Red Bull Racing’s Chief Technical Officer, Adrian Newey, believes Mercedes are once again leading the Formula One charge for the world championship this year.
Speaking in Jerez during the opening pre-season test last week, Newey claimed that the current engine dominated formula offers Mercedes a huge advantage, ahead of their Renault, Ferrari and Honda-powered competitors.
The Anglo-German squad easily swept the Constructors Championship last season and if their form in the first is anything to go by, Mercedes may prove extremely difficult to beat this year too. In what he describes as an “engine dominated formula”, Newey told Sky Sports F1 of the difficult challenge ahead. “I think Mercedes should win it frankly; they have a power advantage […] that puts them hugely ahead.”
However the former Williams and McLaren man was still keen to impress the importance of a competitive design. “The chassis is very important though – can we make enough of a difference on the chassis to mount a challenge? I think it will be extremely difficult, but we will obviously do our best.”
The 56-year-old has been critical of the chassis design regulations, which were introduced for the start of last season, citing that they have veered too far away from what Newey considers to be the optimum. “[The regulations have] gone the other way now, where the blend in my opinion should always be a combination of driver, chassis and engine and at the moment it is skewed very much toward the engine.”
As regulations governing where designers can go when drawing their new machines become increasingly neutered, Newey has not been shy to disguise his frustrations. “The chassis regulations have become over-restricted – the problem with that is the cars all look the same. It’s difficult to differentiate from my point of view as a designer; it’s difficult to find new avenues, so I do feel we have become over-restricted.”
Yet the man whose technical genius helped Red Bull to four Constructors Championship titles is also aware that loose a set of rules could also damage the spirit of competition. “It is a very difficult compromise, in terms of having relatively open regulations that can cause excessive spending if not carefully controlled – I don’t really buy that, as we have windtunnel and CFD restrictions – but also a fear that overly open regulations one team might get a big advantage over the others.”
Red Bull arrived at the circuit in the south of Spain utilising a camouflage livery and Newey was somewhat coy as to what significant details his RB11 machine may be hiding. “If we can help to disguise things a little bit and conceal some the shapes we have developed over the winter, then that prevents them getting as good a knowledge of our shape as they might do otherwise,” noted Newey.
When pressed upon whether there will be significant upgrades prior to the opening race in Melbourne, the designer was a touch more circumspect. “It will be the usual developments. I won’t say it will be a very different car; there will hopefully be some changes that we are working on, but the car we have here is the basic structure of we will have in Melbourne.”
Despite some underlying optimism, the opening test was not the easiest for Red Bull, whose drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat could only complete 122 laps over the course of the four-day session.
Throughout the test, Ricciardo suffered a battery problem on the opening day, followed by a power unit issue on day three. Kvyat’s running on day two was hampered when an error by the young Russian resulted in a broken front wing. With no spares on site, the team altered their programme, with Kvyat completing numerous installation laps and straight-line stints over the course of the day.