Sun. May 26th, 2024

Adrian Newey’s Red Bull exit could cause domino effect affecting F1 grid

Adrian Newey’s Red Bull exit could cause domino effect affecting F1 grid

 

“I always strive to sketch with fervor. In essence, I must envision that what I’m sketching will represent the next leap forward,” Adrian Newey expressed in his 2017 book, “How to Build a Car.” With the recent announcement of his impending departure from Red Bull next year, it seems he is now seeking a fresh challenge, a move that could potentially have significant implications across the landscape of Formula One.

As the most accomplished designer of the contemporary era, boasting 12 constructors’ championship-winning cars across three distinct teams, Newey stands as arguably the most coveted asset in the F1 paddock, rivaling even the most esteemed drivers at the top tier. Many regard him as a far more pivotal factor in achieving success than the individual behind the wheel.

With Red Bull alone, he has amassed an impressive record of seven drivers’ titles and six constructors’ championships. The magnitude of this accomplishment cannot be overstated. His tenure with the team began in 2006, following a significant coup orchestrated by team principal Christian Horner, who successfully lured him away from McLaren.

Red Bull’s journey, starting from its origins as a struggling Jaguar squad in 2005, culminated in their first title win with Sebastian Vettel in 2010. Subsequently, they achieved even greater heights, notably securing three consecutive titles with Max Verstappen in the last three years. This remarkable progression stands as a testament to Newey’s extraordinary talent and influence within the sport.

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Adrian Newey

Newey has been at the epicenter of it all. While modern cars are typically a collaborative effort, the British designer stands out as an exception, actively involved in the development process and still employing hand-drawn elements and ideas. Despite his reluctance for the spotlight, preferring to let his work speak for itself, his contributions have resonated profoundly.

Reserved, contemplative, and meticulous, Newey possesses a unique knack for deciphering and capitalizing on the intricate nuances of F1 regulations, consistently crafting cars that have often proven to be unrivaled in speed. His talents have only grown more coveted since 2006, and if, as widely speculated, he chooses to align with Lewis Hamilton in an endeavor to rejuvenate Ferrari’s fortunes in 2025, the Scuderia could potentially assemble an F1 dream team of unparalleled prowess.

However, his departure signifies a significant setback for Red Bull and Horner. In his memoir, Newey articulated that he and Horner shared a common ideology for the team, and it was widely understood that their relationship played a pivotal role in Newey’s continued presence at Red Bull, despite persistent attempts by other teams to entice him away. His choice to depart suggests a possible breakdown in that relationship.

In addition to Newey’s purported unease regarding the controversy surrounding allegations against Horner for inappropriate behavior—grievances that were subsequently dismissed following an investigation—it is speculated that Newey has also grown disillusioned with Horner’s apparent downplaying of his contributions. Specifically, when Horner credited the technical director Pierre Waché for his design role, it reportedly irked Newey. Moreover, Horner’s suggestion last year that Newey was replaceable was met with considerable disapproval, with the designer’s wife labeling the comments as “hogwash.”

Previously, such issues have often been smoothed over, but time may have played a significant role as well. At 65, Newey has expressed his desire to collaborate with Hamilton and Ferrari. Opting to leave now still affords him the opportunity for a substantial tenure at Maranello, potentially marking the culmination of his F1 career with one last major challenge.

For Horner, the looming question is whether this development proves to be a breaking point. Already entangled in a power struggle with Red Bull’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH, he currently enjoys the backing of the company’s majority shareholder, Chalerm Yoovidhya. However, losing Newey further undermines his position, particularly with significant regulation changes on the horizon for 2026.

Newey’s departure may just be the first domino to fall. Verstappen, whose future with the team is already uncertain, has emphasized the importance of retaining core figures within the team. Newey is undoubtedly one of them, and there are already indications that other teams, including Mercedes, are courting the Dutchman as a potential replacement for Hamilton.

Waché is undoubtedly qualified to step up and replace Newey, but there are reports that Ferrari has also pursued him, along with the head of aerodynamics, Enrico Balbo. There is a real risk that Red Bull could lose more key assets, leaving Horner in a precarious position.

For now, Red Bull’s dominance remains unchallenged. Newey’s RB20 is poised to secure his 13th title this season. However, all eyes, including those of the rest of the field, are now turning toward 2026.

Ferrari’s dry spell in the championships since 2007 and 2008 is a source of frustration for the team. Under Fred Vasseur’s leadership, they are assembling one of their strongest lineups in recent years. Bringing Newey on board, aiming to take their next leap forward, could be the move that propels them back to the top, potentially at Red Bull’s expense.

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