F1 guru Adrian Newey reveals the ‘sole focus’ of Red Bull Powertrains

Sam Cooper
The Red Bull factory. Milton Keynes, January 2021

The Red Bull factory. Milton Keynes, January 2021

Adrian Newey has revealed the “sole focus” of the newly established Red Bull Powertrains division is getting set for the 2026 season when they will become a independent supplier.

2026 marks a historic moment in the history of Red Bull as for the first time, they will create their own engines independent of another supplier.

They of course will have help from Ford, having signed an agreement to become Red Bull Ford Powertrains from 2026, but that is much different to any agreement they have had with suppliers in the past, such as their current deal with Honda.

Since Red Bull’s arrival on the grid in 2005, they have purchased engines from a whole host of suppliers including Cosworth, Ferrari, Renault and most recently Honda.

But when the Japanese supplier announced it was to leave F1 at the end of the 2021 season, a decision it later reversed, Red Bull, who had their fingers burnt with their previous Renault relationship, decided to take things in-house and become an engine supplier, moving alongside the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Alpine.

Given the infrastructure and staff needed for such an endeavour, Red Bull agreed a half and half deal with Honda that meant the engines from 2022 onwards would be branded Red Bull Powertrains but the Japanese supplier would continue to help in the construction of them.

That changes in 2026 when new engine regulations come in and Newey revealed their power unit division is now solely focused on being ready for that season.

“On the chassis side, not so much,” Newey replied when asked on the Talking Bull podcast how much the 2026 regulation changes were affecting his plans. “On the engine side? Yes, absolutely. So Ben Hodgkinson [technical director at Red Bull Powertrains] and the RB Powertrains team, their sole focus is the ’26 engine.

“On the chassis side, for the ’26 engine, we’re looking at how that packages. So Rob Marshall [Editor’s note – Marshall will leave Red Bull to join McLaren at the start of 2024], is kind of the guy that’s really looking after us and he’s doing a great job, looking forward at how we integrate all that.

“But other than that, we don’t have a proper set of ergonomic regulations or anything else yet to go on so there’s no point in us spending too much time on that until we have a much more defined set of regulations.”

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As for how much an engine design will impact Newey and his chassis-building team, he said the real trick was how to integrate it into the car.

“When you’re designing this [an F1 car], you have the basic architecture, the engine is a key part,” the 64-year-old said.

“Because Formula 1 cars for many years now, you’ve got the basic structure of driver, fuel tank, battery. Nowadays, of course, underneath the fuel tank, engine, gearbox with the tailbone, everything and then the radiators on the side.

“So that basic structure kind of sorts out your underlying architecture if you like, which is why the wheelbase isn’t so long, because by the time you package that, get the weight distribution that you want, you end up with these gigantic cars and they are huge.

“So the engine… yes of course, it’s key, the detail of the integration is kind of then the real trick now because by regulation, they’re all 90 degree V6 1.6 litres that’s turbocharged with a hybrid system.

“So that’s all kind of in there and baked in. It’s not like the old days where somebody might have a V8, somebody have V10 and another person have V12. That’s long gone. But within that kind of V6 thing, there’s still a lot of detail of how to integrate the engine.”