Interview: Red Bull shifting up a gear
|By Alan Baldwin||Thursday, November 9th 2006, 04:49 GMT|
The last time Adrian Newey designed a Formula One car with a Renault engine in the back, it won both championships.
In fact, the Renault-powered Williams that he signed off between 1991 and 1997 won 59 Grands Prix, four drivers' titles and five constructors' crowns.
It is no wonder that Red Bull Racing are looking forward to the new season.
The Milton Keynes-based team confirmed last week that the first car designed by Newey for them since he joined from McLaren at the start of the year would have a Renault engine in the back of it instead of the Ferrari unit used this season.
The decision will not turn Red Bull into overnight world-beaters but it does add to the feeling that the team are shifting up a gear.
"Historically, Adrian and Renault have enjoyed considerable success together and hopefully will be able to repeat that in the future," Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Reuters this week. "There is a good working rapport and we hope to be able to capitalise on that."
The Renault engine has an enviable reputation for reliability, the French constructor having just completed the 'double double' - winning both world championships for two years in a row.
The Ferrari was pretty good too, the glamour team winning more races than Renault in Michael Schumacher's farewell year, but that V8 will now be powering sister team Toro Rosso instead under a new agreement.
"The engines are, under the new (2007) regulations and under the V8 regulations, fairly controlled as to what the parameters are so the installation of one or other has had very little impact on what we are doing," said Horner.
The expertise assembled at the team is perhaps more important.
Newey is the highest paid technical 'boffin' in Formula One, a designer whose cars won a string of championships with Williams and McLaren.
McLaren chief aerodynamicist Peter Prodromou, who worked with him on the 2005 McLaren MP4-20 that won 10 of that season's 19 races, has also joined recently.
Other signings over the past year include technical director Mark Smith, chief designer Rob Marshall and team manager Jonathan Wheatley - all three ex-Renault.
"What you don't know in this business is what progress your competitors are making," said Horner. "We know the ground that we have to make up. We have a very strong technical group here, a very strong team and inevitably that takes time to realise its full potential.
"But that group is now complete, Peter Prodromou joined us last week and next year should be the first serious step to realising our goals and potential."
David Coulthard, who took the first Grand Prix win of his career in a Newey-designed Renault-powered Williams in 1995, will be joined by Australian Mark Webber in the most experienced line-up the team has had.
While Coulthard was putting a team of celebrity women racers through their paces at Silverstone last weekend for a television show, Webber is currently competing in an extreme endurance challenge in Tasmania.
It will be intriguing to see how they match up against each other in 2007.
"I think it's a good combination," said Horner, who was made to jump into a swimming pool wearing only a Superman cape after Coulthard finished third in this year's Monaco Grand Prix for Red Bull's first podium.
"Obviously it's an experienced line-up now, and both are excited about the prospects for next season.
"Hopefully we can provide Mark with the environment to bring the best out of him. He has got undoubted speed as he has demonstrated in his career to date, and hopefully he can realise his potential.
"With David, he's led the team very well during the last couple of years, and hopefully we'll be able to capitalise on the hard work he's put in.
"I think we are expecting a reasonable step," added Horner. "We've got a very clear plan over the next three years and ultimately Red Bull came into Formula One not to take part but to compete and to compete at the front.
"Hopefully next year will be the first serious step to achieving that."
Red Bull finished seventh overall this season, the same position they occupied in 2005 and that Jaguar filled in the three previous years. Next year could be different.
"I'm very confident that Red Bull will be the most improved team next season," Webber said when he signed up in August. He could be right, too.