Adrian Newey has made clear his dissatisfaction with the 2014 rules – and questioned the green credentials of the new technology.
The Red Bull technical director was initially asked how he compared the current cars to those of the past.
“That’s a very complicated question is the truthful answer to that,” he said. “I guess the other obvious answer to that is probably whether you have a Mercedes engine, a Ferrari engine or a Renault engine will cloud your answer to it, in truth. Such is the nature of Formula One.
“When you get into things like batteries then an electric car is only green if it gets its power from a green source. If it gets its power from a coal-fired power station, then clearly it’s not green at all. A hybrid car, which is effectively what the Formula One regulations are, then a lot of energy goes into manufacturing those batteries and into the cars, which is why they’re so expensive. And whether that then gives you a negative or a positive carbon footprint or not depends on the duty cycle of the car – how many miles does it do, is it cruising along the motorway at constant speed or stop-starting in a city.
“So this concept that a hybrid car is automatically green is a gross simplification. On top of that there are other ways, if you’re going to put that cost into a car, to make it fuel efficient. You can make it lighter, you can make it more aerodynamic, both of which are things that Formula One is good at. For instance the cars are 10 per cent heavier this year, a result, directly, of the hybrid content.
“So I think technically, to be perfectly honest, it’s slightly questionable. From a sporting point of view, to me, efficiency, strategy etc, economy of driving, is very well placed for sportscars, which is a slightly different way of going racing. Formula One should be about excitement. It should be about man and machine performing at its maximum every single lap.”
Newey said it wasn’t easy to judge why public reaction to the new rules has been negative.
“It’s a big subject and I guess ultimately the spectators and the television viewers are going to vote with their feet. The old classic [was] Coke completely turning Coke around compared to Pepsi in the States, so you can always skin these things various ways.
“I think obviously all the talk is about the engines. It’s not just about creating a formula which looks at how many litres of fuel you use per kilometre with everything else fixed, because everything else isn’t fixed in reality. If you go into the real world, cost isn’t fixed, the cost has gone up hugely to create this. As I said before, if you put that cost into weight saving, you might be better off in many cases so to automatically say that this is some huge benefit for mankind I think is taking a bit of a big leap myself.”
Newey also had some interesting comments about the relative performance of 2014 power units: “I think when we talk about the power unit we talk about it by manufacturer. We should also include the fuel company of course. I think you’ll find within an engine, depending on what fuel it uses there can be very significant differences. That can also create differences.
“We certainly can see that in our own GPS analysis between our rivals that some appear to have significantly more power than others, even though they have the same engine. At the moment I think it is an engine formula that has tended to reshape the grid more than anything else, compared to last year. How that develops as we move forward is unclear.”