Adrian Newey expects that Red Bull will still be playing catch up to Mercedes again this year, with a less potent power unit and he also admits that Sebastian Vettel is taking useful knowledge to Ferrari this year.
The renowned design chief, who is stepping back from day-to-day involvement in F1, having overseen the design of this year’s Red Bull car, believes that the task of closing the gap to world champions Mercedes remains an arduous one. This is despite a recent breakthrough for the Renault and Ferrari-powered teams, with a loophole which means they can develop the hybrid power unit in certain areas throughout the season.
“Can Renault and Ferrari get to Mercedes’ level? It’s going to be a very difficult challenge – and of course we don’t know where Honda are going to come in,” Newey told Sky Sports.
“With a slightly weaker engine but a superior chassis you can still win and vice versa. We have a reasonably even balance between engine and chassis – which, in my view, is how it should be.”
And Newey said he felt the Mercedes power unit was the key factor in the Williams team’s resurgence last year.
“Clearly, last year was engine-dominated and we saw that with Williams springing forward. Obviously Williams did a very job but I think what really made the difference for them was the engine.”
That said, the Mercedes chassis was clearly very efficient aerodynamically and worked as a package with the hybrid turbo power unit. It had good rear end downforce, which had been cut by new regulations cutting the rear wings. A series of updates throughout the year brought additional downforce and performance.
Red Bull had to compensate for the lower power output by compromising on downforce levels compared with previous years.
Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel’s move to Ferrari means the four-time world champion is bringing important knowledge out of Red Bull, believes Newey.
“He wants to stretch his wings and discover other things. It’s a natural curiosity in life to find out how you can perform in different environments. I can understand why he has moved.
“He’s a very bright guy and unfortunately I am sure he will bring things to Ferrari that we rather he didn’t, but we understand.”