involved are very high. At the moment, it is not yet clear what advantage KERS will bring in terms of helping a driver to overtake. Perhaps the biggest risk of not running KERS is the chance of being overtaken at the start or at a re-start after a Safety Car period."