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Everywhere he's gone in the world of high tech motorsports, Adrian Newey has been the architect of winning cars. Currently technical director for Red Bull Racing, the reigning two-time World Championship team in Formula One, Newey is charged with keeping the team atop the world motorsports pyramid in 2012.
It's not an easy task, made even more pressing with new regulations that limit - and often frustrate - designers like Newey. The best always overcome whatever curve balls are thrown their way; Newey is certainly among the best in his business.
Having lost the forward exhaust technology they pioneered due to regulations for the 2012 season, Red Bull have had to make late adjustments to the RB8, which derives from the RB5 and is the fourth iteration. "The last few years have been really good, really successful," Newey said. It's been an incredible journey to get there." Yet there are always pressures to stay at the top.
"We have lost the exhaust technology with the restriction exhaust outlet position that we were able to develop and perhaps be ahed of the pack on, in the last cople of years," Newey mused, "and that led to a big re-think over the winter." Whether that will affect Red Bull more than other teams, he doesn't know.
"We designed the RB7 (last year's car) around that exhaust position and were probably the only people to do so, so it may be that we've lost more than other people through that. Only time will tell; it will be good to get out to do some testing to see where we get to," Newey said.
Restricting regulations are frustrating to any technical department. "Regulation changes I enjoy," Newey noted. "Regulation restrictions I rather lament."
Because last year's championship car was designed around the exhaust blown diffuser, Newey has had to go back to previous designs and look at side exhaust systems to "make sure that the routes we had taken that were only suitable for that exhaust position were routes we now had to re-evaluate. Probably one of the key things here is the rear ride height," as the RB7 was able to maintain a high rear height. "Now we have to go back down and have to redevelop the car around that lower ride height," he said.
The height reduction at the nose of this year's F1 cars is another major change for all designers but, "It really hasn't changed the chassis shape very much. We've kept more of less the same chassis shape, but to drop the nose just in front of the front bulkhead has led us to, I'd probably say, a slightly ugly looking nose. It's not a feature you would choose to put in were it not for the regulation," Newey opined.
Just like the drivers for whom he designs cars, Newey has to keep his motivation level high. He realizes he's been quite lucky to have "a good amount of success." While he's often asked about potential retirement, "As long as I keep enjoying it then I'd like to keep going," he said. "What really fascinates me about it is the technical challenge the fact that we've moved a very high, fast pace, so every two weeks we're out being evaluated.
"If we're doing well, that's great, and if we're doing poorly it's painful, so at least you know where you are and you get to see the product of your work very quickly." Newey enjoys the atmosphere at his place of work, too. "I really enjoy working with my colleagues, my fellow engineers here at Milton Keynes, with the drivers of course at the track and it's a job that has many facets and many varieties that you always get that immediate feedback. That really motivates me about the job."
Newly named an OBE by Queen Elizabeth, Newey has great praise for his driving duo of double champion Sebastian Vettel and veteran Mark Webber. He also appreciates the youth of the Red Bull team. "We are a young team with tremendous spirit and determination, which means we do learn and we do try to evaluate and to continue to criticize ourselves and see how we can improve. I would hope, with the confidence of the last few years and our steady improvement, we can keep maintaining and keep learning."