Newey rues Red Bull’s late switch of focus to 2014

2014 F1 season

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Red Bull’s chief technical officer Adrian Newey admitted the team should have switched its attention fully to the team’s 2014 car earlier last year.

The world champions have had a troubled start to the season in testing. The RB10 covered only 320 laps during the official sessions – less than a third of that managed by rivals Mercedes – as the team struggled with a series of problems regarding the installation and cooling of its Renault engine.

Red Bull decided in August last year to press on with developing last year’s RB9 to maximise their chances of retaining their titles.

Heading into the summer break Sebastian Vettel had a 42-point lead over closest rival Kimi Raikkonen in the drivers’ championship. Vettel went on to win the final nine races of the year.

“Looking back it would have been smarter to concentrate full power on the new car earlier on,” said Newey in an interview for Red Bull’s magazine Red Bulletin. “In August, no one could have guessed that would we be so far ahead with the RB9 by the end of the season.”

Newey added the new rules were responsible for the “aesthetically dubious” design of many of the cars’ noses.

“Presumably for safety reasons, two levels are defined for the cockpit and the tip of the nose, without taking into account any link between them.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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46 comments on “Newey rues Red Bull’s late switch of focus to 2014”

  1. I like Newey’s statements, he generally tends to speak the truth, like the one where he thought it was Sebastian’s fault in the Multi 21 incident…

  2. One aspect many have overlooked with Red Bull’s domination last year is the rest of the teams basically gave up trying to compete with them.

    1. Yes, looking back I think its fair to say that many teams refocused on 2014 early, only doing minimal updates that helped them prepare for this year

      1. I wonder if Seb had a finger in the decision, in order to get those record wins in a row?

        1. A very good point Tomas…

  3. I guess this is the time we can finally put the ‘I see what you did there’ mask on.

    Now I understand why they are in this situation.

  4. Sounds like a man getting his excuses in early. Good news for the rest of the grid.

    1. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
      10th March 2014, 13:01

      It’s not an excuse it’s a reason. He’s not passing the blame or anything.

    2. Newey is probably THE man on the paddock that is above such accusations.
      The man has designed cars that have been the cream of the crop on three separate decades.

    3. Newey started his excuses last year, once he finished implying other teams ‘were lucky’ to make the tyres work rather than acknowledging any skill on the part of those teams.

      That was the point at which I lost respect for him, not in his technical ability, but as a person, he’s been drinking too much of his own Koolade as I think the expression goes.

      1. I’m sure Adrian is devastated ..

  5. I’ve always found it strange as to how can they make such a mistake of switching complete focus on 2014 when other teams were doing it as well. It wasn’t a 2008 situation where Ferrari and McLaren were fighting for the titles till the final rounds. Seb and RBR had a comfortable margin while the performances of all their rivals were volatile from race to race.

    1. @neelv27 – hindsight is always 20/20 :)

  6. It amazes me that Red Bull developed the RB9 as long as they did, particularly bearing in mind how early Mercedes, Ferrari and Lotus threw in the towel in 2013. As soon as those three stopped developing, so should Red Bull have. When Mercedes, Ferrari and Lotus stopped developing their cars it was clear Red Bull wouldn’t be stopped, though we probably couldn’t imagine that Red Bull would have dominated the way they did post summer break.

    They have only themselves to blame.

    1. @geemac

      Just because a team says they’re switching focus it doesn’t mean they will at that point. And even then, “switching focus” would mean anything, any possible combination of ressources. RB had no way of knowing exactly how much their oponent were giving up.

      Red Bull had a choice to concentrate and seal the deal of a championship they had good chances of winning, of risking to win two. They were the safer route.

      With the wisdom of hinsight we can criticize them all we want for that, but at that time it was a quite reasonable decision. Maybe not the right one (that, we will never know), but certainly reasonable.

    2. I know right? I never understood it either. Vettel had the title in the bag by Monza/Singapore, yet they were still developing the car by Abu Dhabi. How could they bee so stupid?

      1. @kingshark

        How could they bee so stupid

        “Stupid” is a way too big word considering how little we know about their development schedule. For all we know, the new parts for Abu Dhabi costed a minimal amount of ressources, were done in advance or were in preparation for 2014. Could be anything, that’s why is better to be careful with the amount of judgement we pass on, even if it’s Red Bull and we have to criticize them for something.

        Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the results of 2013 show nothing but brilliance. Even if 2014 turns out to be a terrible year for them, the results of 2013 show that, even if it wasn’t the right decision (impossible to know that, “if”s are only that), it wasn’t a stupid one.

