Red Bull technical boss Adrian Newey has spoken of his frustration that the current rules in F1 stifle creativity, but recognises that without tight regulation F1 would become an arms race,
“I think it is a shame that they (the rules) are so tight in a way, there’s no doubt that it stifles some of the creativity,” he said. “But that’s the world we live in…. It would be fantastic to not have them, but with the size and resources of the teams an arms war would result, which would mean a tremendous leap in performance for the cars.
“Teams are building components for smaller and smaller gains. That’s a reflection of the competition, which rolls back to the tightness of the regulations.”
Newey is one of the most innovative and creative engineers working in F1 today. His recent cars for Red Bull have shown him to be in a rich run of form, after some less competitive years with McLaren in the mid 2000s. He has set a benchmark in design ideas which the other teams have largely followed over the last three years, since the banning of the double diffuser at the end of 2009.
During that period the rules have been largely stable, which has led to smaller gains, as he says, especially with the outlawing of ideas like the F Duct wing and the Exhaust Blown Diffuser. This year, without those things, the field is one of the most competitive we have seen with teams like Sauber, Williams and Force India regularly able to challenge the leading teams for the top placings.
The rules are set to stay largely the same next year before major change in 2014.
Newey’s talk of an ‘arms race’ is ironic; Red Bull has been reluctant this year to follow the rest of the teams on the latest ideas for restricting costs in F1. It is nervous about other teams, particularly Mercedes, “dumbing down” chassis regulations in order to have a bigger advantage from its new engine in 2014.
And with the latest proposals from Bernie Ecclestone for just the leading six teams to join representatives of promoters, FIA and the commercial rights holder on a new F1 Commission as a new rule making body, the whole subject of regulation and framing regulations is going to be very hotly debated over the coming months and years, with a trade-off between innovation and cost control at the heart of the process.
Newey acknowledges that the 2014 chassis regulations are still to be fully defined.
He has also spelled out the reasons why Red Bull has taken its time to find competitiveness this season; despite wins for Sebastian Vettel in Bahrain and for Mark Webber in Monaco and Silverstone, the Red Bull car has struggled compared to last season and has only recently come good with the updates introduced at Singapore
“Mainly this year has been understanding the ban on the exhaust system that we enjoyed last year,” he said. “Not only the exhaust position, but the mapping. We changed the car a lot over the winter; we lost a lot of performance, perhaps more than our rivals, as we had been on that system (exhaust blown diffuser) for two years.
“A lot of our effort has focused around trying to stabilise the car after we lost that exhaust effect. I think this season we have gained at least half a second, perhaps nearer one second.”