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Formula 1

Newey/Red Bull split - Why they couldn't reconcile

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Adrian Newey’s momentous split from Red Bull’s Formula 1 team looks increasingly likely to be confirmed ahead of this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix.

The F1 design legend has been a part of 25 drivers’ and constructors’ title successes across stints with Williams, McLaren and Red Bull.

Newey joined Red Bull in 2006 from McLaren and helped transform the team into a true F1 powerhouse. Now he is set to leave Red Bull after almost 20 years, with confirmation believed to be coming this week, because of a mix of long-held points of conflict and fresh issues.

His departure is shocking on the surface but makes more sense when picking over the details of the past year and viewing that against the context of the last decade.

There have been underlying issues at various points, and Newey has had opportunities to leave before – sometimes when courted by others like Ferrari and sometimes out of frustration with issues such as then-engine partner Renault’s problems at the start of F1’s V6 turbo-hybrid era in 2014.

As Red Bull has become part of the problem, though, it could no longer offer Newey a solution. In the past Newey has been perceived to not feel fulfilled by F1’s regulations, or to want the freedom to pursue other projects while retaining some involvement in F1.

More recently one concern seems to have been his role in Red Bull’s current success being undervalued by the team. Another is that while Newey has been key to the Red Bull RB17 road car project, he does not want to be sidelined from F1 to work exclusively on that.

Newey raised these concerns when he most recently considered leaving Red Bull one year ago. That could have resulted in his departure at the end of 2023 when his previous contract expired.

A new deal was struck instead but all that appears to have done is kick the can 12 months down the road. The matter seems to have been revived by the controversy around team boss Christian Horner at the start of this year and wider political wrangling around the team that Newey has no interest in.

What bothers Newey, inside and perhaps even outside of Red Bull, seems greater than before. And unlike in the past, some within Red Bull might not want to find a solution, given the implication at times that some feel its technical organisation has evolved to a point of not needing him.

So, while previously Red Bull and Horner found ways to placate Newey, for example working on the Aston Martin Valkyrie when the Renault hybrid disaster brought Red Bull’s first era of domination to a shuddering halt, this time there looks to be no such reconciliation.

The upshot is that having recently told Red Bull of his intentions informally, Newey has committed to his exit, which Red Bull will not stand in the way of in principle. But the exact terms of his departure might not be conveyed swiftly. That will likely depend on whether Newey seeks another F1 challenge, with Ferrari repeatedly being linked with a move.

Red Bull confirmed last week that Newey's contract runs until "at least the end of 2025". The suggestion is that is the earliest that a period of gardening leave would begin, so he could not then start work for another team until 2027.

To stay in F1 and prepare for the new car rules in 2026, Newey would need to negotiate a shorter period of gardening leave that allows him to work at another team next year.

That might have happened already, or be next on Newey’s to-do list. But there would presumably be nothing Red Bull could do to stop Newey from simply retiring if that is where his head is really at.

Whether Newey is done with F1 or not, though, the hurdles to continuing with Red Bull have become insurmountable.

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