Adrian Newey Q&A: Nothing less than the title will do 16 Jun 2011
Top drivers are a hot commodity in the Formula One paddock, but Red Bulls chief technical officer Adrian Newey - the design guru with seven world titles under his belt - is arguably the hottest commodity of all. The basic facts are that teams who have him on their side, win. And the teams who let him go, struggle. Of the last 26 Grands Prix, 14 have been won by the Newey-designed Red Bull - statistics that speak louder than words. But what does the man himself make of it all? He speaks exclusively to Formula1.com
Q: Adrian, many drivers on the grid say that they are not driving against Sebastian Vettel but against Adrian Newey. Is that so?
Adrian Newey: (laughs) No, thats not true. It is a combination of car, driver and engine. Only if all three factors come together will success be on the horizon.
Q: What percentage of the whole would each of these factors be?
AN: Thats an old and everlasting question. But it is not possible to come to a definite conclusion on this percentage calculation. You need a good car and a good driver. You dont win anything without the combination of both.
Q: What about the engine?
AN: Obviously a car doesnt run without an engine. But today with the frozen engine regulations it is very difficult for one engine manufacturer to have a big advantage over the others. Of course there are differences between the engines and right now we are blessed. I think the whole car is okay. We have certainly had a good start to the season, but Formula One is all about development. So being quick at the start of the year isnt enough. You have to the quickest at the end of the season!
Q: Sebastian has won five out of seven races and you say the car is okay. What has to happen for you to say it is fantastic?
AN: We have to win the championship - nothing less. Then I will say it is fantastic.
Q: You have won seven titles so far in your career - equalling Michael Schumacher. Do you think about that?
AN: Equalling Michael Schumacher? No. Of course I have been very lucky in my career and winning both titles last year with Red Bull Racing was very special because I joined the team very early on. I was centrally involved and built up the team from the start. It was a fresh challenge.
Q: When you joined Red Bull Racing it was clear that it would take some years before you were all on winning form. Did you ever question whether you could do it?
AN: Of course I was lucky to be very successful with Williams and then McLaren, but there was also the urge for a new challenge. Looking around at what that fresh challenge could be, I looked at yachts - at the Americas Cup - but came to the conclusion that being involved with a team right from the start would be the challenge I was looking for. It was kind of like leaving the road of safety at McLaren and inching my way into unknown territory.
Q: What do you think about Sebastians habit of naming his cars?
AN: I sympathize with this tradition because I have always given my private road cars and motorbikes names. My first motorbike was called Hermes, my current car, the GT40 is called Monty and the Ferrari is called Bruno and so forth. I have always chosen male names - they are more reliable than females! (laughs)
Q: You have worked with some of the best drivers in Formula One racing. Can you rate them in terms of their specific talents in certain areas?
AN: I think it would be a bit unfair to do that
Q: But then how would you rate Sebastian? He is just 23 years-old but already world champion
AN: The very special thing with Sebastian is how mature he is at this age. Ive seen so often that when drivers suddenly rise from obscurity to incredible stardom and fame that it goes to their head. They lose ground and their head gets a bit too big. Sebastian is remarkably level headed. He is a very private man and isnt into the fame at all. He thinks a lot about what he does and rarely makes the same mistake twice. And he is very hard working. He is always in the paddock in the evening, speaking with his engineers, going through the data and reflecting on what he did in the car. I think thats one thing all great drivers have in common.
Q: When you see one of your cars crash into the wall - like in Monaco and Montreal - does it hurt you?
AN: No, it doesnt hurt, but there is immediately the thought of how this will affect our programme for the weekend. How much running time will we have lost? How quickly we can make the repairs? These kinds of things. If you always push to the limit these things happen when you sometimes go a bit beyond the limit.
Q: How do you cope with the pressures of your job? Always wanting to be the best must take its toll
AN: Its a constant stress so it is simply the level I live on. I find my biggest enemy is time. The job is very time consuming - and can be over consuming if you are not careful. To find enough time for the family - to have a life outside Formula One - I really have to snatch this time. And then when I find myself idle for an hour, I almost feel guilty about it because I am not doing something. So time is the biggest pressure. Of course there is also the pressure to do well. If you are doing badly then you want to do well. And then when you do, you are under pressure to maintain it. Its the eternal circle.
Q: How many sleepless nights have you had in the last five, 10, 15, 20 years? Can you switch off in the evening?
AN: I have to say I am reasonably fortunate on that. Occasionally, of course, I have a sleepless night. Usually when Ive been working late and have then gone to bed too quickly and my mind is still going. But in general I do get a decent nights sleep.
Q: So far you always got it right with your designs, but nobody can get it right forever. When you have to design a new car because of new regulations is there the fear that you may have got it wrong this time?
AN: To be honest I never have the time to worry about it. I just get on and do it. Part of car design is risk, and that means that you can go up and down. Occasionally I have made mistakes, perhaps taken too many risks and the car has been too problematic, but then you could be too conservative and go nowhere. Regulation changes are always risky - there might be something that we havent spotted but somebody else has, and suddenly you are caught on the back foot because of that. Aside from these things I enjoy designing. I get a buzz out of the combination of design and sport. That is what Formula One engineering is, really. The car comes from a set of ideas and that, if you like, comes from the artistic side of the brain. Probably everybody could come up with something that looks pretty, but that doesnt means that it goes well. So you have to temper your ideas with the physical and mathematical side and that requires huge discipline.
Q: Obviously when the regulations change it is important to spot possible ambiguities. How do you go about that process?
AN: First of all you have to understand the rules - and understand what they dictate and what you have to do. You make the first shape and then step backwards telling yourself that that is what they want us to build. And then you try to spot ambiguities and ponder how you can make them work to your advantage.
Q: What does your home look like? Is it what we would expect from a design guru?
AN: My home is a Georgian house, built in the mid 1800s and the internal decoration is a mixture of old and new. I like that mixture, but of course I have to say that I appreciate design in my private life as much as I appreciate it in my job. I like good-looking things.
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