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Adrian Newey's F1 championship-winning cars from FW14B to RB19

Adrian Newey has been a pioneer in Formula 1 car design having a career that’s spanned five decades and helped drivers win several world championships

Alain Prost, Williams FW15C Renault.

Adrian Newey today (26 December) celebrates his 65th birthday in a year where he has contributed to yet another F1 championship-winning car.

He and his Red Bull colleagues created the RB19, which won 21 of 22 grands prix to dominate both the 2023 F1 constructors’ and drivers’ world championships.

However, it was not the first championship the legendary designer has contributed towards, with 14 of his cars claiming a title. Red Bull’s chief technical officer has often been at the forefront of F1 car design, so here are the championship-winning machines he has worked on at Williams, McLaren and Red Bull.

Williams FW14B

  • 1992 F1 constructors’ world champion
  • 1992 F1 drivers’ world champion - Nigel Mansell
  • 2nd in 1992 F1 drivers’ world championship - Riccardo Patrese
Nigel Mansell, Williams FW14B Renault

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images

Nigel Mansell, Williams FW14B Renault

Newey’s first championship-winning car is one of the most legendary machines in F1 history. The FW14B won 10 of 16 grands prix in 1992, with Williams finishing 1-2 in the drivers’ standings where Nigel Mansell claimed his only F1 title.

Newey was Williams’ chief designer and a key reason for its success that year was FW14B’s active suspension. This was a computerised system which controlled the vehicle’s vertical movements in response to driving conditions and helped to improve car stability in corners and reduce drag along a straight.

The FW14B also featured traction control and a dominant Renault V10 engine, which truly made it one of the most innovative designs in F1 history. 

Williams FW15C

  • 1993 F1 constructors’ world champion
  • 1993 F1 drivers’ world champion - Alain Prost
  • 3rd in 1993 F1 drivers’ world championship - Damon Hill
Alain Prost, Williams FW15C Renault.

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Alain Prost, Williams FW15C Renault.

F1 was very high-tech in 1993 with the FW15C at the forefront of that, featuring many different electronics and driver aids. Alain Prost described it as “a little airbus” with active suspension, traction control, power steering, anti-lock brakes and many more fitted onto the car.

It also featured a narrower nose, smoother engine cover plus a larger rear wing, meaning Newey and his Williams team maximised the FW15C’s aerodynamics, alongside a power unit that had 80-100bhp more than the Ford V8 used by Williams’ closest rivals McLaren and Benetton.

All of this contributed to another dominant year for Williams, who won 10 of 16 grands prix with Prost clinching his fourth and final drivers’ title.

Williams FW16

  • 1994 F1 constructors’ world champion
  • 2nd in 1994 F1 drivers’ world championship – Damon Hill
  • 8th in 1994 F1 drivers’ world championship - David Coulthard (rounds 5-6, 8-13)
  • 9th in 1994 F1 drivers’ world championship - Nigel Mansell (rounds 7, 14-16)
Ayrton Senna, Williams FW16

Photo by: Sutton Images

Ayrton Senna, Williams FW16

1994 was an incredibly sad year for Newey and Williams, despite winning the constructors’ championship. The retired Prost was replaced by his old rival Ayrton Senna, yet the triple world champion died in a crash during the season’s third round at Imola.

As explained in Newey’s autobiography ‘How to build a race car’, the accident still causes him “guilt” because “I screwed up the aerodynamics of the car” where, as part of big changes, Williams switched back to passive suspension as active was banned for 1994.

The car suffered from a very narrow set-up window that made the FW16 difficult to drive early on, as Williams did not win a race until the season’s fifth round. But, two races later, the car was fitted with extensive upgrades that included a new floor and amended bodywork which helped Williams to win six of the remaining nine grands prix.

Such strong form in the latter half of 1994 lifted the British outfit from third to first in the constructors’ championship, while Williams’ Damon Hill lost the drivers’ title by just one point to Michael Schumacher.

Williams FW18

  • 1996 F1 constructors’ world champion
  • 1996 F1 drivers’ world champion - Damon Hill
  • 2nd in 1996 F1 drivers’ world championship - Jacques Villeneuve
Damon Hill, Williams FW18 Renault

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Damon Hill, Williams FW18 Renault

The FW18 was another dominant machine produced by Williams and Newey, who once again was a pioneer when it came to F1 aerodynamics. For 1996 Newey created a design that remains in modern-day F1, where the driver is more reclined within the cockpit with their head lower and pedals higher.

It lowered the car’s centre of gravity meaning Williams’ aerodynamics was well ahead of any of its rivals. That was matched by a potent Renault V10 engine that helped Hill qualify on the front row for every grand prix in his championship-winning season, while Williams scored over double the points tally of runner-up Ferrari.

