Newey Debunks Rumors on Red Bull’s Revamp

Earlier this year, the unveiling of the Red Bull RB20 grabbed attention with its striking visual alterations, sparking curiosity among spectators. However, Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey refutes any suggestion that these changes are responsible for its sustained impressive performance.

In the realm of Formula 1, Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen are proving to be the dominant force in 2024. Verstappen’s triumphant victory in three out of the initial four races underscores their prowess, with Australia presenting a missed opportunity for another win due to technical setbacks.

While some may view this dominance as mundane, the technical experts within Formula 1 find fascination in witnessing the synergy between Red Bull and Verstappen, perceiving it as an almost flawless fusion of driver and machine.

At the heart of the RB20’s design philosophy lies Adrian Newey, a revered figure in Formula 1 with decades of experience, boasting a decorated career as one of the most accomplished engineers in the sport’s history.

“Because it’s quite a big visual change, people make these comments – the truth is that the underpinnings of the car, the key architectural layout, front and rear suspension, is the third evolution of what was the RB18 [Red Bull’s 2022 car], so [it’s] actually extremely similar,” Newey stated.

“Obviously, there are then some significant visual changes, mainly revolving around the radiators and cooling layout which have brought benefits.

“It is one of those where it’s a large visual change for what is actually, in truth, a smaller performance change. Details on the floor have also evolved and nobody, of course, notices!”

The underside of modern F1 cars holds significant importance, functioning on a “ground effect” principle wherein airflow beneath the car generates a substantial portion of the vehicle’s grip.

Many enthusiasts argue that the current generation of F1 cars is perfectly tailored to Adrian Newey’s expertise, as he previously navigated similar F1 regulations during the 1980s.

“It was a long time ago but my early career was with Venturi cars, in F1 and in IndyCar. Some of that knowledge has been useful in terms of knowing the potential pitfalls from Venturi cars – particularly the bouncing, or what we call proposing.

“It was a problem that the IndyCars didn’t really suffer from but the F1 cars in 1980 and 1981 suffered from significantly.

“My first visit to the racetrack, when I was at Fittipaldi, was in 1981. Harvey Postlethwaite was the technical director and he decided that because the front suspension was so stiff, we could save weight by throwing away the dampers and the coil springs and replacing them with bump rubbers.

“We did that as a test at Silverstone. Keke Rosberg was the driver and he came past the old pits at Silverstone and the car was bouncing so badly, you could just about see air through the front wheels.

“He came in completely shaken. It was an early lesson on how bouncing is actually quite a complex phenomenon in terms of [there being] many factors – the track surface itself, the aerodynamics, the suspension, etc.”

Initially, Red Bull appeared to have a handle on the issue of porpoising as Formula 1 entered its new era, although Adrian Newey is hesitant to claim sole credit for resolving the bouncing phenomenon.

“By the middle of 2022, most people were more or less on top of [it],” he noted. “We then obviously had the small regulation change of raising the floor by 15 millimeters and that actually did change things again.

“It arguably suited us more than others, which was surprising because some of the teams that were lobbying hard for it were the teams that actually suffered more from it.”

Reflecting on the inaugural year of the new regulations, Red Bull’s ascendancy truly surged from the iconic Belgian Grand Prix onwards. Was this solely attributed to the regulations, or were there additional factors in play?

“If you go back to 2022, the first half of the season we had a very tight battle with Ferrari,” Newey stated. “We actually started the aero development of the car, particularly the more detailed development as opposed to the underlying architecture, probably later in 2021, then some of our rivals.

“Particularly Ferrari, who effectively wrote off the 2021 season and dedicated it to research the 2022 cars. Because we are in a tight battle Mercedes through that year, we had to balance our resources a bit more.”

“We managed to get the underlying architecture reasonably good but we were a bit behind on some of the detailed aero development at the start of the season,” Newey added.

“Equally that meant we had more development potential and by mid-season, we were starting to unleash that potential. Obviously, we then went on to have quite a good second half of the season.”

Newey reiterated that the current RB20 remains largely consistent with its predecessors, emphasizing its evolutionary rather than revolutionary nature. This continuity may catch competitors off guard, particularly as they have struggled to bridge the gap with Red Bull.

“Last year’s car and this year’s car have been further evolution of that RB18 in 2022. Under the cost cap regulations, if you can start off with a decent principle, then it becomes easier to develop.

“If you are unfortunate and start off with the wrong principle, the cost cap regulations then hinder the catch up process.”