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Formula 1

Newey's Red Bull exit discomfort and biggest F1 future hint yet

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
6 min read

Adrian Newey has given the biggest indication yet of whether he'll remain in Formula 1 beyond his Red Bull exit - while also detailing just how uneasy he found the revelation of his impending departure.

Newey is widely regarded as the greatest F1 designer of all time having won titles across three teams: Williams, McLaren and Red Bull, where his stint is coming to an end after almost two decades.

Various factors including the credit Newey receives for his role in Red Bull’s current success and the controversy around team principal Christian Horner have fed into Newey wanting to leave the team he was instrumental in turning from a start-up to a world champion.

News of his departure broke in stages ahead of the previous F1 race in Miami, before finally being formally confirmed on May 1 – the 30th anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s fatal crash at Imola driving a Newey-designed Williams.

Red Bull was understood to have the intention of avoiding that date, given the significance of it to Newey, but brought the announcement forward due to his exit already being widely reported.  

Speaking with his friend and manager Eddie Jordan at an Oyster Yachts event at last weekend’s Historic Monaco Grand Prix, Newey deviated from a question about the praise incoming Ferrari driver Lewis Hamilton had given him amid speculation that’s where Newey could go too.

Newey admitted the kind Hamilton words does make him feel very good, although “it’s not why I get up”, then quickly moved on to explaining why the Miami weekend became “a really strange race for me”.

“The news had just broken in the press on a very unfortunate day,” he continued.

“It was May 1, which was that horrible 30th year anniversary of the horrible events of Imola. So it’s a very difficult and unfortunate day for that press release to come out.

“But then the Miami Grand Prix itself was strange because I was there in a strategy function, hence being on the pitwall.

“But I wasn’t involved in any of the engineering decisions or in the any of the engineering meetings, I was just being wheeled around for press basically. That’s not what gets me up, and I never really think about it.

“I never thought it’d be big news to be perfectly honest, I never really thought about it.

“So, for it to be in all the flipping papers and on the telly and stuff is almost a bit of a shock.” 

FAREWELL SPEECHES ALREADY

Newey’s presence in Miami made it one of the last races he will attend with the team before he goes on gardening leave ahead of a formal departure in the early months of 2025. He is understood to likely be on-site at races to converse with buyers of his RB17 hypercar that Red Bull is building.

The RB17 is being publicly revealed at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July, so Newey’s presence at F1 races will presumably dwindle rapidly. He has already taken the opportunity to give three farewell speeches across the trackside engineering team, the race team in the garage, and at the factory.

“Those were quite difficult, very emotional for me,” Newey said.

“Having been at Red Bull more or less from start, being centrally involved with Christian on how we developed the team, Christian on the general side and me on the engineering side, the culture, the ethos, the way we go about things, the infrastructure, etc, even the building layout, and so forth.

“I've been involved in that and taken a big career gamble, because many people thought it was pretty suicidal at the time at the end of 2005.

“Going from McLaren, where we'd won 10 races that year, to this start-up team that in truth just had the reputation of being the party team and not quite knowing where we would get to, to then win that first race and get the one-two with Sebastian [Vettel] and Mark [Webber] in China in 2009. And then to go on and win the championship in 2010. And everything that's happened since.

“To walk away from that was a very hard decision. There's a decision I felt I needed to make for a whole host of reasons.

“They'd been my family. And I've felt almost a degree of responsibility. Equally the teams now it's very mature, it's well organised. So that in itself gives me an opportunity to be able to walk away, do new challenges, new things.”

THE BIG FUTURE HINT

Since the first reports that Newey was dissatisfied at Red Bull and wanted to leave, there has been speculation about where he could go next. Ferrari is the lead contender to sign him having previously failed on at least two occasions.

Newey would need a remote working arrangement with the freedom to feed into the design process as suits him, based on what he has grown to enjoy and excel at with Red Bull. That kind of superconsultant-esque role could be immensely valuable for Ferrari in preparing for new car rules in 2026 – even if Newey joins once the initial concept work has partly progressed.

Any prospect of a Ferrari move, or to another team with Aston Martin repeatedly linked even though it officially denies making Newey an offer, would obviously be contingent on Newey actually wanting to work for another F1 team. Some have suggested his Red Bull exit will lead straight into retirement but Newey has given his strongest hint yet that he will only be taking a temporary break when his gardening leave begins.

He revealed that a combination of factors including witnessing what retirement was like for his father, and speaking to motorsport veterans Bernie Ecclestone and Roger Penske, have encouraged him to remain actively involved for longer.

“If you’d asked me 15 years ago, at the age of 65 would I seriously be considering changing teams, going somewhere else, and doing another four or five years, whatever? I’d have said you’re absolutely mad,” said Newey.

“And then it kind of…a few things happened at once.

“My dad, who was a vet, he was a huge car enthusiast, he had a little workshop with a milling machine and stuff and he used to tinker around and always modify his cars and play with them.

“If I’m honest it’s slightly emotional to say it, but he kind of lost his way of it in his retirement.

“I thought it’d be very happy continuing to tinker around on cars and stuff and he just lost his mojo a bit.

“And a kind of combination of that, and then two of the people I respect the most, Bernie and Roger Penske, I asked them both, ‘what’s your secret?’ - because they’ve kept going and going, and then for their age they’re phenomenally mentally agile and physically agile.

“They both said that old thing that the brain is like a muscle, it needs exercise. And so you need to keep doing that.

“Also, I’ve wanted to work in motor racing as a designer, since I was the age of eight, or 10. And I’ve been lucky enough to fulfil that ambition, to have got that first job and been in motor racing ever since. So every day has just been a bonus. I just love what I do.

“At some point, I guess I’ll have a bit of a holiday. I feel a little bit tired at the moment. But at some point, I’ll probably go again.”

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