GRR

Interview: Horner downplays Newey's role in RB19 F1 dominance

24th August 2023
Ian Parkes

It would be all too easy to single out one man as the guiding light behind Red Bull's current domination of Formula 1, but there can be no doubt Adrian Newey is arguably the greatest designer in F1 history, whose creations have delivered a cavalcade of trophies many of his rivals can only dream of.

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The introduction of new aerodynamic regulations last season again stirred Newey who, at one stage during Mercedes' prior domination of the sport following the arrival of the turbo-hybrid era had become so frustrated at rules that stymied his creativity it appeared he might walk away. But with a clean sheet of paper and turning to his trusted pencil to etch out his designs for which he has become so renowned rather than modern CAD technology, Newey effectively had free reign to let his natural ability come to the fore again.

Team principal Christian Horner, however, is keen to emphasise the Red Bull cars that have strangled the life out of F1 for the last 18 months are the brainchild of a collective, and not simply Newey alone.

"The team has matured a long way, and they obviously did the research on these regulations," Horner told us in an interview.

"What was particularly impressive was in '21 we had that remarkable championship battle and we were very late onto the '22 car, and, of course, Adrian was injured for a large part of the summer, or the latter part of the summer.

"I think the team just really stepped up and did a super impressive job across the board on this car. It's wrong to pull out any single individual. It's a collective effort that, as a team, galvanised."

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In the first instance, Horner is, of course, referring to the knife-edge title fight between Max Verstappen and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton that went down to the wire in Abu Dhabi, at the end of which the Dutchman triumphed in controversial circumstances.

As for Newey, that is with reference to the fact he suffered a cycling accident during the August summer break that left him with multiple skull fractures. Wife Amanda later revealed how close she came to almost losing 'the love of her life', hailing his recovery "miraculous". Although on a virtual pit wall for the Dutch Grand Prix ten days after undergoing a craniotomy, it was not until later in the season that Newey returned to the paddock.

In his absence, the team came to the fore in both the championship challenge with Mercedes that year, and in designing the RB18 that cruised to the constructors' and drivers' titles. The RB19 has picked up where its predecessor left off, winning all 12 grands prix so far this season, and setting a new team record for consecutive victories, eclipsing McLaren's haul from 1988 when the legendary duo of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost were at the wheel.

Horner is genuinely surprised by what has been achieved, he would never have believed it for a second if you had told him at the start of the season what has ultimately transpired.

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"I would have thought you'd been drinking a bit too much!" remarked Horner. "To have won this many consecutive races is just unbelievable for us, and it's not like the opposition is low quality, you know, Ferrari, Mercedes, Aston Martin, McLaren. There are some great opponents there.

"It's testimony to the whole team that we're delivering at the level we are, and to have made history by breaking that 35-year-old record is something I could never have imagined. It's phenomenal."

As to how his team has managed to get it so comprehensively right whilst his illustrious rivals have floundered, Horner delivered a very simple response: "There's never a silver bullet, it's always a combination of things, across all of the departments working collectively," he said. "It's not just aerodynamics or mechanical design, it's race operations, it's pit stops, it's strategy. It's all of the elements, all of those areas."

It is that collective across all areas that has allowed Verstappen to take further steps toward cementing his own legendary status. A third world title this year is now a mere formality, a matter of when not if. Winning three F1 titles is widely recognised as being the benchmark when a driver joins the pantheon of greats. Horner feels that what is being witnessed at the moment by Verstappen "is something very special".

"It's a driver at the top of his game, a team that's performing at the top of its game, and the marriage between the two is delivering incredible results and is exciting to see," he said. "I think Max is at a stage in his career now where he has the experience, he still has all the raw abilities he showed when he entered the sport, but he's put the whole lot together.

"He's achieving more and more records, and you can start to talk about him amongst some of the greats in the sport."

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With a contract with Red Bull through to the end of 2028, there is the very real possibility Verstappen could yet challenge the records of the seven titles won by Hamilton and Michael Schumacher, and the Briton's 103 race wins at present.

Horner is naturally cautious, rightly declaring that it "depends on the car we give him". He added: "Who would have thought Michael Schumacher's record would ever be matched, or his race wins would be beaten?

"But we're on a great roll. Max is achieving some great things, the team is achieving some phenomenal results as well. We're just taking it one race at a time, one season at a time, and let's see where we end up."

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images

  • Christian Horner

  • Adrian Newey

  • Red Bull Racing

  • F1 2023

  • RB19

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