Home - The Official Formula 1 Website Skip to content

Exclusive Q&A with Red Bull's Adrian Newey 26 Nov 2013

Adrian Newey (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 6 July 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Practice, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Friday, 22 November 2013 Adrian Newey (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Race Day, Sunday, 27 October 2013 Red Bull Racing RB9 nose and front wing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013 Adrian Newey (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer and Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Practice, Friday, 25 October 2013 Red Bull Racing RB9 front wheel hub and front suspension.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, USA, Thursday, 14 November 2013 Mika Hakkinen(FIN) Mclaren MP4-15, 2nd place is greeted by Adrian Newey(GBR) Mclaren Technical Director French GP, Magny Cours, 2 July 2000 L to R; Alain Prost, Adrian Newey and David Brown. Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, 13 June 1993 Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates with Adrian Newey (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 8 September 2013 Emerson Fittipaldi (Fittipaldi F7 Ford), 1980 Monaco Grand Prix. Adrian Newey worked for the Fittipaldi team immediately after graduating from university Adrian Newey (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 23 March 2013 Adrian Newey (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday, 21 April 2013 Mauricio Gugelmin (BRA) Leyton House French Grand Prix, Paul Ricard, 9 July 1989.  Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4/19 retired from the race.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Race Day, Rd 2, Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 21 March 2004 Red Bull Racing RB6 F-Duct detail.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Valencia Spain, Thursday, 24 June 2010 Adrian Newey (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, USA, Texas, Saturday, 16 November 2013 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Jerez, Spain, Tuesday, 5 February 2013 Adrian Newey (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Jerez, Spain, Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Whilst there’s endless debate about who can be considered the best driver of Formula One's current generation, few would dispute that Adrian Newey is the greatest technical mind of his. Now, having added another pair of championships to his already unparalleled CV, Red Bull’s chief technical officer has turned his thinking to 2014. In this exclusive in-depth interview he discusses the impact of next season’s regulation changes, his approach to design and his many career successes…

Q: You are the most successful Formula One designer of recent years. Lately cars have mainly been evolutions of the previous year’s design, but 2014 brings with it massive changes. How do you go about that? Do you really start with a clean sheet of paper as legend suggests?
Adrian Newey:
The first thing that you do is to read the regulations - very, very carefully. You try to read what they actually say, rather than what they intend to say, as this is not always the same thing. After that I’m actually breaking it down into bite-size chunks. Then you try to understand from the regulations the aerodynamic and mechanical packaging that appears to be the best solutions for those different areas. You go away and research them and at some point try to bring it all back together again. For me that is the important bit: the end product should be a whole and not pieces thrown together into one cluster.

Q: How many people are involved in this process?
AN:
We have over 100 engineers. In terms of the early key layout it is a smaller group. For the RB10 we started by dividing the task into the front and the back end (of the car) aerodynamically, and the middle in terms of packaging the engine and the cooling. Cooling will be a huge challenge next year.

Q: Is the blank sheet of paper and a 7B pencil still reality?
AN:
To some extent it is still habit. I graduated in 1980 - obviously long before CAD systems - so I have always used a drawing board and never took the time to learn a CAD system. (laughs) For me what you’re used to is almost like a language - and you stick to the one that you know best. I love the drawing board because most of the work I do is of half scale, so I can have the complete car in front of me, whereas the CAD system limits you to the size of the screen. Having said that, for an organization like us it would be much too intense to have too many people like me working on a drawing board, because everything has to go on to the computer to go through CFD and later be manufactured.

Q: Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said of you that you are completely crazy and absolutely fearless. Is that what it takes to design the most successful F1 cars of recent years - and to take on this 2014 challenge, where you can arguably only lose?
AN:
I am not sure. I guess it’s less about being crazy and more about having confidence that what you are doing is going into a good direction. Equally you have to be passionate about it and believe that what you’re doing is correct. You might call it the artistic side of it - but then you have to be able to stand back and try to be objective: is that a good direction, or isn’t it? If the answer is ‘no, it is not’ then you have to be prepared to say that the last hour, the last day, the last week is in the bin.

