Adrian Newey has been designing cars since 1983; published a book in 2017 entitled ‘How to build a car’ and has won 10 constructors’ Championships across three F1 teams. However, this Master of Design has now gone on record to say that he has never known one of his cars to come under as much scrutiny as the RB16B has endured this season. Speaking to the team’s official website redbull.com, Adrian Newey stated that he ‘can’t remember a time when we have received the same level of behind the scenes politicking and lobbying against our car.’
In recent years, it seems to be that any innovation in F1 is quickly curbed. We only have to look back at the 2020 F1 season and the advent of the revolutionary DAS (Dual-Axis Steering) which was promptly banned for consequent years.
In 2021, Red Bull Racing has found itself at the center of a seemingly never-ending ‘flexi-wing’ controversy. The performance gained by the Milton Keynes based team was such that F1’s governing body, The FIA, saw fit to issue a technical directive which introduced a more stringent load deflection test on rear wings.
The maestro at the center of the design of the RB16B, Adrian Newey, shared his thoughts on the team having a target on its back - to redbullracing.com,
“We have experienced this before but I can’t remember a time when we have received the same level of behind the scenes politicking and lobbying against our car.”
With such a comment, one cannot help but wonder whether Newey recalls the scrutiny Red Bull Racing endured during their F1 dominance between 2010 and 2013. During this time, the team won both F1 Championships four consecutive years – and that led to a lot of finger pointing, whispers…and scrutiny.
“That is the nature of Formula One, and one of the things that makes it so stimulating, but it is the frequency and intensity of this year that is quite telling,” said Newey.
Meanwhile, as the FIA plays their part with new directives, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team Principal Toto Wolff continues to shine a spotlight on the downforce performance of the RB16B. Consequently, his sparring partner, Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner’s swiftly counters by suggesting people take a look at the Silver Arrows’ front wing.
In his comments to the team’s official website, Adrian Newey shared his dismay at the fact that Red Bull Racing had been targeted for their flexi-wing, even though other teams had similar aerodynamic breakthroughs.
“When Mercedes started making noise about it, they weren’t worried about what Alfa (Romeo) were doing,” Newey said. “They were only worried about whether we were getting a benefit, which we really weren’t, but there was a cost implication to changing that part which obviously hurt.”
Over the years, there has been a growing belief among F1’s critics that the car is the star rather than the driver. Due to the fact that Sergio Perez and Valtteri Bottas cannot yet reach the same height as their respective - more illustrious – teammate, many would disagree.
However, in Formula One you certainly need a strong package to challenge at the top. Just ask Jenson Button, whose legendary double diffuser of his Brawn GP BGP 001 saw the Briton claim the 2009 F1 Drivers’ Championship.
Also, we can recall the dominance of the McLaren's MP4/4 in the 1988 Formula One season. It was only at Monza, where a spark plug failure result in Alain Prost's retirement and a crash cost Ayrton Senna the lead, where a McLaren didn't win.
So, yes, the car can be the star but it has been for many decades.
Red Bull Racing have won six races this season compared to the four of Mercedes. In a season which could see the seven-time F1 Constructors’ Champions relinquish their title, we can expect many more mind games to come. Thankfully, the summer break will come to an end soon enough and then the drivers can get back to doing the talking…or should that be the cars?!