    3. @geemac hindsight is always 20/20. Were you saying the same thing half-way through the 2013 season? I imagine there were probably leaks and chats down the pub between mechanics and staff of rival teams but F1 is tribal, it’s your tribe against all the others in the paddock. The ethos of F1 is not to give up. If Red Bull had switched focus and the rest of the teams had not and had fought back to beat them, probably you and all the Red Bull fans would have been saying last season how Red Bull were stupid to switch the 2014 cars, especially if there were no problems with it! Red Bull took a risk which paid off for them in 2013 but has scuppered them in 2014. It’s Snakes And Ladders innit? Let’s see how the 2014 season plays out although my money is on it being a woeful one for Red Bull, but that’s just life in the modern world I’m afraid.

    4. Well, not to defend the decision but they were waiting much of the season for even finalizing of the rules and even powertrain packaging and cooling requirements. It was probably thought that this year’s rule package was a moving target. I’m still not convinced that the FIA will be happy when these races turn out to be fuel economy runs. The fans certainly won’t like it ..

  7. A lot of people here very wise after the event. Anyone able to link to a post criticizing Red Bull’s development path during the 2013 season which was made at the time, rather than with the benefit of 6 months’ hindsight?

    1. @tdog Very well said. We all are masters of F1 development scheduling half a year after the decisions were made. If only we were that good half a year before. If only!

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      10th March 2014, 12:59

      @tdog – I’m not sure you can criticise it… It won them the WDC and WCC!

      I know I mentioned a few times that everyone else had given up and Red Bull appeared to still be developing but in all fairness, Red Bull still appear to have a decent car. The Renault engine is causing a lot of problems though. I’m not sure if they had switched to the 2014 car earlier, it would have made much difference!

    3. To be fair, AN is admitting he is using hindsight. So we can too. For a brief time around mid-season it seemed like Mercedes were going to be more of a threat than it turned out, and I wonder if that is one reason RBR thought they should keep pushing. Some people even had Mercedes as Champions because of their supposed secret tire test and the advantages that would bring.

      Anyway, their actions ensured them both Championships again, so I’m sure AN is not losing too much sleep. Even SV was not going to take any chances as evidenced by him ignoring a team order in the very first race to grab some extra points. Nobody has a crystal ball, and for all AN knew at the time everybody was going to be pretty much in the same boat this year, with the same steep learning curve, which they are.

      1. Even SV was not going to take any chances as evidenced by him ignoring a team order in the very first race to grab some extra points.

        Yeah, I remember saying the same thing after the Malasyan GP. Having won the 2010 and 2012 titles by so little, it’s more than understandable that the team wasn’t to keen on letting this one to chance.

    4. @tdog exactly. Mid-2013 with the tyre situation no-one had any reasonable idea how the season was going to turn out. Perhaps Red Bull could have eased off towards the end but as everyone knows, anything can happen that turns the championship on its head at a moment’s notice: Vettel could have been injured for example (thankfully not but you get my point). Amongst the politics and the bleeding-edge technology and engineering, F1 is still a poker game on wheels. You never know who has the strongest hand and who is bluffing until the championship is over. Maybe some of the other teams really did decide to fold and concentrate on 2014 which if true now looks like an inspired move. It could all change yet.

  8. Question is: when did they shift their development? I recall Mercedes were planning to evaluate their development after Monza, so it’s not like RBR was the only team to develop its 2013 car after the summer break.

    1. Red Bull brought a few upgrades to Korea and Japan so that should show you that they were pushing until it was all but decided who the champion would be. This time last year, Toto Wolff, however, said that by May of 2013, more than half the team would be on 2014.

  9. I’m amazed that RedBull still pushed the boundaries of the RB9 after the simple change of the tyres that was obviously going to solve their front end issues.

  10. Newey added the new rules were responsible for the “aesthetically dubious” design of many of the cars’ noses.
    “Presumably for safety reasons, two levels are defined for the cockpit and the tip of the nose, without taking into account any link between them.”

    Sounds like preaching to the converted for an easy dig at the new regulations wherever you can get one in. I still fail to understand how people find this year’s designs to be worse than the gawd-awful steps noses.

    1. Because we got used to the step noses. They already look better than one month ago…

    2. I still fail to understand how people find this year’s designs to be worse than the gawd-awful steps noses.

      Exactly @maciek, this year each car looks interesting and they can be easily recognized even without the livery.

