sport

Newey could drive sponsor forward

The most successful designer in F1 history could turn his pencil to helping Red Bull's new sponsor Infiniti develop their future road cars.

Nissan's luxury car brand last month announced their new sponsorship role with Red Bull Racing after a successful two-year partnership.

The collaboration has already resulted in three-times Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel inadvertently becoming a 'test driver' for Infiniti.

Vettel put a new sports sedan, to be unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show next month, through its paces at Infiniti's secret test track in Japan ahead of the grand prix at Suzuka in October.

The 24-year-old, however, was far from overwhelmed, leading to him making a number of observations which were taken on board and which have since been implemented in the car to be seen in Detroit.

Infiniti's F1 director Andreas Sigl said: "When Sebastian tested the car it was not just for show. He provided our engineers with a proper debrief.

"But he didn't really like everything, so he asked me, 'What should I say? I'm not a good actor'.

"So I told him to tell them what he had experienced because we want to hear it, and they (the engineers) need to hear it from you.

"Very quickly he switched into his F1 debrief mode, so it was great we could use him for that.

"It was real driver feedback from a world champion, and all of a sudden you saw the engineers taking out their sharp pencils and making notes.

"Some of the feedback was positive, some of it very harsh, but improvements were made to show that we not only listen, but act."

Vettel's involvement with Infiniti will see the manufacturer unveil in late February-early March a limited-edition model - only 150 have been made - bearing his name, and at a cost of around 100,000.

Following in Vettel's footsteps, designer Adrian Newey could yet join forces with Infiniti's chief designer Shiro Nakamura in the development of another model.

Sigl added: "When we took Adrian to our design centre, he was more popular than Sebastian because he is a god to our design people."

Asked as to the prospects of Newey, who famously still sketches all his designs on paper rather than via computer, working on an Infiniti project in the future, Sigl said: "It's a possibility.

"We've talked about it. We are both eager - from the engineering side and the Red Bull Racing side - to broaden our brand into that kind of space.

"Like Mercedes with AMG, Infiniti has the IPL - Infiniti Performance Line - which has room to grow.

"So why not do that with the credibility and the experience Red Bull Racing has. It's definitely an option and an interest on both sides.

"If that means Shiro spending time with Adrian and appreciating each other's work, or Sebastian working with us and seeing his car being built, it's something you have to step back from and say, 'Wow!'.