Why Adrian Newey was initially depressed by F1 2022 rules

The 2022 regulations cycle put much more emphasis on exploiting the ground effect to reduce how much cars were affected by turbulent air from the cars in front, in a bid to improve the racing.

Initially, the regulation changes were met with weariness by some designers and observers, fearing the much more limiting and prescriptive ruleset would have F1 inch closer to an IndyCar-like spec chassis with similar-looking cars.

While those fears proved ungrounded, with teams employing vastly different concepts at the start of 2022, Red Bull designer Newey admitted he was also «quite depressed» when the initial draft was published.

«I must admit when I first saw the early draft of these regulations, which would’ve been in 2020, I was quite depressed by them,» Newey said in a wide-ranging interview in this week’s Autosport magazine.

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«They seemed very prescriptive. Other teams felt that as well and so we managed to get a bit of relaxation on some of those restrictions.»

But digging deeper into the rules, it became clear the devil is in the detail to fully exploit this generation of cars and their delicate floors. That allowed Newey’s creative genius to thrive, now saying he enjoyed the challenges the rule change has thrown up.

«Actually with those restrictions in mind, once we got into the details, then it’s much more room for interpretation within the various boxes of gradient types and so forth than it appeared at first sight,» he explained.

Adrian Newey, Chief Technology Officer

Adrian Newey, Chief Technology Officer

Photo by: Erik Junius

«And I think that was visible at the start of last year when obviously teams arrived with a variety of visually very different solutions.

«So, I must admit I personally enjoy regulation changes, because it gives a chance to look at new avenues, providing it’s a creative set of regulation changes. Where 2026 will be in that is yet to be seen. So, I do enjoy the opportunity to look at things from a fresh perspective and view, if you like.»

Newey’s Red Bull team became such a dominant force from 2022 onwards, with Max Verstappen winning both the 2022 and 2023 world titles at a canter, that most rival teams were quick to copy its downwash-based design concept.

«Now, of course, everyone is starting to converge – through this season particularly,» Newey acknowledged. «Look at the cars now, they’re kind of all similar to each other. And that will probably continue through to the end of 2025 when these rules cease.»

As F1 heads into its third season of this regulations cycle, the potential gains are getting smaller and smaller as teams refine their designs.

And while Red Bull theoretically has a shorter runway for improvement than teams that are still lagging behind, Newey says the Milton Keynes squad has become stronger at finding these last drops of performance.

«I think the detail, the balance is now something that’s also less kind of exciting, but it’s still rewarding when we find bits and pieces here and there,» he added. «Of course, the increments seem to be getting smaller and smaller. Whether somebody else manages to find some big leap or not, we’ll out.

«It changes the make-up slightly – you have to then be very disciplined and I think that’s something we have improved as a team.

«The discipline we now have within the team and the methodology to be able to really explore those small gains relentlessly is, as we’ve matured as a team, we’ve become stronger [at].»

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