Red Bull designer Adrian Newey’s decision to join Red Bull from McLaren in 2006 has paid off fourfold but still he wants more.
After the Milton Keynes-based Formula One team and Germany’s Sebastian Vettel racked up a quadruple double – four successive drivers’ and constructors’ championships – at the Indian Grand Prix on Sunday, Newey is already focused on trying to make it five.
Rivals might wish he took a sabbatical, switched to designing racing yachts for an Americas’ Cup challenge or worked for them but Newey has no such plans at present.
Next year we have this big regulation change which is exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. So that's my immediate concentration. After that we'll have to see
“It’s been an amazing ride,” he told reporters at the Buddh International Circuit after Vettel became the youngest four times champion at the age of 26.
“When I joined Red Bull it was kind of a bit of a career risk to leave an established team like McLaren and join an upstart team sponsored by a fizzy drink company.
“But it’s been incredibly satisfying. it’s kind of schoolboy comic stuff, really. I love working with the team, I love working with my colleagues at the team, I find the environment very stimulating.
“Next year we have this big regulation change which is exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. So that’s my immediate concentration. After that we’ll have to see.”
Newey-designed cars have now won 10 constructor’s championships in total with three separate teams – five with Williams from 1992 to 1997 and one with McLaren in 1998.
The British boffin still uses a pencil and pad in his Milton Keynes office, happily labelling himself the last of the design dinosaurs, while overseeing others who put concepts into practice.
“We don’t pretend to be anything we’re not. We’re a Formula One team operating out of relatively scruffy factory units in Milton Keynes, nothing glamorous,” he said.
“We just try and keep our feet on the ground and have a good creative atmosphere in the team.”
In this year’s championship, Vettel has won 10 of the 16 races so far, including the last six in a row.
There is every chance that by the end of the year he will have extended that run, possibly to equal the 60-year-old record of nine set by Italian Alberto Ascari, but it did not look that promising earlier in the year.
Spate of blowouts
Red Bull started the season with a car that was basically a continuation of the 2012 one, with a few refinements.
The quick-wearing Pirelli tyres did not play to their strengths, particularly on high speed corners, and in the early races team principal Christian Horner voiced repeated criticism until a spate of blowouts at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in June forced a change and a return to the 2012 construction.
Vettel won three of the first eight races and then seven of the eight since Silverstone.
“Going back to 2012 tyres, for sure, helped us,” said Newey, while adding there was “no single magic bullet’ and other factors also played a part.
“The 2013 tyres were much more load sensitive. It was much more easy to damage them if you put too much load into them,” he said.
“A bit of it was the nature of the circuit as well. The circuits we had as we got into the second half of the season perhaps suited the car.
“We hadn’t fully got on top of the high downforce…circuits such as China and Barcelona. So probably Spa and Monza suited us as being medium and low downforce circuits and then by the time we got to Singapore we’d managed to get on top of the high downforce areas we’d struggled with a bit earlier in the season.”
The closest comparison is with 2011, when Vettel ended up with 11 wins in total and was also dominant.
In 2011 Ferrari started well but by the mid-season McLaren were pretty strong and making good strides and we were worrying that actually their development rate was higher than our own,” said Newey.
“This year Ferrari started off well, but come mid-season Mercedes seemed to be making very good strides and we were kind of worrying that their development rate was going to overtake us.”