Red Bull will ﬁnd it difﬁcult to maintain its advantage the front of the ﬁeld in 2011 because of ever-more- restrictive regulations and the stability of the current rules package, according to chief technical officer Adrian Newey.
The team unveiled its latest creation, the RB7, at Valencia on Tuesday morning. The car caught the eye for the trademark Newey tight packaging around the rear, which is believed to feature a gearbox that is even more compact than last year’s notably small unit.
Despite the raft of rules tweaks for this year, the biggest of which the ban on the double diffuser, the core of the regulations has been stable since the start of 2009. Most of the changes have restricted areas in which teams can develop. Newey suspects that this will make Red Bull’s title defense a big challenge as it favors the biggest teams who are best-equipped to develop tiny, expensive improvements.
It’s a process that Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn dubs ‘Swiss watch-making’ and Red Bull claims not to have the same resources as F1’s biggest operations, McLaren and Ferrari.
“Defending the championship is our immediate goal,” Newey told AUTOSPORT Magazine. “The dangers are that the rules are stabilizing. We had the big change in 2009 and then subsequent smaller changes, but the more you get into a stable set of regulations, the more it becomes an iterative process. Then the size and experience of the team counts more than innovation.”
Despite his concerns, Newey still believes that there is enough leeway in the rules for innovative design to prevail, regardless of the long-term trend in the sport for rules to become ever-tighter.
“The rules now are more restrictive than the rules that we had in 2010,” said Newey. “But there is always a danger [that someone can come up with the unexpected], and it’s right and proper that there should be that danger. That’s F1.
We came up with the exhaust-blown diffuser last year. The beauty of these things is you don’t see them coming.
Obviously we came up with the exhaust-blown diffuser last year, and the beauty of these things is that, almost by deﬁnition, you don’t see them coming.”
If, as Newey predicts the ﬁeld is closer this year, the disadvantage in peak power that Renault claims has been frozen in itsV8 power plant could become a decisive performance differentiator. Despite ongoing lobbying, the Renault unit remains unchanged this year. “The engine-freeze business still hasn’t been resolved,” said Newey.
“You have three main performance differentiators — the chassis, driver and engine. Setting aside the driver for the moment, the more stable the chassis regulations are, and the more the performance will converge and the more the differences in engines become apparent. We’re very happy with the Renault partnership, but the way that the engines were frozen is a problem [Renault claims that it stopped developing its unit prior to the freeze earlier than its rivals, as it believes the rules demanded]-”
Newey’s concerns do not prevent most onlookers from expecting Red Bull to be extremely difficult to beat in 2011. But with this team traditionally wary of showing its raw speed during testing, it will not be until the opening Bahrain Grand Prix that we see the potential of Newey’s latest masterpiece.