Exclusive Q&A with Red Bulls Adrian Newey 03 Nov 2012
Red Bull look set to wrap their third consecutive constructors title in Abu Dhabi this weekend and if it happens, much of the credit will go to Adrian Newey, the teams much-feted design guru. Newey doesnt come across as your typical hero: hes quiet, softly spoken, the egghead of the F1 design pack. Importantly, though, he is the leader of that pack. Every team he ever joined was successful - and some are still cursing the day they let him go. Whether it be light-bulb moments of inspiration or sheer hard work that make his designs so fast, one thing seems certain - anyone wanting to win a championship in 2012 will have to beat the Newey-penned RB8 to get there
Q: Adrian, in the first half of the season it seemed that Red Bull could not win - now it seems almost impossible to stop you from winning. What happened?
Adrian Newey: Early in the year we had odd races where we have been very competitive, but we werent able to sustain the form from track to track. That was a combination of things: partly because it seemed that some cars did get on better at certain circuits with the tyres - which are very critical to manage this year - and secondly it was us having to get to grips over the winter on exhaust systems and front-wing flexibility. We had been perusing those areas for longer and perhaps more thoroughly than our rivals and been chasing that side for two seasons, whereas our competitors only did it for a year or. So when that was taken away from us it meant a big loss. It wasnt simply that with the regulation change it was the same for everybody. Because of the fact that we had developed those areas further than others, we had to take further steps back to understand how to optimize the car again for 2012.
Q: Red Bull motorsport chief Helmut Marko said recently that the results of late have also been down to the fact that both drivers have now more confidence in the car. What did they have before?
AN: I dont know - youd have to talk to them! (laughs) But of course we talk to our drivers, as their feedback is very important and its then a case of translating their feedback into engineering terms. Sure we had some difficult evolution, but that doesnt mean that the car was bad - we won three races early in the year
Q: But they were isolated races, whereas you are now on a sensational run
AN: We are now harvesting the fruits. (laughs)
Q: How is it possible to take such a dramatic leap forward in the final third of the season? What was up your sleeve to make that happen?
AN: Ah, weve been pushing all year. What we see now is what I just said - the fruits coming to fruition. What really was important to us was to understand the car - this years car has been quite a different animal to last years and it has taken us some time to understand what exactly we need to change. Or lets put it this way - we knew what we needed to do, but it has taken us some time to achieve that.
Q: Before you left for these flyway races, was there a moment when you doubted that you could pull it off again?
AN: You never really think about such things. For me it was an engineering challenge. It is really a matter of trying to understand the car and reduce the deficiencies in the car in areas you are not happy with. And hopefully you achieve that. So rather than panicking about what everybody else is doing, it is more a matter of working to take you where you want to be.
Q: Can you tell us in what areas did you raise the game?
AN: Ha, that is our intellectual property I am afraid. (laughs)
Q: You never seem to get tired of thinking out of the box - to go that extra mile. How do you keep your brain rotating so well about one issue: to go faster than anybody else. Where do you get your inspiration?
AN: Occasionally it is that sort of light-bulb moment in the shower, but a lot of it is just working trying to understand the car and the physics around the car, looking at the small details, but also stepping back to see if there is a different angle. It is always a balance between evolution and revolution.
Q: Everybody wants to have you in their team. How does it feel to be in such high demand?
AN: I dont really think about it, to be honest. I enjoy the team and the environment of the team - and otherwise I keep my head down and get on with my job.
Q: Sebastian seems to be your perfect driver - what would you say are his main qualities?
AN: Formula One is a combination of man and machine - and that is what makes it such an interesting thing. If you look at sport in general, most of it its just the man, the athlete - tennis, golf, athletics, obviously. Motor racing is that combination - and Formula One is the pinnacle of that combination - and its like virtually nothing else. You could argue yachting or perhaps cycling, but thats about it. So its an exciting combination. Why it is Sebastian? I think its almost impossible to answer that question. He is a very talented driver and we try to give him the best car we can - and it is obviously that combination that is stronger than Sebastian with another team or we with another driver.
Q: At the pit wall during a race you always have a pen rotating in your hand. Is that to calm your nerves?
AN: Ha, I was never really aware of doing it. (laughs) But probably, yes, I do it to keep my hands occupied.
Q: Red Bull have maintained their performance level for three years now, but Formula One history shows that form is cyclical. How do you keep up that performance?
AN: Well, yes it is cyclical, but we havent won both titles yet - we have still three races to go. Yes, it is tough staying at the top. As you say, history determines that we wont stay there forever so obviously you have to accept that. For me - and the team - the task is to perform on the highest level that we can - and if you consequently follow that you are where you are.
Q: So the hope - and ambition - is there to win both titles again?
AN: I never worry about what may or may not happen. It is the present I try to live in, so the focus is always on the immediate - where we are this weekend. Then we will see where we are after the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Q: Can you look ahead to 2013 - whats the biggest challenge then - and beyond?
AN: Who knows? Thats the fascination of this sport. It depends on what job people do over the winter - and next season is absolutely unpredictable. We are trying to manage our own destiny in terms of what we achieve, but it might be that there is somebody else who does a much better job over the winter than we do. Obviously we will try our best to unhinge the cyclical history of Formula One (laughs)
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