Adrian Newey’s road car could be launched as a pure electric model, with hybrid spin-offs set to follow after the initial launch in around 2018.
While insiders continue to insist that the Red Bull F1 team’s chief technical officer has yet to get the green light to develop the car beyond the concept stage, latest reports suggest that he is spending an increasing amount of time on the project, on which he is working with Aston Martin.
Newey has a free role within Red Bull Technologies to work on projects of his choosing. Earlier this year he was said to be taking an active interest in working with Ben Ainslie Racing on its America’s Cup sailing project, but insiders have suggested that the road car has since taken priority.
Although Newey is still said to be working on various concepts for his first production car, he is reported only to be interested in undertaking the project if he can break new ground in terms of advancing technology and driver involvement. He is said to view the impact made by the McLaren F1, designed by Gordon Murray and launched in 1994, as his inspiration on both measures.
As such, launching a hybrid hypercar four years after the McLaren P1, LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder were sold out is reported to hold little appeal for Newey. Instead, he is said to be considering how to harness the potential benefits of electric power using the latest technologies, thereby potentially building an era-defining all-electric supercar.
However, sources suggest that Aston Martin shareholder Mercedes-Benz wants to be involved in the project, both to create a connection with Red Bull’s younger audience and to have a technical involvement in what could be a landmark product. As such, it is said to be pushing for its performance arm, AMG, to work with Newey and for the car to be built with the potential to be run as a hybrid post-launch, potentially combining a V8 petrol engine with electric propulsion, as well as a pure electric model.
Mercedes R&D boss Thomas Weber recently revealed to Autocar that AMG was already working on hybrid powertrains for 2020. Weber cautioned that AMG’s customers weren’t yet ready to pay more for the technology but said the increasing pressure to reduce emissions meant that the manufacturer had to develop hybrid powertrains that changed perceptions. “In our development department, we are already planning for the time when we will have to offer something special,” he said.
Newey stepped back from his F1 involvement at the start of the year, with a road car project rumoured to be among his plans. He is understood to have begun collaborative work with Aston Martin at about the same time, and insiders describe the embryonic project as "ongoing, with no certainty of reaching fruition".
However, as well as using Aston Martin’s road car engineering resources, Newey is understood to have worked with the firm’s design team, suggesting that the project is both well advanced and that the car is likely to be emphasise aerodynamic performance.
Plans for Newey to launch his own road car were first revealed in July of this year. Speaking to Autocar at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in June, Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner reiterated that launching a Red Bull road car was inevitable.
He told Autocar: “It’s something that Adrian is keen to do as a legacy project. At the moment our focus is on being a Formula 1 constructor, but as we see more technology cross over with the road car market, it’s something that will organically grow.”
It is not known whether Renault's decision to renegotiate its contract with the Red Bull F1 team with a view to ending supply of customer engines will have any impact on the project. Speaking to Autocar at the Frankfurt motor show, Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn said both parties were looking to end their current contract at the end of this season. Rumours are currently rife that Mercedes-Benz may step in to fill the breach left by Renault to supply engines.