Q&A with F1 design genius Adrian Newey
Red Bull took a momentous 1-2 maiden victory at Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix, with Sebastian Vettel driving peerlessly to beat team-mate Webber to the flag. A couple of days after the celebrations, the team's chief technical officer Adrian Newey talks about the win, future car developments and more...
Q: Adrian, a couple of days later, how does it feel?
Adrian Newey, Red Bull-Renault (Chief Technical Officer): Waking up on a Monday morning with a one-two always puts a smile on your face. The result is a great confidence boost for everyone at the factory - knowing we can put a car on the grid that can finish first and second, and do so from the front, not inheriting the result because of others having problems. It really is a great reward for all the hard work put in, not just by ourselves, but also by Renault and all our other technical partners.
Q: Where did you watch the race?
AN: I watched it in my kitchen at home, part of the time with my wife Marigold. But she found it too stressful watching with me and went off to another room, later my daughter joined me. Within a few minutes of the finish our neighbors came round and, despite the early hour, we had a celebratory drink. It would have been nice to have been in China, but I'm just very pleased for everyone that we got the result we deserved.
Q: With technical problems earlier in the weekend, were you worried the cars might not get to the flag?
AN: We were reasonably confident that we'd fixed what appeared to be a problem with a batch of drive shaft parts. But, you cannot take reliability for granted, so the last half hour of the race seemed to last forever!
Q: How has the RB5 evolved since the start of the season?
AN: We had an aero-update, consisting of a new diffuser and modified front wing for the final pre-Melbourne test, which brought a reasonable step in performance. Then, for China we had further new parts that brought a small performance gain. In dry qualifying, we were behind the Brawns in Melbourne and Malaysia, but much closer in China, looking at fuel-corrected lap times. Our set-up in China was pretty similar to that in Malaysia, so the rest of the performance might be circuit specific, when you are looking at gaps of just a few tenths, as has been the case between McLaren and Ferrari for example in past years.
Q: The China result came without a double-diffuser, so is this issue less important than people think?
AN: There is no doubt that a double-diffuser does give performance. How much performance depends on how you interpret the regulations and how you adapt it to suit your own car, so that some teams will get more out of it than others. It is worth doing for everyone on the grid. Our challenge is to adapt one to work on our car.
Q: When will the RB5 appear with a double diffuser?
AN: As has been speculated, given the design of RB5, it's not the easiest task getting it to fit the car and while we work on this one item, we also need to keep working on the general development of the car, to ensure we don't fall behind in other areas. The unique feature of the Red Bull cars is the pullrod rear suspension, which is a good solution when you don't have a double-diffuser. But getting it to work with the diffuser will be more difficult. We won't have a double-diffuser before Monaco.
Q: Looking at the first three races, what has struck you about them?
AN: The most obvious change is just how different the grid order is compared to the last few seasons. The big teams like Ferrari, BMW and McLaren are currently on the back foot, but they won't stay there of course. I think that's refreshing and healthy for Formula One. It creates more interest, seeing different teams and drivers at the front.
Q: If this weekend in Bahrain is completely dry, can we expect to see the current series leaders back out in front?
AN: It's difficult to know, as circuit specific advantages come into play. From our point of view, we don't really know yet what the different strengths and weaknesses of our own car are, compared to those of our competitors at individual tracks.
Q: You mentioned the big teams will fight back. With their greater resources, do you expect them to come steaming past you?
AN: I hope not! With a big regulation change like this, it is an opportunity for teams that have fewer resources, but are intelligent in the way they think about the implication of the regulations and how to implement them, to come up with clever design and a good car. When the regulations are stable for a while then teams with more resources have a greater ability to evaluate more options and so have an advantage. That's not to say a smaller team couldn't keep its advantage and rules for the future are aimed at restricting development still further in order to reduce the 'arms race' that has characterized F1 over the past few years.
Q: How does this win compare to other significant victories in your career?
AN: The first point to make is that this is not our first win, Red Bull Technology had a winning car design last year, operated very well by Scuderia Toro Rosso to win in Monza. Emotionally, for everyone here in Milton Keynes, it's been extremely pleasing. I was already very excited and happy after Monza last year and this one in China was special because we managed to get a one-two finish and do pretty much the same in qualifying. The other element that makes this win special is that there's been a big regulation change and we have shown that, as a team we have understood that set of rule changes, producing a car that is reasonably well adapted to them right from the start. It makes it extremely satisfying because, with the new rules, we have been working on our own as a group for almost nine months, without really knowing what other teams are doing and not knowing where your product is going to rate when compared to them, as all the reference points and base lines have changed.
Q: But now you have to rethink the design of RB5 to take into account the Paris decision about the diffuser. Do you feel it's a shame you have to take a metaphorical hacksaw to your original concept for the car?
AN: It will certainly involve a lot of work! The challenge now is to try and integrate the new diffuser into the rest of the car. But I don't regard it as a shame, I see it as another challenge. Unfortunately, it will involve some more late nights! That's Formula One: you can't afford to sit around and feel sorry for yourself, you just have to get on with it.
Source: Red Bull F1