Crash.Net F1 News
2013 cars won't be very exciting, predicts Newey
3 February 2013
Unveiling the new RB9 Red Bull Racing car for the 2013 F1 world championship battle, Adrian Newey deployed the most over-used word of a week of car launches: "RB9 is an evolutionary car," he admitted.
Not only that, but Newey confidently predicted that the vast majority of teams would be adopting the same 'play it safe' strategy to car development in 2013, especially with so much work ahead of them with rules and regulation changes awaiting them in 12 months time.
Even so, it had been a close call for the team getting the new car ready in time for its launch in Milton Keynes on Sunday, February 3.
“It's a tribute to all the hard work of the guys over the winter because we had a very tight championship battle last year,” insisted Newey, underlining how much of a close squeak it had been. "It was difficult trying to continue development of last year's car while also doing research into the RB9. Obviously it worked for us, but it gave us a very tight timeframe to design and manufacture this car."
But Newey refuted suggestions that the lack of time between winning the 2012 world championship last November and the first 2013 pre-season tests starting on Tuesday had forced him and his team to play it safe, and pointed to his rivals up and down the F1 paddock who are adopting similar 'evolutionary' strategies.
"To be perfectly honest the only cars I've had a chance to look at pictures of so far are those of the Lotus, the McLaren and the Ferrari," said Newley. "And they look to me to be relatively evolutionary cars as well."
The one car so far to buck the 'evolutionary' tendency so far is the Sauber, launched the previous day and sporting a significantly streamlined form factor, but Newey wasn't able to comment on that.
“Apparently Sauber has a very narrow sidepod but I haven't seen a picture of that,” he admitted. “We should really get out there and see but our philosophy has always been try and get on and do our own car and do the best job we can and think about next year, rather than spend too much time worrying about what the opposition are doing.
"We know what we believe we've done, but we don't know what everybody else has done," he added.
In any case, Newey pointed out that very often it was impossible to stop the really crucial changes on a car at a mere first glance: "The devil has very much been in the detail," he said, when explaining how the RB9 differed from its predecessor. "We tidied up some bits we felt could be improved on. It's a car in transition, as are all the cars."
One area that surprised many was the stepped-nose that the RB9 still sports, even though the rules have been changed since 2012 to allow teams to fit 'vanity' or 'modesty' panels to disguise the drop between the driver cell and the maximum height of the nose of the car.
In fact the step effect is arguably even more prominent in this year's design, since its predecessor used a letterbox-style hole on the top of the bodywork to provide cooling for the car and driver, which had the side-effect of disguising the height difference between the two parts of the car.
"We have a vanity panel but it doesn't extend very far forward otherwise it becomes unjustifiable in weight," Newey explained.
The designer also revealed that the RB9 wasn't going to take advantage of any form of 'passive DRS' system - or rather, "some speed-sensitive device, whatever that might be, to augment the DRS effect". At least, not right away.
Despite dubbing it "an interesting area" that would be explored, Newey explained: "It's also, for sure, a very tricky area: getting a signal that's reliable, that withstands following another car without being triggered at moments that would be embarrassing.
Newey said it would be difficult "to make sure that overall, it is - once you've taken into account installing it and so forth - a positive gain on balance through the weekend," he explained of his reticence to jump into it too soon. "None of those things are astraightfoward. So we have investigated it. I'm not prepared to say what we may or may not do during the season."
There are other areas of the car that Newey has in mind to continue working on over the course of the forthcoming season.
“The front of the car, the nose, front wing can be changed relatively easily as developments," he offered. "The middle of the car, the gearbox, the rear suspension, that's the bit that really would be a huge effort to change during the season - that's the bit you want to ensure is as good as possible.
"The rest you can develop as the year goes on," he added. "There's still a lot of unknowns."
Instead of singling out new features on the car, Newey deflected enquiries by suggesting that the biggest factor impacting car performance this season is likely to come from a different area altogether.
"Probably the most significant change is not the regulations, but the new Pirelli tyres," he said. "We had a quick test with those in practice ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix, but in truth we didn't learn a lot because of the conditions.
"Pirelli have supplied us data about how the new tyres behave but past experience tells us that it's only when we go testing that we really find out," he added.
And testing starts in less than two days time, when the Red Bull team decamps to the Circuit de Jerez with the rest of the F1 field for four days of pre-season testing in Spain. That's when the drivers, the teams, their rivals together with the rest of the world still really start to get a genuine sense of how well the teams have done with their 2013 offerings.