Williams FW19

  • 1997 F1 constructors’ world champion
  • 1997 F1 drivers’ world champion - Jacques Villeneuve
  • 2nd in 1997 F1 drivers’ world championship - Heinz-Harald Frentzen
Jacques Villeneuve,  Williams FW19

Photo by: Sutton Images

Jacques Villeneuve, Williams FW19

The FW19 was the final Williams chassis to receive input from Newey - he joined McLaren before the 1997 season commenced - with his work then finished by Geoff Willis. The car was an evolution of its predecessor featuring a more compact gearbox, but the biggest change was the introduction of the new, lightweight Renault RS9 engine.

The v-angle was widened to 71 degrees rather than the 67 of previous Renault V10s and as a result, the engine was 27mm lower with the centre of gravity dropping by 14mm.

Such a change helped Williams win another championship in a car designed by Newey, even though he was not available mid-season to develop, as the team won eight of 17 grands prix that year. Jacques Villeneuve claimed the drivers’ crown, but Williams had greater competition in the constructors’ standings with Ferrari finishing just 21 points behind.

McLaren MP4/13

  • 1998 F1 constructors’ world champion
  • 1998 F1 drivers’ world champion - Mika Hakkinen
  • 3rd in 1998 F1 drivers’ world championship - David Coulthard
The 1998 McLaren MP4/13 is driven around the circuit

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The 1998 McLaren MP4/13 is driven around the circuit

Newey made a winning start at McLaren clinching both championships with the first car he designed for the British squad. It quickly became clear at the start of 1998 that Newey and his team had adapted to the rule changes best, with cars now narrower and running on grooved tyres.

Despite the narrower cars, McLaren kept its wheelbase approximately the same as before as Newey prioritised stability that was similar to the previous generation of cars.

The design - which other teams quickly followed - made McLaren dominant as it won nine of 16 races in 1998 with Mika Hakkinen claiming his maiden drivers’ crown. It also remains the last time to date that McLaren won the constructors’ championship.

McLaren MP4/14

  • 2nd in 1999 F1 constructors’ world championship
  • 1999 F1 drivers’ world champion - Mika Hakkinen
  • 4th in 1999 F1 drivers’ world championship - David Coulthard
Mika Hakkinen, McLaren MP4/14-Mercedes

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Mika Hakkinen, McLaren MP4/14-Mercedes

The MP4/14 was the fastest car on the grid in 1999 with its potent Mercedes power unit that gave Hakkinen pole position for 11 of 16 races. Its aerodynamics were also more advanced than the MP4/13, yet the car did have faults.

McLaren retired from a race 12 times that season with mechanical problems often at fault, which cost the team in its battle with Ferrari for the constructors’ championship. McLaren ultimately finished second, but Hakkinen won back-to-back drivers’ crowns meaning seven cars designed by Newey clinched a title in the 1990s.

Red Bull RB6

  • 2010 F1 constructors’ world champion
  • 2010 F1 drivers’ world champion - Sebastian Vettel
  • 3rd in 2010 F1 drivers’ world championship - Mark Webber
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing RB6 Renault, 1st position

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing RB6 Renault, 1st position

Newey made a risky move to Red Bull in 2006 as the team finished seventh in its debut season the year before. However, it did not take too long for the move to pay off as Newey helped to design Red Bull’s first championship-winning car and end his 11-year title-less drought.

It came with the RB6, which was the successor of the RB5 that ended 2009 as the quickest car winning the final three races. So, keeping that in mind, the RB6 was quite similar but the car’s rear length was maximised to aid the double diffuser - a device which improves downforce - while its controversial front wing could run very low in qualifying without the car bottoming.

Such a design helped Red Bull win nine of 18 grands prix while clinching the 2010 constructors’ championship. Sebastian Vettel also won his maiden drivers’ title in the dramatic, season concluding Abu Dhabi GP.

Red Bull RB7

  • 2011 F1 constructors’ world champion
  • 2011 F1 drivers’ world champion - Sebastian Vettel
  • 3rd in 2011 F1 drivers’ world championship - Mark Webber
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull RB7 Renault, crosses the finish line and takes the chequered flag

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull RB7 Renault, crosses the finish line and takes the chequered flag

The RB7 is one of the quickest cars in F1 history having achieved pole position for all but one grand prix in 2011. Vettel was on another level in his second title-winning campaign breaking the record for most pole positions (15) in a season, surpassing Nigel Mansell from 1992 - which was also done in a Newey-designed car.

Newey and his team did extremely well to overcome the significant regulation changes that were made for 2011, as the double diffuser was banned. Red Bull instead found greater downforce through its exhaust-blown diffuser, where exhaust gases headed towards the diffuser’s outer section.