Q: The design process at other teams is probably not that different to what you’ve just described, so what makes the difference? Do you have an inner voice that tells you the good from the bad?
AN:
No, no inner voice. I call it the 24-hour rule: does it still look a good idea after 24 hours? That decides whether it gets a tick or a cross. Actually, you develop a sensibility for that procedure. The brain is an amazing thing: you might be doing something completely different - maybe making a cup of tea - and suddenly you know right from wrong!

Q: You have created so many successful cars that gave now legendary drivers the chance to win: drivers like Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Mika Hakkinen and now Sebastian Vettel. Did you take their strengths and weaknesses into account?
AN:
When I was a young designer Robin Herd came up with a March that was designed around Ronnie Peterson’s reactions. I honestly cannot say that I have ever consciously done that: to design a car on the belief of a driver’s reactions.

Q: So it was never a Mansell, Prost or now Vettel car, but rather a Newey car…
AN:
Well, what does happen is that when we have continuity in drivers like we’ve had for the last few years with Sebastian and Mark (Webber) then you listen to their feedback and the car evolves at least in parts as a result of their feedback. That does happen.

Q: When you look back at all those names - Senna, Prost, Mansell etc - where would you rank Seb? What would be your personal ranking?
AN:
It would be unfair to go into rankings - to put one above the other - but what I would say is that Seb, without question, is one of the true greats. Of the great drivers I have been lucky enough to work with, what they all tended to have in common is intelligence. They all have the ability to drive the car and have the spare mental capacity to understand what they are doing when they drive the car, and to have great recall when they get out of the car - they can play back in their own minds what they’ve just experienced and combine that with a great work ethic in the evening in terms of talking to the engineers.

Q: You have been in motorsport for 30 odd years. What have those years taught you?
AN:
Formula One is hard work! (laughs) I like to think that I haven’t changed too much in those years - that Formula One hasn’t changed my personality, if you like. When I look back to my university days, most of my fellow students wanted to design aircraft, whereas I always wanted to be a race car designer. They then subsequently worked on projects where you could see the results in 10 or 15 years’ time - where feedback on whether it was good, bad or indifferent was ‘light years’ away. That wasn’t for me. The exciting thing about Formula One is you get a high level of feedback. It’s painful when you’re going badly, but at least you know. And then there’s trying to stay on top of the changes. When I graduated I went straight to Fittipaldi - a small F1 team at that time - and I was hired as a junior aerodynamicist, which when I started turned out to be chief aerodynamicist, as I was the only one! Even when I moved to Leyton House, as a team we were a total of 55 people, with six engineers in total, with me doing the aerodynamics, designing the car and manufacturing it with this tiny little team. You cannot comprehend this nowadays. Now you have Red Bull Racing with 600 plus employees, with a hundred plus engineers - so things have gone up tenfold or more. So trying to stay on top of the technology changes and the managerial changes has been an exciting task. Coming back to what all these years have taught me: standing still is deadly.

Q: Are you satisfied with yourself? Do you sit back in those rare quiet moments and think ‘not bad at all’?
AN:
No, I never sit back reflecting on such things. I am trying to play to my interests, yes, and hopefully my interests are also my strength. I try not to attend too many meetings. I try to spend at least 50 percent of my time behind the drawing board and the rest with my colleagues at the factory going over their findings. At the races, of course, I spend time with the drivers and that gives me the chance to be involved in many different things which I find very stimulating.

Q: Does your job have an expiry date? Do you ever say to yourself ‘three more years and then I call it quits’ for example? Or contemplate telling Christian Horner or Helmut Marko one day, ‘Hi guys, I’m not coming into the office today - or ever again in fact…’?
AN:
That wouldn’t be my style. I have been involved with Red Bull Racing from the start, so I feel a great deal of loyalty to the staff. I would never stop without giving anybody a good period of notice. But the honest truth is that as long as I keep enjoying it, I will keep going. Probably the closest I came to stopping in Formula One was around 2002. There seemed to be so much politics - Ferrari and the FIA - that it was quite a difficult time.

