Red Bull technical guru Newey explains why the RB17 didn’t exist in F1


Adrian Newey has revealed the reasons behind Red Bull breaking convention with their F1 car naming process several years ago – and how the previously skipped RB17 will soon hit the track in another form.

Red Bull have stuck to a simple pattern of chassis identification since entering the sport almost two decades ago, using 'RB' to represent the team and a number to signify the latest edition – from the RB1 back in 2005 to the RB20 in 2024.

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However, that sequence was broken in 2021 as the RB16 from the previous year became the RB16B amid the introduction of new regulations being delayed and, when those came into play for the 2022 season, the Milton Keynes outfit moved straight to the RB18.

But rather than the RB17 name never being used, it has been attached to an all-new hypercar project from Red Bull Advanced Technologies, a machine that will be powered by a hybrid engine developing over 1,100bhp and limited to 50 models.


Newey has been key to Red Bull’s success in F1 over the years

Speaking about the situation on the Talking Bulls podcast, Newey said: “What caused it [the missed F1 car name] was Covid, effectively. The RB16 was the car we raced in 2020. That was then going to be replaced by RB17 for the 2021 season, but with Covid getting in the way, the regulations changed.

“We had to race the 2020 car in modified form for 2021, so RB17 as an F1 car was never ever built, because then when we did the ’22 car that was christened RB18, so 17 was always a missing number.

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“Also, in terms of when I did the first sketch or drawing [for the RB17] and then when the guys in Advanced Technologies took that and started doing their work, chronologically it fitted perfectly, so it just seemed logical – it felt right to fill in that gap.”

According to Newey, the RB17 – which he is working on alongside his F1 duties as Chief Technical Officer – is set to be rig tested throughout 2024 before hitting the track for the first time in 2025 and then being manufactured for customers in 2026.

What makes Adrian Newey so good?

“Obviously the first real stage will be when people see photographs of the model,” he continued. “We’ve made a full-scale model, which we’re not releasing just yet, we will do at some point in the summer.

“But the specification is now fixed, we’ve done all our evaluation work, so we’re now actually issuing drawings, parts are in manufacture, parts are being rig tested, so it’s in a reasonable state of advancement.”

READ MORE: Newey says ‘more subtle bits’ rather than Mercedes-like design elements key to RB20’s strengths

As for how the hypercar and F1 projects compare, Newey added: “In many ways the design philosophy is very similar, the approach in terms of how we do our research, design, manufacture, development, the process is the same, it’s just applied differently.”

Newey has an enviable track record in F1, the Briton penning cars that have won 12 constructors’ championships and 13 drivers’ titles over the years – these accolades split across time at Williams, McLaren and, most recently, Red Bull.



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