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Newey: Past, present and future of F1

To take Red Bull’s place in F1 will be a daunting task. Aside from having a great driver, they have the best asset of the sport in terms of generating ideas: Adrian Newey.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013

September 24th, 2013 (F1plus/Jael Arias).- Next season represents the hope for many to finally see Red Bull fall from their dominant position as the undisputed champion of F1, for three consecutive years, while the fourth is just a matter of time.

However, for some of us things aren’t so clear. The most common arguments are aerodynamics will be less important, Rory Byrne returning to Ferrari, Mercedes spending the last three years working on the 2014 project, and so on. But taking the place of a three-time world champion team requires much heavier arguments.

Number 1: Aerodynamics will lose prominence

This is not so clear. While the engine and energy recovery systems will play a much more prominent role, we cannot take the eyes off the global importance of the whole package.

As pointed out by Joan Villadelprat (former Benetton engineer in the times of Schumacher there) in his column for the newspaper El Pais: "The engine is only part of the car and, perhaps, not the most important. It is the reliability, aerodynamics, changes in weight distribution, double KERS (recovered under braking and turbo), and modifications to the suspensions. All this will add or subtract."

And anyone who has been watching F1 these four years has the picture very clear: Red Bull has been the best team in the aspects mentioned by Villadelprat. Newey is the main figure for the superiority of Milton Keynes in these areas.

Number 2: Newey produces fast but unreliable cars

Everyone remembers how Kimi Raikkonen lost the 2005 world championship to Fernando Alonso, despite having the fastest car that year. Unreliability played a big role for McLaren not winning the championship in the car designed by Newey.

But that is in the past. Since 2009, the year that Red Bull began to appear as a dominant force in F1, lack of reliability has not been a problem that the Milton Keynes squad has been facing on a regular basis. Newey has built robust and fast cars like no other engineer in F1.

That said: Why in 2014 should the picture change? Why suddenly Newey will begin to design unreliable cars, contrary to what he has done these four years?

We do not intend to paint a bleak picture. Anything can happen in 2014. But Formula 1 is not merely cyclical as many want to present it. Newey has been overcoming many challenges throughout his career. The challenge for the other teams is huge.

The task is daunting but possible

This year we have seen some encouraging signs. Although there have been cemented in week soil.

Ferrari started the season in spectacular fashion. So did Lotus. But the early success of both teams was based in the conception of their designs to preserve the fragile compound brought by Pirelli.

In raw speed, from the outset it was clear that Red Bull had the best package although in some GP they were overshadowed by an amazing Mercedes and by the fragile tyres. Brackley team with Ferrari will, on paper, be the main challengers next year.

The Germans underpin their hopes on the ongoing work done in the last three years by a team of engineers, experts in this field. With this argument they conquered Lewis Hamilton to join their ranks.

In Ferrari on the other hand, is working again the legendary Rory Byrne, who was the main headache for Newey in the early part of the last decade and a key figure for the Red Dynasty that dominated F1 with Schumacher.

Both the Italians and the Germans have the advantage of being a manufacturer of chassis and power unit, which in theory represents a competitive advantage when integrating the whole package. But the reality in the last five years has been another.

Red Bull has a privileged relationship with Renault and for sure their influence in shaping the engine manufactured by the French house has been enormous.

Ferrari and Mercedes are probably better motorists than Renault. But as noted by Villadelprat: "The French were the inventors of the well known turbo and they know very well the 1.6 cc engines."

Another factor is that changes in regulation are Newey territory usually. The Englishman is the best interpreter of the rules and the chance of finding any holes in it, and get a competitive edge and peel the rest are very high.

The new turbo era beginning next year is all uncertainty. But it should be clear that Red Bull starts with all the benefits and the likelihood that they remain in the top initially are enormous. 

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