Exclusive interview - Red Bulls Adrian Newey 19 Nov 2007
With eight retirements in the first seven races, Red Bulls start to the 2007 season was far from ideal. Nevertheless, over the course of the year the team steadily improved, achieving regular top-ten grid slots and eventually finishing fifth in the constructors championship on a respectable 25 points.
As the second anniversary of his joining Red Bull draws closer, chief technical officer Adrian Newey is hungry for more. Here the renowned designer discusses his strategy for next season and reveals a little about what we can expect from his new creation, the RB4
Q: Looking back at the season just gone, the RB3 was the first Red Bull car you had supervised from start to finish. How pleased - or disappointed - were you with its performance?
Adrian Newey: Ive been pleased with how weve developed the car throughout the year. At the last three races of the season we were competitively getting both cars into Q3 and had a fifth place on the grid with both drivers. That was encouraging as it shows were making steady progress, which is the main goal. The main disappointment was the reliability, which was down to a few design faults, coupled with inadequate procedures to ensure quality.
Q: You have been with Red Bull for almost two years now. What progress do you feel you have made in that time? Any setbacks?
AN: I think the key thing was spending a solid period of time understanding how the company operates and noting its strengths and weaknesses. From there, the task was to make the necessary changes to rectify any weaknesses and to play to our strengths. I started making personnel changes after about six months in the job and thats now more or less complete, giving us a very strong team of people, which is now managed, very ably, by Geoff (Willis).
Q: Geoff Willis was brought into the team in July. How does the relationship between the two of you work?
AN: Geoff and I have had a long working relationship, which started towards the end of my time at Leyton House. Geoff was the only person that came with me to Williams from Leyton when I left. Hes a good, practical person and in the intervening period from the time I left Williams to working with Geoff again now at Red Bull, hes developed enormously in terms of his technical management abilities. Thats how our relationship works. Geoff is responsible for how the company operates technically and offers general technical leadership, leaving me free to be involved in the mid- to long-term overviews, with the opportunity to dabble in the detailed areas of engineering as I see fit.
Q: 2007 was Red Bulls first season using Renault engines. How has the new partnership worked out?
AN: It was very good to be working with Renault again. Ive always admired their engineering skills and their open approach to how they operate their engines. I also feel weve had total equality with the works team and hope weve been able to contribute to the development of the engine throughout the season.
Q: Looking ahead to 2008, how is the design of the teams new car progressing? Can you give us any hints about what we should expect from the RB4? An evolution of the RB3, or should we be prepared for surprises?
AN: RB4 will mechanically be an evolution of RB3, and so should give us a much more reliable and well understood base to work from at the start of the season. Were working hard on the remaining weaknesses that we felt we still had at the end of this season, coupled with what we need to do to cope with the banning of electronic controls.
Q: How have the new regulations concerning traction control and standardised ECUs impacted on the design of the RB4?
AN: The regulations havent impacted on fundamentals, other than that they place a greater emphasis on the driveability of the car. Some of the stability aids that we enjoyed when we had electronic freedoms have now been restricted.
Q: At what level do you see the team competing in 2008? Do you have any targets in terms of championship position?
AN: Ive never been a fan of targets because if you set them too high you end up disappointed, and if you set them too low, you give yourself an easy ride. The aim is to the best job possible in light of our resources and where the team currently is, in terms of its development.
Q: David Coulthard and Mark Webber are staying on for 2008. How important do you think stability is for the team?
AN: Stability in all areas, be it engine, drivers or tyres, always makes it easier to develop a car. Knowing what David and Mark expect from the car establishes a clearer set of goals for the engineers.
Q: There are set to be more and more restrictions on aero development. Do you find the introduction of such regulations a challenge or do you feel it constrains the creative process?
AN: Generally speaking when a new set of regulations come out it initially poses a new challenge, which is enjoyable. However, as each set of regulations tend to be more restrictive, once youve got over the initial area of rapid development, avenues do become more restricted.
Q: Finally, you were a McLaren man for several years - whats your take on the teams troubles this season?
AN: If youre talking about the espionage saga, my personal opinion is that its become over-hyped. Such things have always gone on in the industry and will always continue to do so, the fact is that there have been far bigger breaches of personnel taking info with them from one team to another in the past which have gone undetected or without penalty. My personal opinion is that anything anyone can take with them in their head is fair game, but anything that is written or in electronic format is not.