Something old, something Newey

The 2010 Formula One season brings new rules, new drivers, and a new car from Red Bull Racing design chief Adrian Newey. But a small mop-topped Brit remains in charge...

Red Bull Racing’s stunning new RB6 might look like last year’s car, but don’t be fooled: it’s tailor-made to meet 2010’s updated rules and regulations.

Change makes Adrian Newey very happy. Red Bull Racing’s chief technical officer insists Formula One becomes “a little less interesting” when everything is stable. The team recently unveiled RB6, its 2010 F1 world championship challenger, and this season’s new technical regulations require it to be more than an evolution of the car it replaces. But isn’t it a little odd to welcome change to the car that won the final three Grands Prix of 2009? Not for Newey, whose fascination lies with things new and so is in his element as F1 goes through one of its periodic episodes of seismic correction.

“I do enjoy regulation changes,” he says. “They allow me to sit back with a fresh sheet of paper and work out solutions from first principles. There’s a large contrast between that and the situation we’ve had for most of the last 10 years. Stability makes F1 very iterative. Nobody comes up with new ideas, instead there are lots of little alterations on well-established themes. The more resources you have, the more iterations you can afford, so winning becomes a question of who can assemble most resources. It’s not as stimulating as doing something new.”

For a second season in succession Newey gets to have the F1 he wants, the one where the brain is mightier than the wallet. The main differences between 2009 and 2010 are narrower front tyres and a ban on refuelling. It doesn’t sound like edge-of-the-seat stuff, but the effects might be dramatic – and not just for the garage crews keyed-up for the return of the six-second pitstop.

Last year, regulation changes turned the grid upside down: everyone expecting another instalment of McLaren v Ferrari were surprised to get Brawn v Red Bull Racing. This year it’s all up in the air again. Newey says he’s been “far too busy to study the competition in any great detail”, though admits to having taken “just a very quick look”.

“Both Ferrari and Mercedes [the former Brawn team, taken over by the Stuttgart giant at the end of the season] look like evolutions of the cars that finished last season, though both have adopted the V-section chassis we introduced with RB5. The McLaren looks… complicated, particularly at the rear where they seem to have done an awful lot of work on their diffuser design.”

Beyond that he won’t speculate. “We set targets for ourselves. We hope to achieve them, but even if we do, it’s not to say others won’t go further. Until the first race it’s a guessing game. Even with the experience and the science and technology, you never know until the racing starts.”

For the full interview pick up the March Red Bulletin Magazine.