Among the final cars to launch was the Red Bull Racing RB5, which was launched yesterday. We can safely assume that the Toro Rosso will be very similar, while we are led to believe that the Force India will be in large part a McLaren customer car. Everything has gone all quiet on the Honda front in recent days, so who knows if that car will ever break cover.
So this is it then. And good things come to those who wait. The RB5 is a real beauty, though you wouldn’t expect anything else from the pencil of Adrian Newey.
Of course, we are now used to the strange new wings so the RB5 doesn’t have that shock factor to it. But the RB5 has all the sleek style you would expect from a Newey design. The pointy, narrow front nose has become something of a Newey trademark over the past five years or so. It’s very interesting to see that he has stuck to this principle, while other teams appear to be adopting wider, chunkier nose designs.
F1 Technical describes the front wing as “the most advanced out there”. You can’t fail to be struck by the detail in the front wing which doesn’t seem present in most of the other teams’ designs.
History shows that Adrian Newey adapts well to radical regulation changes, as James Allen recently noted. The 1996 Williams was about as dominant as a car gets. I have strong memories of that season. It was my first full year of watching F1, and the Williams car was awesome. I still remember to this day that they had the Constructors’ Championship wrapped up in Hungary. Amazing when you consider that their two drivers were hardly the greatest ever to grace a race track.
By the time the regulations radically changed again in 1998, Newey had moved to McLaren and he nailed it right away again. The McLarens were utterly dominant in Australia, and they clinched both Championships that season, ending a seven year long drought.
But beware Adrian Newey’s Achilles’ heel. The RB5 is among the last cars to be unveiled because Red Bull have made the decision to forego track time in order to give Newey more time to perfect his design. This may result in the RB5 being a fast car with possibly the best aerodynamics. But you have to hope that it works.
It’s the opposite approach to Ferrari’s. Ferrari launched their car a month ago, deciding that they would like plenty of time to “debug” the car. But if something is wrong with the RB5, they won’t have long to debug it. That is even more of a worry this year when in-season testing is banned.
You get the sense that Adrian Newey likes things to be “just right” from his perspective, even if that is at the expense of other things — even things as basic as fitting the driver into the car (hello, Alex Wurz and Juan Pablo Montoya!). It is not a pragmatic approach. Newey’s cars look the best on paper, but he has developed a reputation for being involved with unreliable cars.
In 2008 Red Bull had a fairly solid year reliability-wise. But the fact that the RB5 had to be stopped with gearbox issues just 14 laps into its first run does not bode well. Red Bull’s 2007 season was notorious for gearbox problems. Let us hope for Red Bull’s sake that they will not make a return.