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What a Newey exit would mean for Red Bull - Our verdict

7 min read

Speculation is rife that Adrian Newey wants to leave Red Bull, potentially igniting a fresh crisis within the currently dominant Formula 1 team.

But what would a Newey exit mean for Red Bull? Could it still be as successful without him?

Here's what our writers think:

An abrupt end to Red Bull respite

Scott Mitchell-Malm

The eruption of this speculation is a fresh blow to Red Bull that ends a short period of respite from the incessant scrutiny that had dogged the first few weeks of the season.

The Christian Horner saga erupted earlier this year during car launch season, and was the dominant storyline through pre-season testing and the first two race weekends.

Little has changed in that narrative since then, though, which meant as Red Bull continued to dominate on track, its F1 team was back in the headlines for the right reasons.

That now changes again. Red Bull's fractured leadership had already left rivals smelling blood. And this is going to attract a lot of sharks.

There may well be an attempt to spin this as no great loss in real terms because Newey's involvement has become so peripheral. Maybe Red Bull have expected this to some degree. 

But with a team and team boss renowned for controlling narratives, this one slipping out - and all it will invite - is a long way from ideal.

Red Bulls risks slipping back to its nadir

Ben Anderson

It seems Red Bull is careering further and faster towards a scenario where either Horner departs Red Bull, or other key players - such as Newey and maybe Max Verstappen too - go instead.

Newey leaving the team he has helped build into a F1 titan would be monumental of course, and would undoubtedly weaken Red Bull. How could it not? Red Bull has done everything it can over the past decade to keep Newey happy, keep him involved and keep him out of the hands of rival teams.

His departure, if it comes to pass, raises the prospect of Red Bull returning to its 2015-18 nadir - when Newey’s disillusionment with hybrid engines dominating the competitive equation (and Renault’s ineptitude in trying to solve that equation) meant he largely stepped back from day-to-day involvement in Red Bull’s F1 team.

The team didn’t become an overnight joke - it still won races, scored pole positions, behaved and raced like a big team should. But, some of those cars had a difficult start to life - the 2015 and 2017 cars in particular - and Red Bull relied on Newey’s unique perspective and problem-solving abilities to help sort them out.

In 2025 Red Bull will likely be OK whatever happens, but if the 2026 car is badly born and Newey is out of the picture then Red Bull is in a new and uncomfortable scenario.

The upside in the short term is that, F1 contracts being what they are, even if Red Bull can no longer count on Newey’s particular genius, it will also be the case that no rival will be able to get their hands on him in time for Newey to have influence on their first or even second stabs at F1’s 2026 regulations.

That buys Red Bull some time to recalibrate and restructure. Other clever people will step up, Red Bull will most likely go on being successful for a time, but the team will certainly never be the same.

It might not spell the end immediately, but F1’s greatest car designer and aerodynamic genius departing the championship’s current best team would surely do lasting damage - and could very well mark the beginning of a slow death.

A test of Red Bull's contingency planning

Edd Straw

Newey leaving would be the acid test of the robustness of Red Bull Racing technically. It wouldn't make a huge difference for 2025 because the die is very much cast in terms of the philosophy of the car based on the direction he was critical in setting with the '22 car, but for 2026 there is a major rule change. 

While there are plenty of hugely accomplished technical personnel at Red Bull, led by technical director Pierre Wache, what Newey offers is both creativity and a clear vision for the key performance opportunities of any set of rules.

Without him, there would still be an enormously potent team but the question is whether the right conceptual direction is chosen.

Red Bull Racing was built around Newey, but there was always going to be a point when he was no longer with the team. Efforts will have been made to prepare for that and there are individuals within the team who will be hugely motivated to show that they can be successful even without Newey's influence. 

Notwithstanding the performance of the new in-house power unit in 2026, the quality of the first all-new car would reveal much about the true depth of F1's dominant force.

A fascinating litmus test for F1's exception

Matt Beer

Newey should be an anachronism. In this era of F1 with hundreds upon hundreds of people in teams' technical departments, with aerodynamic testing restrictions, with restrictive rules, with focuses on incremental and marginal gains. Someone who'd grown up watching what the likes of Colin Chapman threw at their cars might even call it a 'post-innovation' era.

Amid all those factors, how can one solitary person be considered so influential, so effective, so peerless that he's the magic factor whose presence supercharges a team's title chances? Sign Newey and the odds are you'll end up with the best chassis on the F1 grid. That shouldn't be viable anymore. Surely no one has the scope to be that transformative now.

And yet the facts bear it out. Newey leaves a team, it declines. Newey joins a team, it becomes notably more competitive and sooner or later it wins a title.

Except given his long, long stint at Red Bull, it's been nearly two decades since there was a chance to properly test that theory by seeing the impact a Newey exit or arrival now has. It seemed we'd only find out when he retired.

Now we might get the evidence sooner and more dramatically.

A horror show of 2026 uncertainty 

Josh Suttill

F1's new rules in 2026 were already going to be an uncomfortable time for Red Bull. 

Yes, as Horner puts it, it's a "very bold, brave and pretty ballsy" move for Red Bull to build its own engines but it's also incredibly perilous and is exactly the kind of thing that can topple a dominant team. 

If you throw in potentially losing a key supplier of so many of your title-winning cars alongside losing the supplier of some of your title-winning engines? That's a nightmare for Red Bull.

And it won't go unnoticed by Verstappen either. No team is a safe bet for 2026 but there are few risker bets than Red Bull, especially a Newey-less one. And even more so a Newey and Wache-less Red Bull. 

If both figures depart, Verstappen's either going to get an incredibly strong hand to renegotiate the last years of his Red Bull contract or it will be the final push needed to start exploring his early exit options. 

Red Bull and Verstappen could survive without Newey and Wache, but they couldn't do so comfortably.

Glenn Freeman

If this happens, Newey leaving Red Bull is as big as Lewis Hamilton leaving Mercedes. Newey's a multi-championship winning icon just like any star driver. His name deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the greats we've seen behind the wheel.

And just like Hamilton exiting Mercedes, it would be a move that has felt unthinkable for the last decade. Even at his most disillusioned with F1, most notably the start of the hybrid era when Renault was letting Red Bull down, Newey couldn't bring himself to leave Red Bull. Offers were on the table from Mercedes and Ferrari, and he turned them down.

He's always viewed Red Bull as the place where he was able to help build a team up into a powerhouse. Effectively doing what he didn't get the chance to finish at the Leyton House March team where he first really made his name in F1.

Yes, his interest in F1 has ebbed and flowed during the last 10 years, but it's never felt like his loyalty to Red Bull has. Much like Hamilton-to-Ferrari, if Newey is about to leave the team we all thought he'd see out his career with, it's going to be seismic. 

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