Red Bull’s Adrian Newey has pointed to 1999 as an example of why his team won’t be backing off despite their dominance.
Newey, Red Bull’s chief technical officer, says Red Bull have no desire to stop pushing hard between now and the end of the season, despite their level of dominance suggesting wrapping up the titles is merely a formality.
Red Bull have won every race so far in 2023, taken a new record for consecutive Grand Prix wins for a constructor with their 12th in a row in Hungary, and are on course to eye up the long-standing record of winning every race on the calendar.
Adrian Newey: Matching McLaren’s record was unthinkable
With Red Bull eclipsing McLaren’s 1988 record for consecutive race wins, and can set a new record for consecutive wins in a single season this weekend at Spa, Newey said beating the 35-year-standing record has been a pinch-me moment.
“It’s been an amazing run, I could never have dreamt of this – to beat that McLaren record from 1988 is something I guess I certainly never thought we would do,” the designer, who joined Red Bull in their unproven infancy in 2006, told the F1 Nation podcast.
“So it’s a tribute to the whole team, to the hard work of all the guys, the reliability we’ve enjoyed so far this season.
“It’s just a fantastic tribute to [everyone].”
But Newey’s past experience with complacency has given him sufficient pause to ensure Red Bull doesn’t fall into the same trap as a previous team he worked with did.
Adrian Newey recounts McLaren’s 1999 experience as a warning
In 1999, Newey was working with Ron Dennis’ McLaren team, with Mika Hakkinen as their lead driver. Locked in a title battle with Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher for a second consecutive year, Schumacher suffered a technical failure at Silverstone that resulted in a broken leg as he crashed at Stowe.
Ruled out of most of the rest of the year, McLaren looked nailed on for both titles. But unreliability and errors, as well as clashes between Hakkinen and teammate David Coulthard, meant the Finn barely beat Eddie Irvine to the title and, annoyingly for McLaren, they were beaten by Ferrari in the Constructors’ standings.
“I think when you’re in a season, you’re kind of not really thinking about where you’ve got to, you’re thinking about the next one. So we’ve got a long way to go,” Newey said.
“I remember very clearly in 1999 when Mika was leading going into Silverstone.
“Michael had his accident, broke his leg obviously, and, as a team to be perfectly honest, we fell asleep for the rest of the year and it ended up going down to the wire between Mika and Eddie Irvine and we lost the Constructors’.
“So it’s a salient lesson that, no matter how good things look, you have to keep pushing, you have to keep on your toes.”
With Red Bull setting new records and escalating statistics with almost every race that passes, Newey said the time for reflecting on the enormity of their achievements can come after the job is done.
“Perhaps afterward but, when you’re in it during a season, you just don’t really reflect on statistics,” he said.
“You’re just looking forward to the next one and trying to get the job done.”