How ‘dinosaur’ Adrian Newey still thrives in a modern F1 world

Jamie Woodhouse
Adrian Newey inspecting the RB19 with his notebook in hand.

Red Bull design guru Adrian Newey inspecting the RB19 with his notebook in hand.

While Adrian Newey’s computer-aided design skills are rather non-existent, he is very handy with a drawing board and continues to thrive as an all-time great of F1 design.

Newey has designed title-winning cars for Williams, McLaren and Red Bull to establish himself as one of the most successful designers Formula 1 has ever seen.

And the honours list is only growing, with Red Bull having mastered Formula 1’s return to ground effect aerodynamics and reaping the rewards.

Pen and paper remains Adrian Newey’s best friend

The presence of CAD systems in Formula 1 is far from a new factor, Newey explaining that it was in the “mid ’90s” when they started becoming a true player, though Newey has always stuck with the “dinosaur” approach as he puts it of sketches.

However, it is a method which still clearly works for him, and when appearing on the Beyond the Grid podcast, Newey explained the advantages of his approach for how he works.

“I’m a dinosaur and it suits me,” he said.

“For me, it’s CAD or a drawing board, it’s a way of getting ideas into your head, than into a medium that can be developed from.

“Typically I will nowadays, of course, if it’s aerodynamic, I’ll look at the CFD, the computational fluid dynamics, which is aerodynamics on computer, which is an amazing tool that really didn’t reach maturity in Formula 1 until kind of late ’90s.

“So I will kind of look at the CFD, I’ll sketch from that some ideas, working with my colleagues of course, and then draw something.

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 points all-time rankings: Where do Hamilton, Verstappen and Alonso feature?

Revealed: The five longest winning streaks by a single driver in F1

“Now, I’ve used the drawing board because to me, it’s the language that I’m most comfortable, most fluent in. If I tried to use a CAD, I feel I would never be as fluent in it. I will spend too much time thinking about how to operate it and not just drawing naturally, if you like, subconsciously, the drawing bit has to be subconscious, or for me it does.

“I think CADs now, if I watched the guys in those sort of early years of CAD, which again, CAD came in properly somewhere around the mid ’90s, early to mid ’90s in Formula 1, those early CAD systems are quite mechanical, people used to have to concentrate a lot on trying to get it into the system.

“Of course, now those systems are developed and the guys who are fluent in it can, if you like, draw subconsciously in the way that I can, the drawing is not the part that is loading them. I’m never going to achieve that. And to me it actually doesn’t matter.

“I’ve become, through years of practice, and this probably stems actually back to those formative years of sketching models and making them, I seem to have quite a good ability to be able to visualise something in 3D and then put it down onto paper in 2D.

“Whereas the CAD system of course, does free you of that, you don’t have to go through the 2D bit, you can start straight in 3D.”

Newey revealed a previous half-year attempt to build up some comfort using CAD, but it was to no avail.

Asked if he ever tried to get the hang of it, Newey replied: “I did briefly, in my kind of gap six months or so between leaving Williams and joining McLaren.

“Then I did go on a CAD course and it just didn’t come naturally.”

Red Bull secured the 2023 Constructors’ Championship title in Japan, with Max Verstappen just needing a top-six finish in the Qatar sprint race to crown himself a three-time World Champion.

Read next: Max Verstappen tipped to beat Lewis Hamilton as F1’s first ‘billion-dollar’ driver