Newey: ‘I prefer a more open regulations book’

“It’s nice to have a new set of regulations. But I wouldn’t say they particularly give more freedom,” says Adrian Newey, about the new technical changes that will come into force this season.

Adrian Newey... “I don’t think DRS overtakes are particularly exciting, and that’s the truth.”   -  Getty Images

No one in the Formula One paddock is better than Adrian Newey in taking advantage of a regulation change and finding a silver bullet opening. He is the only designer to have won the constructors’ championships with three different teams in his illustrious career.

The 58-year-old Chief Technical Officer of Red Bull Racing, who was in India recently, spoke to Sportstar on the 2017 season, the new sporting regulations and much more.

Excerpts:

Question: Are you excited about 2017 after frustrations over the past three years?

Answer: I think it’s nice to have a new set of regulations. I wouldn’t necessarily say they are more aero-focussed; they are a cut-and-shut of the old aero regulations to allow the cars to generate more downforce. But I wouldn’t say they particularly give more freedom. And as I say in some ways, perhaps unwittingly, it’s actually made it even more engine-dependent because the amount of full throttle per lap is (higher).

We have been reading reports that overtaking might be even tougher because of increased downforce. Is this the right way to go? Have we identified the problem correctly and have we applied the right solution here?

The idea of the new regulations was to make the cars more physical to drive. We’re all used to now — over the last two or three years — watching television, and when the drivers come on the radio, it doesn’t sound as if their heartbeat is raised at all. It sounds like they’re sitting and watching the race as well. So the idea of this extra downforce and extra grip is that the cars will then produce higher G-forces and therefore the drivers will have to work harder to brace themselves against those G-forces. And I think that will be partially successful. I think there is the danger... you’re absolutely right, I think there is the danger that it could come at the cost of the ability to overtake and of close racing.

Overtaking with the use of DRS, of course, is still possible. But I must admit, I don’t think DRS overtakes are particularly exciting, and that’s the truth.

Why do all cars look the same?

I think, first of all the regulations unfortunately go a long way in dictating the shape of the car. So the chassis regulations more or less dictate the shape of the chassis including the various bodywork regulations — where you can’t have bodywork, where you must have bodywork of a certain shape etc. That means the room for individuality is hugely reduced. It’s the function of a very restrictive regulation book which has been there to try and cap the performance of the cars, and to some extent to reduce the chance for another team to innovate and find something that gives a big performance advantage over another. But in my personal opinion, it goes too far. I would much rather see a much more open regulation book.

How do you look at the post Bernie Ecclestone era? Also a few words about him...

The sport would not be where it is today without Bernie. He had the vision and the instinctive ability to develop a smallish sport into where it is today.

Entering this new phase is exciting for the sport. The new owners (Liberty Media) have a lot of experience in media and how to present a sport. The Americans tend to be good at that. What is less clear is how Liberty and the FIA will work together. F1 is unique because of the separate technical and commercial bodies. How they will work together is not clear at the moment.

What would be your roadmap for F1?

Everybody has an opinion on what the rule should be. The problem is, very little in the way of proper research is done. We must first identify what needs to achieved and then set about doing the research of how it is done through regulations. In that sense, Ross Brawn is well positioned. He is independent of any team and has a wealth of experience. So he can sit back and think how to go about doing the research to ensure there are no knee-jerk changes from one set of regulations to another.

The current Concorde Agreement that binds the teams, the FIA and the commercial rights holders expires in 2020. So the opportunity is there now for the CRH, Brawn and the FIA to do research for a fresh look at 2021.