It came from a flattened exhaust that was just inside the rear tyres, while 2011 also featured the introduction of DRS and the return of KERS. Red Bull won 12 races that season and dominated both championships.

Red Bull RB8

  • 2012 F1 constructors’ world champion
  • 2012 F1 drivers’ world champion - Sebastian Vettel
  • 6th in 2012 F1 drivers’ world championship - Mark Webber
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull RB8 Renault, battles with Lewis Hamilton, McLaren MP4-27 Mercedes

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull RB8 Renault, battles with Lewis Hamilton, McLaren MP4-27 Mercedes

Unlike its predecessor, the RB8 was not very dominant as exhaust exits now had to be within a specific area, forcing Red Bull to change its exhaust-blown diffuser.

2012 was a very tight season and it had a different winner in each of the first six races, while Red Bull won just three grands prix in the opening 13 rounds.

However, extensive upgrades for the Singapore GP significantly changed Red Bull’s season. The team arrived with a redesigned, flexible nose that could push the front wing closer to the floor. Meanwhile, the RB8 also had double DRS added where airflow was directed onto the beam wing below the main rear wing, which helped to reduce drag.

It started a run of four consecutive victories for the team, which included Red Bull’s first front row lockout of the season in Japan, before clinching both championships over the final two weekends.

Red Bull RB9

  • 2013 F1 constructors’ world champion
  • 2013 F1 drivers’ world champion - Sebastian Vettel
  • 3rd in 2013 F1 drivers’ world championship - Mark Webber
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull RB9 Renault

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull RB9 Renault

In order to get the 2012 championships over the line, Red Bull delayed the development of its RB9 chassis. Despite that, Red Bull had one of its most dominant seasons ever.

Vettel clinched a fourth title with three rounds left, having broken the then record for most consecutive race victories after winning the final nine grands prix of 2013. This was despite various rule changes that included clamping down on front wings, stating its flexibility must be no more than 10mm when subjected to a maximum load of 100kg.

However, the RB9 still featured many of the characteristics its predecessors had, with it simply being an evolution that did not include the ‘stepped nose’ from 2012. In the end, the RB9 won 13 of 19 grands prix but it was Red Bull and Newey’s last championship for several years.

Red Bull RB16B

  • 2nd in 2021 F1 constructors’ world championship
  • 2021 F1 drivers’ world champion - Max Verstappen
  • 4th in 2021 F1 drivers’ world championship - Sergio Perez
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Some regulation tweaks for 2021 aided a title battle for the ages between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Changes were made to the car floor, diffuser and rear brake winglets to reduce aerodynamic performance by 10% as a way of making things safer for Pirelli tyres.

Less downforce affected Mercedes more as its aerodynamic excellence helped the team win every F1 championship between 2014 and 2020, while Red Bull had an upgraded Honda engine fitted so their speed was mega in 2021. 

It set up an incredibly close fight in both championships where Verstappen won his maiden title in the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi GP, but Red Bull just missed out on the constructors’ crown to Mercedes.

Red Bull RB18

  • 2022 F1 constructors’ world champion
  • 2022 F1 drivers’ world champion - Max Verstappen
  • 3rd in 2022 F1 drivers’ world championship - Sergio Perez
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo by: Erik Junius

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

2022 saw the reintroduction of ground effect cars to F1 and as with many previous regulation changes, a car worked on by Newey was the one to beat. With previous experience in ground effect, Newey realised car stability was crucial and it was therefore no coincidence the RB18 did not porpoise like its competitors.

This was after Red Bull focused work on a strong suspension, while they also opted for an aggressive sidepod concept that other teams quickly followed. But the RB18 took a while to become dominant after starting 2022 as overweight so, while it was strong in race trim, Ferrari had the quickest car on one lap but Red Bull reduced its car’s weight as 2022 wore on.

This resulted in Red Bull ending the year as F1’s dominant outfit, having won 17 of 22 grands prix while clinching both titles with rounds to spare to give another one of Newey’s cars a championship.

Red Bull RB19

  • 2023 F1 constructors’ world champion
  • 2023 F1 drivers’ world champion - Max Verstappen
  • 2nd in 2023 F1 drivers’ world championship - Sergio Perez
Race winner Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Race winner Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

The RB19 is statistically the most dominant car in F1 history after sealing both championships comfortably with the highest win percentage in a season. 

It was an evolution of the RB18 but with one big change which came to the car floor, where instead of being flat it featured two tunnels that channelled airflow to the diffuser. The RB19 was also praised for its efficiency where it produced significant downforce while being rapid down the straights.

Despite all of the championships Newey has helped to win, 2023 was probably his best yet. The car was practically unstoppable and Singapore was the RB19’s only setback, finishing off the podium, as Red Bull struggled with set-up across the weekend.

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