Adrian Newey reveals his Red Bull RB19 ‘complete surprise’

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull drivers pose with their 2023 trophies.

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez sit with their 2023 trophy haul.

Red Bull design guru Adrian Newey explained why it was a “complete surprise” that the team were able to design a car as dominant as the RB19.

Red Bull tightened their stranglehold on Formula 1’s era of ground effect aerodynamics in 2023, piecing together a record-breaking campaign.

Max Verstappen scored an incredible 19 grand prix wins out of 22, with Red Bull winning 21 overall, as team and driver blitzed their way to consecutive title doubles, both finishing with more than double the points of their closest competitors.

Red Bull RB19 dominance ‘complete surprise’ for Adrian Newey

Newey designed title-winning cars for Williams and McLaren before adding to the trophy cabinet with Red Bull, though the RB19 joined F1’s history books as the most successful challenger the series has seen, which came as a total shock to Newey.

2023 marked the second season of the current F1 regulations, so Newey believed it was inevitable that their lightning-fast start to this era would now be whittled away by their rivals, rather than their advantage actually increasing.

Asked by Top Gear whether it surprises him that a car as dominant as the RB19 can still be created in this era of F1, Newey replied: “It does actually. It’s a complete surprise.

“For the ’22 season we had the biggest regulation change on the chassis side since 1983, in terms of going back to venturi cars. We thought as we headed into the second year, with almost no regulation change over the winter and us running what is in effect an evolution car, that our advantage would be diminished, if not eradicated.

“Clearly, that’s not how it’s panned out.” recommends

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While Newey’s value to an F1 team has never been understated, Red Bull’s record-shattering success has reiterated the Newey influence, to the point where he is regarded by many as the key to success under the current F1 rules.

Newey said he always gets a buzz out of tackling regulation changes, reflecting on how his IndyCar experience, amassed with Truesports, Kraco and Newman-Haas, gave him the ideal background knowledge for F1’s latest regulatory overhaul and helped Red Bull avoid being plagued by a major initial issue for their rivals, that being porpoising.

“I’ve always enjoyed regulation changes,” he said. “Not just because of the loopholes that may exist, but figuring out the demands of the regulations, how they affect the fundamental principles of the car’s layout.

“For 2022, there were a few things that we needed to do differently. It was the return of ground effect – venturi – and I was certainly aware of the pitfalls having worked in IndyCar with that format.

“Bouncing is not simply due to the aerodynamic shape of the car, there are other factors – suspension characteristics, body stiffness – and when we were designing RB18 we were very mindful of that. We had a bit of porpoising at the very start but we were on top of it by race one.”

Rivals Ferrari and particularly Mercedes needed much more than a race to address the problem, so when asked why other teams were not able to also quickly figure out the porpoising, Newey replied: “Simulating bouncing in a wind tunnel and more so in CFD is not easy.

“It’s a transient problem, and there’s no motion to the car relative to the road. You don’t see it if you’re not looking for it.

“That’s the thing with all simulation tools. They’re dependent on what you put into them. If you haven’t looked in the right place and put the right things in, you won’t get the right answers out.”

Red Bull and Verstappen will be out for further title success in F1 2024, as the Dutch racer chases a fourth successive World Championship.

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