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Formula 1

Mark Hughes: Newey's Red Bull decision is purely personal

by Mark Hughes
3 min read

If, as speculation has suggested, Adrian Newey wishes to leave Red Bull, what are the implications for the Formula 1 team?

Obviously, to lose the services of someone with a very real claim to be the greatest technical mind in F1's history would be a very significant blow. But it would not be like a light switch being flicked off. Any of the major teams are far too big and strong in depth for the departure of even such a towering talent to have an instant effect.

Furthermore, there are a whole bunch of exceptionally talented engineers working in that Red Bull technical department and should Newey leave their motivation will be high to prove a point. All those who feel their contribution has been overlooked in the long shadow of Newey will be ready to show the world as much.

It’s not as if Newey would be departing because of a general malaise within the team, either; this is very much a personal issue based around the Christian Horner controversy regarding the employee who served as PA to both Horner and Newey. Key insiders insist the team morale is very high, that everything is being focused to what is happening on track.

But longer-term, Newey departing would lose the team the most valuable personnel resource it has. If in addition he joined a rival, obviously that competitive hit is potentially doubled.

The power struggle at the upper levels of the wider Red Bull organisation, brought into tighter focus by the Horner controversy, has created such a volatile situation that we can take nothing as read. It is not impossible to imagine a situation where the threat of a Newey departure would put Horner’s role at renewed risk, should the Austrian management decide to act.

Where the power ultimately lies in this ongoing corporate battle is extremely difficult to pinpoint when the whole ownership structure is under discussion. Newey’s plans could very well have a profound effect on how that plays out.

But would Newey be happy to stay at a post-Horner Red Bull, with an Austrian-appointed nominee running the team? Might it be a case of 'can’t be with you, can’t be without you' for Adrian? Perhaps he’d prefer just to get out of the whole mess regardless of who was in charge.

These are very specific personal decisions of one man. What we can say is that the political heft of someone of Newey’s stature potentially leaving is immense and could have a further destablising effect.

As for what Newey’s plans beyond leaving the team might be, there’s been a natural assumption that he wishes to make a move - to Ferrari, or Aston Martin, or even Mercedes. But that’s not something we can assume. There is no intelligence leaking out from anywhere that he has any sort of agreement with another team.

That doesn’t mean he doesn't have one - but everything we are hearing says that his apparent wish to leave Red Bull is based upon his personal position regarding the Horner case. Not so much what other opportunities there may be.

It is not inconceivable he simply retires. Which would mean there need be no legal battle regarding his not completing his contract, which runs to the end of 2025.

At Formula One Management level there is sure to be a desire to see Newey take his skills to Ferrari (or Aston) in the hope of levelling the playing field but current boss Stefano Domenicali is not as proactive in trying to ease such moves as Bernie Ecclestone was.

Meanwhile, Max Verstappen is rather caught in the middle of further controversy while all he’s trying to do is win races and titles. But any departure of Newey would surely figure in his calculations of where his future might lie. Not necessarily to simply follow him, but in deciding whether Red Bull still offered him the most appealing prospects, especially so given the uncertainty surrounding who will best exploit the new power unit regulations from 2026.

The fallout from Dietrich Mateschitz’s passing is still happening and shaking the team to its foundations. The loss of Newey would hardly help in shoring it up.

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