He may be bald, have a Shatner-sized bassoon, a scrunched face, and little-to-no sense of personal style, but Adrian Newey is the best engineer and aerodynamicist of the modern Formula 1 era. You just might not know it by looking at him.
His most recent triumph was in claiming the Driver’s and Constructor’s Championships with his Red Bull RB6 this past F1 season. This was hardly his first foray into the sport though; not if you count 6 previous Constructor’s titles and 6 previous Driver’s titles.
Okay, so he didn’t personally drive the cars, but he did design every nuance and carbon protrusion on them. Mr. Newey knows how to win, and how to do so within the stringent regulations imposed by Formala 1.
So, just out of curiousity, what would happen if a video game developer gave the greatest car designer in a generation carte blanche to come up with the fastest car in the world? A car that can pull 8.25g in the corners, create 2500kg of downforce at 300kph, and lap Suzuka 20 seconds faster than any F1 car ever has is the result. Instead of building this car our of turbine engines, CVT gearboxes and carbon fibre, it exists only in ones, zeros, and polygons. It can even be yours, as the ultimate prize in the newly-released Gran Turismo 5 for PS3.
The completeness of the design is staggering, with every detail having been considered. With the rulebook in tatters, you can only imagine that a mind like Newey’s would be ripe with ideas. You’d be right. The two most captivating and profound design elements of this car, the Red Bull X1, are the covered wheels and the Chaparral 2J-esque fan element. It is the latter element that is so astoundingly antithetical to anything in racing today.
The Chaparral 2J (right) used a fan element to create downforce independent of speed. Unlike a spoiler that only creates downforce at speed, but also creates drag that limits top speed, the vacuum cleaner effect created by the fan suffers from no such limitations. According to Newey, regarding the X1, “The fan was used on the Chaparral 2J in Can-Am in 1970 and the concept was very effective. Its effectiveness depends upon the skirts, the seal to the ground, and with the advances in technology between 1970 and now that should be reasonably good.”
He’s not kidding.
The covered wheels provide a nice slipstream, but they also have the advantage of looking cooler than James Dean striking a pose and smoking a cigarette. The X1, then, is a Can-Am car for the 21st century. Long live innovation.