The dramatically different pecking order at the front of Formula 1 in 2009 is the product of the new aerodynamic regulations brought into force in the top flight having enabled 'intelligent' teams like Red Bull Racing to really show their strengths, argues Adrian Newey.
The energy drinks-backed squad stormed to an historic one-two triumph in the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai last weekend, with Sebastian Vettel leading team-mate Mark Webber home in a peerless display of supremacy in torrential conditions.
The success marked Red Bull's first in 74 races since making its F1 debut back at the beginning of 2005 – and whilst confessing that 'the last half hour of the race seemed to last forever' with reliability fears still very much a concern given both cars' driveshaft woes the previous day in practice, chief technical officer Newey conceded that his only minor regret afterwards was that he hadn't been there to witness the fruit of his labours first-hand.
“I watched it in my kitchen at home, part of the time with my wife Marigold,” revealed the man responsible for the design of the victorious Renault-powered RB5, “but she found it too stressful watching with me and went off to another room. Later my daughter joined me, and within a few minutes of the finish our neighbours came round and, despite the early hour, we had a celebratory drink. It would have been nice to have been in China, but I'm just very pleased for everyone that we got the result we deserved.
“Emotionally, for everyone here in Milton Keynes, it's been extremely pleasing, but the first point to make is that this is not our first win. Red Bull Technology had a winning car design last year, operated very well by Scuderia Toro Rosso to win in Monza. I was already very excited and happy after Monza last year, and this one in China was special because we managed to get a one-two finish and do pretty much the same in qualifying.
“Waking up on a Monday morning with a one-two always puts a smile on your face. The result is a great confidence boost for everyone at the factory – knowing we can put a car on the grid that can finish first and second, and do so from the front, not inheriting the result because of others having problems. It really is a great reward for all the hard work put in, not just by ourselves, but also by Renault and all our other technical partners.
“The other element that makes this win special is that there's been a big regulation change and we have shown that – as a team – we have understood that set of rule changes, producing a car that is reasonably well-adapted to them right from the start. It makes it extremely satisfying because, with the new rules, we have been working on our own as a group for almost nine months, without really knowing what other teams were doing and not knowing where your product is going to rate when compared to them, as all the reference points and base lines have changed.
“With a big regulation change like this, it is an opportunity for teams that have fewer resources, but are intelligent in the way they think about the implication of the regulations and how to implement them, to come up with clever design and a good car. When the regulations are stable for a while, then teams with more resources have a greater ability to evaluate more options and so have an advantage. That's not to say a smaller team couldn't keep its advantage, though, and the rules for the future are aimed at restricting development still further in order to reduce the 'arms race' that has characterised F1 over the past few years.”
That much at least should guarantee Red Bull – still a small fish in a big pond as to all intents and purposes an independent outfit in the sport's manufacturer-dominated era – a chance to remain on a level playing field with its rivals, and some are already beginning to suggest that the team could now go on to launch a bid for title glory this year, particularly given that it has yet to fit a new 'double-decker' split-level diffuser to its car, a device reckoned to be worth as much as half a second in terms of lap time benefit. The execution of that task, however, warns Newey, will be far from an overnight job.