Adrian Newey is on a roll. While the Brawn squad seemed to be the darlings of the 2009 F1 season, Red Bull has taken their place this year. The fact is, Brawn’s dominance began to be eclipsed in the second half of last season, and it was only because they’d been so successful during the first half of the year that they were able to walk away with the title honors so handily at season’s end.
But the speed of the Red Bull cars was already in evidence, and had it not been for an assortment of mechanical glitches and driver errors, they probably would have won the driver’s and constructor’s titles this year with greater ease. Clearly, Adrian Newey’s design for the current car has come into its own.
Is this the beginning of another Newey era? At both of his previous teams, Williams and McLaren, he enjoyed multiple championships as head of car design. And while he is often called the most brilliant car designer in the sport, Newey has tempered this notion by saying that he has enjoyed his greatest successes during times when technical regulations are in flux, and designers are forced to go back to the drawing board (or CAD station) to find solutions to new problems.
In the early phases of new rule implementation, designers are experimenting, rather than just copying one another’s most effective ideas. Once the copycat phase begins, however the performance gap between various cars begins to shrink. Newey’s strength has always been in getting a jump on his rivals when regulations are still fresh.
Will Newey’s Red Bulls be able to maintain their edge over the competition during the coming year? In response to this question, Newey recently told Autosport, “I think it is impossible to forecast.”
He admitted, however, that he has a certain dread of tech regs becoming set in stone. “As regulations stay stable,” he said, “and you go deeper and deeper into a set of regulations, then it becomes more of an iterative process. Whether we can iterate as well as some of the more established teams has yet to be demonstrated.”
That said, he also believes that for the coming season, at least, there will be enough chanages in the rules to allow him to look for performance margins that will keep the Red Bulls ahead of the competition. “There were some reasonable rule changes over the winter,” he said, “with the ban on refuelling and the smaller front tyre, and the fact that like most other teams we were developing a car with a double-diffuser by design so it was very difficult to forecast where we were going to end up.”