Adrian Newey warned of repeating past McLaren mistake with ‘aggressive’ RB20

Could history be repeating itself with this year's Red Bull RB20?

Adrian Newey (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer. Formula 1 Testing, Sakhir, Bahrain, Day One.-
Adrian Newey (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer. Formula 1…

Red Bull’s decision to make aggressive design choices with their RB20 car has been questioned with a comparison to when Adrian Newey got it “horribly wrong” during his time at McLaren.

Even though Red Bull dominated the 2023 F1 season, winning 21 of the 22 races, the team has heavily revised their car for this year, particularly around the sidepod area.

To the naked eye, the RB20 sidepods are in a similar style to Mercedes’ from the start of last year, which were often - wrongly - pointed at as the reason for their drop in performance.

During F1’s testing coverage in Bahrain, commentator Alex Jacques made reference to when the Newey-designed McLaren MP4-18 was plagued with problems early on.

“How do you make the right choice? How do you make the wrong choice? Does Adrian Newey ever get it wrong?” Jacques said.

“If you remember the McLaren that he got horribly wrong. It was the MP4-18, which was revolutionary at the time, had things like a blown diffuser, which we’d seen many, many years later.

“He hasn’t always got it right, and McLaren had to revert to the old car back then.

“It would be fascinating wouldn’t it if Red Bull needed to pick a B-spec RB20.”

Former F1 driver Jolyon Palmer pointed out that Newey’s last arguably flop was 21 years ago - a lengthy time.

“When we go back 21 years… that was a rare miss, wasn’t it? That was a rare miss in the Newey catalogue of hits,” Palmer said.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB20. Formula 1 Testing, Sakhir, Bahrain, Day One.-, EMail:
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB20. Formula 1 Testing, Sakhir,…

Palmer - who drove for Renault in 2016 and 2017 - believes Red Bull’s track record of delivering great cars, even during Mercedes’ dominant years, means it’s unlikely the RB20 will take them backwards.

“When you see this Red Bull that looks something different to the rest, when was the last time Red Bull had a miss? Because in the Mercedes-dominant years, Lewis won the titles and Nico Rosberg had one, it was Mercedes dominating,” he added.

“But Red Bull had the Renault engine at the time then they switched to Honda and it took a while to get to Mercedes’ level of performance but the chassis was always superb.

“The aerodynamics was superb and Ricciardo could win in Monaco, he won in 2014 on tracks like Hungary, where you need the aerodynamic performance, you need the chassis to be really good.

“On the long straights they were hopeless. At Monza they would always take a grid place penalty because they would just write it off as a weekend and that’s the power unit really.

“I can’t remember the last time Red Bull didn’t have a very strong chassis, aero package.”

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