After years of trailing behind Mercedes, this season Red bull have finally got a car that looks every bit as quick as the Silver Arrows’ challenger – and Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey says the success of the RB16B lies in the mistakes the team made in 2020.
Newey discussed the team’s season so far, their championship battle with Mercedes and the new era of F1 beginning in 2022 in a lengthy interview on Red Bull’s website – and addressed the development journey of the 2021 car that has seen them take six wins so far this season.
He said: “To go back a little way, when we moved from the RB15 of 2019 to the RB16 last year, there were some things on the car that we didn’t fully understand. Even with the wind tunnel programme and all of our simulation tools there are still things that can trip you up, and that’s exactly what happened at the start of 2020.
“It took a bit of time to understand and get on top of those issues. The benefit of that – as is often the case – is that you learn things that you wouldn’t otherwise have learned. You get more out of the mistakes than you do the good things. I think that stood us in good stead for what we did over the winter, and those developments have got us to where we are now.”
He added that Red Bull worked extensively on their rear suspension arrangement and spent their development tokens on that area – crediting the team for their interpretation of the 2021 aerodynamic regulations that limited the area of the cars’ floors.
“We had a mid-sized regulation change over the winter in terms of some aerodynamic restrictions around the floor and the back of the car,” said Newey. “It wasn’t a major change, but it did require some optimisation of the car to go with it.
“We chose to spend [our tokens] on the gearbox casing, which also allowed us to change the arrangement of the rear suspension. That was the one thing I didn’t feel had worked very well on the RB16.”
But it wasn’t immediately clear to Newey whether the RB16B would be competitive in 2021 as pre-season testing offered few answers. For proof of that, he said the team had to wait until the Bahrain Grand Prix.
“I think those changes bought us a reasonable step forward. When we got to Bahrain it looked like we’d read the regulations on the aerodynamic restrictions reasonably well,” continued Newey. “Checo, of course, hadn’t driven the RB16 but Max instantly felt the new car was a decent step from the previous one and was very complimentary.
“Coming out of the test we felt we had a competitive package – but you never really know where that’s going to be. You don’t know what engine modes people were running, what fuel loads they had in and so on – trying pre-season to understand where you really are is a minefield. It took the Bahrain Grand Prix to confirm that yes, were competitive. We didn’t win that one – but it’s been nip and tuck since then,” he said.
Red Bull are 12 points behind Mercedes in the standings after a brace of races in Hungary and Great Britain that saw them collect a total of just five points – but the team previously won all five races from Monaco to Austria.