Red Bull Racing’s mastermind behind the quadruple winning constructor and drivers’ titles is this weekend in India supporting his son Harrison who competes in the final race of the MRF Challenge. Adrian Newey stepped back from his frontline Formula One design duties in Milton Keynes to pursue ‘other projects’ from the beginning of 2015.
Newey believes Formula One has fundamentally changed since the introduction of the V6 hybrid turbo engines and the change means it is nigh on impossible for his Red Bull Racing team to compete at the front. He believes the proper balance between engine, chassis and driver contribution to performance has been lost in Formula One.
Red Bull and Bernie Ecclestone have been championing the building of an independent engine for Formula One, where the manufacturer does not have a competing team in the competition. However, the current F1 power unit suppliers recently satisfied Jean Todt by agreeing to cut the cost of the V6 Hybrid engines to customers to 12 million euros from 2017. This headed off the threat from the FIA to open up an alternative engine design to tender.
Red Bull Racing were second in the constructors’ title in 2014 following the introduction of the new hybrid engines. Though with Newey stepping back together with their war with Renault last year, the former world champion team slipped to fourth place in the table. If Newey is to be believed, fans of Red Bull have few reasons to be optimistic about their recovery in the coming season. “Our hope for 2016 is to just maintain that gap, but with Ferrari and Mercedes expected to step up, towards the end of the year we might be further behind than we were last year,” says Newey.
Clearly the Milton Keynes team are bitter about not being able to secure a Mercedes engine deal and Adrian Newey suggests things have changed for the worst since the golden era of Formula One. “Cosworth came with a winning engine in 1967 that was exclusively for use by the Lotus team. It became very clear that the engine was going to be dominant.
“Then, Lotus agreed to waive its exclusivity to allow others to use it for the good of the sport. Unfortunately, that sort of attitude doesn’t seem to exist any more. If the sport is not healthy, what’s the point in winning?”
Bernie Ecclestone has not given up hope of delivering an alternative F1 engine and in his recent interview with the BBC the 85 year old claimed, “Until we get an engine that can be built at a lot less cost, yes, there will be trouble ahead.”
Critics of Red Bull Racing’s consistent complaints at the current F1 regulations level the four years of Milton Keynes dominance as evidence of hypocrisy. Yet Newey believes things were very different then. “Though we managed to win four titles, in 2010 and 2012 the battle went down till the last race.
“Secondly with aero and chassis it is out on view, people can see designs, understand and copy. But with the engine formula you can’t see your competitor’s engine. The only way to catch up is with huge investments and people moving. Ferrari improved from 2014 to 2015 but it cost a lot and needed people from Mercedes.”
Newey could well be right about Red Bull Racing slipping further down the pecking order this year, though that would probably require either McLaren Honda to resolve their power unit issues or Force India to build on the great work they delivered on their chassis in 2016.
Red Bull’s stance has garnered some sympathy from F1 fans who are tired with the Mercedes dominance, yet should Ferrari mount a proper challenge on track this season, Red Bull’s cause may lose momentum even further.