After almost three seasons with Red Bull, has Adrian Newey been a great success or a catastrophic failure?
Well the answer is neither.
After success and domination of the 90's with Williams and McLaren and an abundant of wins after the turn of the century with McLaren, Adrian Newey signed with Red Bull Racing in February 2006, for a reported bumper USD 10 million a year salary. His decision to join the Milton Keynes backed squad was a surprise to the the Formula 1 community; But has this move paid off?
In my mind it's a yes and a no.
Newey arrived at Red Bull at the beginning of the 2006 season, too late to influence the Mark Smith designed RB2, which was plagued by cooling issues during the pre-season. Newey instead developed the RB2, until early development of the RB3.
2007 was set to be the breakthrough year for Red Bull Racing, with a Adrian Newey designed car, the combination of Coulthard and Newey who worked together at McLaren and Williams, the arrival of Aussie Mark Webber after a dismal season at Williams, and the ever so reliable Renault engines which had dominated the previous season. Red Bull were poised to be a front running team, but in reality the team awakened to a surprise when the RB3 was languishing in the time sheets for pre-season testing.
During the season the RB3 gradually improved in speed, but the car was plagued by reliability issues. With fourteen retirements throughout the entire season, only surpassed by sister car Toro Rosso's STR2 which was also Adrian Newey designed with seventeen retirements; the team finished finished fifth in the constructors championship aided by Mclarern's disqualification from the constructors championship.
2007 proved to be a difficult season for Red Bull Racing, with promising speed and potential, only to be all let down by reliability issues continuing Newey's trend of having fast but unreliable cars.
For 2008, the team hired Geoff Willis, who had prior worked with Newey at Leyton House and Williams in the early 90's. Together they produced the RB4, an evolution of the RB3. The RB4 proved to be ever so reliable with only one mechanical retirement in the season thus far. The car proved to be fast and reliable, evidence of Willis's touch to the RB4. The car also sported a "Shark Fin" introduced by Red Bull most likely thought of by Newey.
The speed of the RB4 was also evident to have improved as opposed to the RB3, with seven points scoring finishes in a row for the team and a podium at Montreal. The team were set for fourth in the Constructors Championship, up until a lean run for the team, with four non-points scoring finishes in a row, while its rivals scored podiums and consistent points.
Adrian Newey has certainly left a touch of "McLarenesque" but the speed is what's lacking of the 'McLarenesque' resemblance of Newey's Red Bull design's. With two cars already designed for the Milton Keynes team, the 2009 RB5 is set to be Newey's third car for the team, and may certainly have a make or break agenda for the once dominant designer of the late 90's.