      So many forms, trying to get an advantage, from the double tusks, to the anteaters, to the red bull prow until the Ferrari hoover, I see this as a great stimulus for us all to try and understand the effect they have on the handling and see what solution turns out to be best!

      1. I generally agree. The new Ferrari is plain weird, but the 2012 one was a jagged monstrosity. The new Merc is okay, whereas the 2012 one was so weirdly pinched that the entire nose looked as odd as most of the fingers this year do. The Red Bull is much nicer now. The McLaren was lovely at the beginning of 2012, but when they developed a high nose it just looked odd to me (at least as much as the new one). I prefer the new Sauber and Williams too. I’m not sure about Lotus, but the 2012 one was definitely a bit gawky and beaky for my liking. Force India has taken a step back for me, as has the Toro Rosso even though I really disliked the 2012 version.

        1. Also, now the front wings are that little bit closer to being in proportion with the rear ones.

    3. What I find interesting is that Newey has always been the one to call for more freedom to design cars and now that a major part of the car can be designed more freely that’s suddenly what’s wrong.

  11. Heading into the summer break Sebastian Vettel had a 42-point lead over closest rival Kimi Raikkonen in the drivers’ championship.
    And then he got offer from Ferrari.

    1. Anyone who believes there’s a direct link between the two is clearly out to stir up controversy. As Grosjean’s performances show, the Lotus just couldn’t keep up with the RB9 after the summer break, no matter how much they ragged the E21.

  12. Some might point out that RBR can be criticised based on the hindsight. To an extent yes but RBR also lacked the foresight.

    I’ve compiled the data of the championship positions (Constructors) for the 4 top teams namely, RBR, Merc, Ferrari and Lotus up till the Hungarian GP.

    One can clearly see that RBR was moving away from the rivals from the Monaco GP onwards in the standings and the gap was getting bigger whereas the others where entangling with each other. The situation in the drivers standings was even better for RBR.

    Hope it helps.

    1. @neelv27 We all know RB was winning, and its advantage was increasing. That’s not the point. The point was if it was worth it to risk their best chance for a 4th championship for a better start for 2014.

      They chose not to, which is quite valid. Maybe not right (we will never know what could have happened) but definitely valid.

    2. Without them having a crystal ball to help them decide where they were going to stand after the 2014 pre-season testing, I doubt that at the time they were thinking they should risk their 2013 Championships (and assume their line on the graph would keep getting steeper) just in case they might, perhaps, maybe, somehow, be seemingly so far back now. There’s no way they could have known, but in hindsight it is a fact that they are Champions 4 years running. That’s in the bank. Nothing is on the bank for this year yet.

  13. Vettel went on to win the final nine races of the year

    That was such a pain to sit back and watch….

  14. So Adrian says that with hindsight [to win the titles in 2014] they should have switched to 2014 earlier. How, by transferrring every penny saved on car design to Renault?

    With hindsight keeping the RB9 developed looks like the best decision they could make then. The other option was to hinder their 2013 campaign (which they still were very likely to win, but anyway) in order to increase their chances in fight-for-nothing Formula Renault this year.

    I may be completely wrong, though i hope i’m not.
    One thing’s for certain: We need more hindsight!

  15. I really wonder if Renault had the data avaialble so that Red Bull could have started earlier. Seems to me Ferrari was running a mule early in the season collecting data. I suspect if Adrian had staretd earlier, Renault would have been forced to pick up the pace on thier development. I am just not sure this is all Adrian’s doing; just look at the other Renault teams too being in the dimps.

  16. Well, i said it before, after Redbull had secured both titles in India, they should have cut all development on the RB9 and focus 100% on the RB10. There is no need for hindsight for that logic to be sane. As how things looked back than, they should have switched focus already after the Singepore GP. It probably hadn’t saved their engine troubles, but it would have made it possible to have a more finished car in Jerez. They are now 2 months late, because they started work 2 months late.

    1. I would rather win 9 races in a row than switch focus to uncertainty, had they switched focus it won’t ve made a difference as Renault wasn’t n still isn’t ready! It’s not like odas re making giant strides using Renault power!

      1. They didn’t know how good/bad the engine was at that time. It would have been totally logic to switch develepment after Singapore/Japan. Besides, i don’t agree that it wouldn’t have helped. It’s not only Renault to blame here, alot of the overheating problems are Redbulls fault alone.

  17. As most of the problems seem to centre around the aggressive design of the new car…plus engine problems…if they had put their efforts into development earlier, would they have done it any different….I feel not

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