Q: Have you ever gone terribly wrong with a car? Something that you’ve regretted ever since…
AN:
Wrong yes, regret no. The cars that didn’t go nearly as well as I would have hoped: the 1989 Leyton House car, the successor of the 1988 car that changed the direction of Formula One a bit as well. We’d designed the car more or less purely on an aerodynamic base and then tried to package the mechanical parts. At that time - the turbo era - most people were doing it the other way round. They first designed a mechanical car and then looked at the aerodynamic side, so we were completely different in our ‘preferences’. But back to the story: coming out with a good 1988 car, we’d grown overambitious in 1989. The 1989 car was simply too complicated for the size of the team - and our experience. That was something to learn from. The other car - a similar situation - showed that I didn’t learn the lesson completely. It was the McLaren MP4-19A - the 2004 car. Ferrari was ‘cleaning up’ at that time and we felt that we needed to make a big step - or at least push to make a big step. And again, we made a mistake by pushing too hard. We were pushing so hard that we didn’t make our homework good enough.

Q: Do you get offers from other teams - even though everybody knows that you are so close to Red Bull Racing?
AN:
Yes, I do. The usual stuff. If I didn’t, I would be worried! (laughs)

Q: Coming on to 2014. Everybody says that from what they’ve seen so far, the 2014 cars look ugly…
AN:
Well, it’s the regulations that define the car. And, of course, ideally the car is fast and has a stylish design. But everybody in the paddock will give a fast car preference over an attractive car - that’s the way it is. Yes, for me it would be good if a bit more consideration was given to aesthetics in the drafting of the regulations. But fast is paramount over beauty.

Q: Coming to the regulations, years ago they had the characteristics of Swiss cheese: many holes and much room for interpretation. How much interpretation is possible today?
AN:
It’s less and less. The F-duct was a very clever example of getting around regulations; the exhaust duct was a good way of getting around them; little bits and pieces where we’ve found small loopholes in the regulations. But it is increasingly getting smaller. To have been an engineer in the seventies - the early seventies - would have been fascinating for me. You had almost no regulations, but on the other hand you also had very little research capabilities. You came up with a car, ran it, and if you were lucky it was a good idea and it ran well. If not, then you ran the previous year’s car and hoped for next year.

Q: Keyword 2014: Could it be that suddenly somebody is two seconds faster than the rest?
AN:
Let’s start with the regulations. You can divide them into two parts: the powertrain and the aerodynamic changes. The aerodynamic changes are big, but they are smaller than the changes we had in 2009. So yes, there is the chance that one team comes up with a car that is better than their rivals’, but on top of that you have the engine changes and what is absolutely unclear is whether one engine manufacturer will be able to come up with a significant advantage. But the car that will brush aside all others will be a car having the combination of good engine and good chassis - if one side is letting you down you will have a problem. But who will come up with the ideal combination? That’s the big guessing game for all of us and will add spice to the 2014 season.

Q: Can Adrian Newey really switch off?
AN:
Believe it or not, I can. Then I go the Caribbean for a few days and make my mind stop racing. Yes, that I do. But Formula One is a very consuming taskmaster - and one of the tricks is to keep it in balance, as it would be very easy to end up doing nothing but work.

Q: What would happen to the team should you decide that a few days off is not enough - that you need much more time to recharge the batteries?
AN:
They would carry on.

Q: But how?
AN:
I am only one person - hopefully an important person - but things carry on, they always do. (laughs) But since I’ve been at Red Bull I’ve never tried it - only back in the times when I switched teams.

Q: Finally, you are known as a design genius - and your track record confirms that - but how well suited are you to daily life? Can you cook for example?
AN:
I can do a Sunday roast and I can cook spaghetti, but that’s about as far as it goes. (laughs) I think I am a normal guy, although my family might completely disagree.

For tickets and travel to 2013 FORMULA 1 races, click here.
For FORMULA 1 merchandise, click here.