Exclusive Q&A - Red Bulls Adrian Newey 20 Aug 2009
Adrian Newey is about as close as a Formula One designer comes to being a household name. Having previously penned championship-winning cars for Williams and McLaren, Newey is now targeting his first title with Red Bull. We spoke to Newey, the teams chief technical officer, about the RB5, the forthcoming RB6, and about life back at the front of the F1 grid
Q: The team arrived for Junes British Grand Prix with a significantly revised RB5 and there were further upgrades in Germany and Hungary. Are you planning any more major upgrades this season? If so, where and what will it involve?
Adrian Newey: It is difficult to be specific as we are continually testing and developing the car in the wind tunnel, but any parts we find that will enhance the performance of the car will be produced and added to the car as quickly as possible.
Q: A lot has been made this season of the relationship between temperature and relative team performance. We saw in Hungary that the RB5 didnt seem as strong in hotter temperatures as it was at the cool British and German races. Is this issue solely to do with tyre management or is there more to it than that?
AN: We believe the issues mainly relate to the temperature of the tyres, certainly with particular compounds that Bridgestone bring to the track at any given race weekend. It certainly does cause swings in performance between teams, but circuit characteristics also play a part. Hungary is quite a slow, bumpy circuit and therefore different in its make-up compared with a circuit such as Silverstone or Germany where our performance was stronger.
Q: The team are clear title challengers this year. How does it feel to be back at the front?
AN: It obviously feels very good, however the irony is that it never feels as though you are doing anything different. We continue to work hard and be intelligent with our resources and it is extremely rewarding that this year the fruits of this determination are at last being realised.
Q: How easy has it been to adjust to the in-season test ban? Have you enjoyed the challenge of trying parts out in the factory and during Friday practice alone, or do you miss the data from testing?
AN: As with all regulation changes it is something we have to factor in to our plans. We have had to change the way we introduce parts to the car and we test more on a Friday than we have in previous seasons. It is all part of the challenge.
Q: Had you known double diffusers would be legal, how different a car would you have designed for 2009?
AN: The car would have been very different, for sure, and it has been difficult for us to properly integrate the double diffuser as our rear suspension package is very much suited to a single diffuser arrangement. It has certainly been more challenging with the double diffuser.
Q: The main rule change for 2010 is set to be the ban on refuelling. How will this influence the design of the RB6? Can we expect an evolution of the RB5, or something more radical again?
AN: The ban on refuelling is primarily a packaging challenge as we have to integrate a fuel tank which is almost double the size of the existing one, whilst trying to maintain the basic design of the existing car. I would consider RB6 to be more of an evolutionary design rather than a radical departure.
Q: You obviously relish the challenge that comes with a major rules shake-up. Does that mean you will find 2010 a bit of an anti-climax after this season?
AN: In a sense yes, stable regulations mean that the designs along the pit lane converge and become evolutions of each other. I do like the challenge of major regulation changes as it offers opportunity for fresh thinking.
Q: How is the team currently splitting its workload between RB5 and RB6?
AN: RB6 development is currently centred initially around long-lead items, these primarily being the monocoque and gearbox. We are in the research stages at the moment and continuing to develop the RB5. It is always a difficult balance to maintain and we try to use our resources as efficiently as possible.
Q: What part of the design process do you enjoy most - the initial creation of the car or the ongoing development that comes once it has started racing?
AN: In many ways I enjoy the initial creation of the car, when the ethos of the car is set down.
Q: Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber have been among the closest team mates this season in terms of performance. If you had to put money on it, who would you bet on finishing higher in the standings?
AN: Im not a betting man.
Q: You have talked before about employing your skills in other fields. If the RB5 wins the title, will that make you more or less tempted to try something new outside of Formula One racing?
AN: I dont think what happens this year will affect what I do in the future. I still tremendously enjoy Formula One, but at some stage I would like to be involved in another area outside of motor racing before I reach pension age!