Adrian Newey, famous for winning things, says: “From the age of six, I have had two goals in life: to be involved in the design of racing cars and to be involved in the design of a supercar.”
Commendable aims, Adrian, and ones we have probably all felt to some extent. But Newey is a man with unusual drive, hence why the Aston Martin-Red Bull AM-RB 001 supercar/hypercar will be designed with one particular goal in mind: to be able to lap Silverstone at the same speed as an F1 or LMP1 racing car.
Good grief. That, for the record, is an astonishing ambition. Today’s most recent crop of hypercars – the Porsche 918 Spyder, McLaren P1 and LaFerrari – are not, you will have noticed, slow vehicles, and they have not been designed by dullards; all three companies have experience at the front end of either F1 or LMP1.
Yet my reckoning is that each of those hypercars would want approximately two minutes to lap Silverstone’s GP circuit. An LMP1 car around the same track wants about 1min 40sec and an F1 car six or seven seconds less than that.
So let’s say that, to hold its head high, a respectable time for the ‘001’ will be something like 1min 35sec. In other words, it needs to be 25 seconds per lap faster than a 918, P1 or LaFerrari.
And Newey is – let’s face it – no mug. If he thinks it can be done, quite possibly it can. But here’s the thing: his car will have to do it while remaining entirely road legal. It’ll need airbags. To be able to crash well enough. To be of a certain exhaust quietness and cleanness. To have no orifices in which a pedestrian’s head could become trapped.
That says an extraordinary amount about Newey and the ambition of this project – it would move accepted performance parameters by as much as the McLaren F1 did – but does it also tell us something about Formula 1?
F1 is, we are told, the pinnacle of world motorsport. It is the technical, innovation and talent showcase for cars going around in circles. As a sport, it should be utterly unreachable by other forms of motoring.
And yet, in F1, drivers say they’re unable to push as hard as they’d like during a race, because it hurts their tyres. These cars seat only one, they can’t sit at idle, their clutches are feeble, they need different tyres if it drizzles a little, their only purpose is to go around a race track for two hours and yet, despite all this, the world’s most talented designer of them thinks he can make a road-legal car that is all but as fast.
The AM-RB 001 project says wonderful things about the ambition of those involved, but I think it also says something about F1: that, frankly, it’s not fast enough.