Adrian Newey has admitted he’s feeling trepidation ahead of the launch of the Red Bull RB20, due to not knowing how conservative the team has been.
Red Bull launches the RB20 on February 15, the car that succeeds their 2023 offering that became the most dominant car in F1 history by winning all but one race during the 22-race calendar.
Despite having been utterly dominant throughout 2023, chief technical officer Adrian Newey believes that – on some occasions – it was Max Verstappen who made all the difference in order to eke out a win and admitted to feeling trepidation ahead of the new car’s launch.
Adrian Newey: Red Bull was completely surprised by extent of 2023 F1 domination
Appearing on Red Bull’s ‘Talking Bull’ podcast, Newey spoke at length about the launch of his newly-penned side project as Red Bull also enters the automotive world with the RB17 hypercar, before turning his attention to the topic of Formula 1 in 2024.
Asked how he’s feeling ahead of the new F1 car’s launch in less than two weeks, Newey said he’s expecting many rival machines to bear a distinct resemblance to the RB19.
“RB18, the first car to the new regulations, I think we managed to get the fundamentals right in terms of how we approached the research process, the architecture of the car in terms of its layout and so forth, and we managed to come out with a decent car that we then developed through 2022,” he said.
“Obviously, we had a very strong second half of the season in ’22.
“2023, the second season of those new regulations, we completely expected the grid to close up so, last year, it took all of us – me most of all – by complete surprise, we didn’t expect the domination that we had this year.
“This year, from what I understand, a lot of people, our rivals, have kind of taken a good look this time and have probably come… I suspect there’ll be quite a few cars that look very similar to our car.”
With Red Bull opting for evolution and not revolution for 2024, which isn’t the case across many rival teams, Newey admitted to feeling some nerves over whether or not the new car may be too conservative as they stick with their chosen design philosophy.
“Our car will be very much a third evolution of the ’22 car,” he said.
“So last year’s car was an evolution of the ’22 in the main points being the normal winter development in terms of aerodynamics, some understanding of what we need to do with the suspension to try to improve the car as well, and getting weight out of it because we never got down to the weight limits in ’22.
“This year’s car is the third evolution of that original RB18. Now, what we don’t know, of course, is [whether] the third evolution is too conservative while others have done something different. You just don’t know.
“It’s a difficult one. This is that [question] of whether we should have a group that goes out and looks at completely left-field ideas. Or do we keep developing the route we’ve taken?
“We’re resource-limited. So we can’t do everything, and can’t look at every avenue. So we’ve taken the approach of developing what we’ve got. Hopefully, that’ll be the prudent thing.”
Adrian Newey: Max Verstappen made the difference as races got tighter
But, while the team won everything bar the Singapore Grand Prix, Newey pointed to Verstappen as having made the critical difference on occasions as the Dutch driver romped to a third successive title.
“The grid was tight, and the races were getting tighter,” he said.
“Austin, we were going to lose that. So we took a gamble and pulled Max in to do an extra stop. And Max did the rest.
“Vegas, to be perfectly honest, probably Charles in the Ferrari was the quicker driver – Max made the difference there, for sure.
“So, by the end of the season, although we managed to win everything bar Singapore, everybody was snapping at our heels.
“So it doesn’t take much of a swing over the winter now so there’s a lot of pressure.”