Red Bull technical chief Adrian Newey says Formula 1 is at risk of stagnating if it continues to tighten its regulations.
It has become commonplace for technical innovations in F1 to be outlawed on cost grounds or because they exploit grey areas in the rules, with the double diffuser, f-duct and exhaust blown diffusers among the developments affected in recent years.
Newey accepted that some breakthroughs being stopped by rule changes was inevitable.
“I think it’s part of the game and I don’t mind investing and being knocked back,” he said. “We were all of the view the f-duct was probably going to get banned at the end of the season and it seemed likely the double diffuser was going to get banned at the end of the subsequent season as well.
“You make a decision as to whether you want to invest heavily in pursuing that technology knowing it could be banned fairly quickly or whether you concentrate on other areas that will last longer.”
Nevertheless, he feels frustrated that rule changes continue to limit designers’ freedom.
“I think what’s more of a shame is that most of these things when they’re banned the exhaust being a very good example it’s actually just further restrictions,” Newey said. “That’s a shame and a danger that if the regulations continue to become ever more restrictive, we’ll eventually get the point where the car’s more or less designed by the rulebook. You’ll then have, effectively, ‘GP1’ cars where the differentiators are the engine and the driver. For me, it’s not Formula 1.”
Newey believes the ability to gain a technical edge is part of F1’s core appeal.
“One of the big things that differentiates Formula 1 from almost all other sports, with perhaps the exception of the America’s Cup, is that combination of man and machine,” he argued. “You can have a great car with an average driver and you won’t win; a great driver with an average car, you won’t win. It’s about both.
“I think the public appreciates that and you’d have to say, at the moment, if you judge this season and indeed last season, the blend seems to be about right.”