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Formula 1

Verstappen hints at how Red Bull really feels about Newey leaving

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
5 min read

Max Verstappen’s suggestion that Adrian Newey’s role in Red Bull’s recent Formula 1 success has been overstated is a strong hint at how the team’s hierarchy really feels about Newey’s impending exit.

Newey will leave Red Bull early in 2025 after just short of two decades with the team, which he first helped turn into a dominant force from 2010-13 as technical director.

He then made a further contribution to its current era of success in a ‘global chief technical officer’ role.

Newey’s impending exit has been met with shock by many in the F1 paddock and beyond, and follows some pre-existing tensions being exacerbated by the recent controversy involving Christian Horner and some wider Red Bull politics as well.

But there has been a strong, if implicit, indication that Red Bull itself is not concerned by Newey’s departure because his influence had been diluted over time - with some in the team even of the opinion Newey had no real input into the 2024 RB20.

Verstappen has not gone that far, and admitted he would have preferred Newey to stay, but said on Thursday in Miami: “Over time, his role has changed a bit and I think a lot of people don't understand what he was actually doing.

“I don't say he wasn't doing anything - but his role has evolved. A lot of good people came into the team that have strengthened that whole department.

“You can always rely on his experience, and just as a person, he's a great guy to chat to and relate to. Because he's very bright, very smart, but he would also talk to the driver and then he would interpret that into the car, and try to imagine himself driving.

“But I also really trust that the technical team that we have, outside of Adrian, is very, very strong. And they have basically shown that with the last few years, how competitive the car is.

“From the outside it looks very dramatic, but I think if you actually know what is happening inside the team it is not as dramatic as it seems.”

The change in Newey’s role removed him from day-to-day technical leadership, as Pierre Wache took charge as technical director, and put Newey into a superconsultant-esque position, informing and leading specific parts of car design and development as he saw fit.

Horner has previously described the technical team as having become a “machine” that emerged from the freedom granted to Newey to keep him on board while also working on other projects, initially the Aston Martin Valkyrie and lately Red Bull’s first hypercar, the RB17.

Verstappen said “there will never be another Adrian” but added he believes this could galvanise some already at Red Bull and give new opportunities to others.

He also did not try to convince Newey to stay because he felt someone who wanted to leave should be allowed to do that, whether that is “the right decision for yourself and family, or you seek a different challenge” - and said he even messaged Newey to that effect.

Verstappen acknowledged that F1 “is a shark tank” because “everyone thinks about themselves”, implying Newey would, like anybody, act in his own best interests.

Earlier this year, Verstappen said he would consider his own future if his close ally Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s motorsport advisor, left amid tensions between team leaders.

That came after Verstappen was more equivocal about the role Horner’s future played in his own decision-making.

When speaking about Marko’s situation, Verstappen said it was important that all the team’s key pillars were kept - and this week his father Jos seemed to use Newey’s exit as a chance to revive his own concerns about Red Bull’s future under Horner’s leadership.

But asked if Newey’s future impacted his own, Max said: “Not at the moment.

“People in the press, they are making up a lot of things because they don't understand how the roles were in the team.

“I cannot deny that I would've preferred him to stay, just for how he is as a person, his knowledge and of course what he will bring to potentially another team if he wants to join.

“Besides that, I trust that the people that we have. They are incredibly good at what they do.”

Answering a question about the impact the various off-track stories this year - Horner’s saga, Newey leaving, and the two being linked - had on him, Verstappen replied: “All of those things a couple of years ago would've been a bit unexpected.

“But I think it's always very important to remain calm and focus on your job, know who you're working with, feel comfortable.

“At the end of the day we need to have the fastest car. That's what I always demanded, that's what we finally got, for a couple of years now, and we have a very strong technical team that are part of the team still for a long time.

“Basically, it goes on like it was going before.”

Newey has negotiated an early 2025 exit because his contract, which he had only renegotiated last year, ran until the end of next year and contained a 12-month non-compete clause that could have left him unable to work for another team until the start of 2027 if enforced.

What facilitated that is unclear, but Verstappen said he was “not surprised” and “in a way it would be maybe also a little bit unfair to try and just put him on gardening leave for a very long time”.

“So, I guess there's mutual respect between the two parties,” he said.

Newey is strongly linked with a move to Ferrari to close out his F1 career, and Verstappen admitted that he will have chance to help another team with new car regulations in 2026.

“A person like Adrian, with his experience and of course the knowledge that he has from our team, it should be an advantage,” he said.

“On the other hand, in '26 again everything is very new, very different to how the cars are now.

“[The earliest he would] potentially join another team is in '25, then normally the cars are already designed for that year. That is something that you don't know how much influence he can have.

“But for sure with the new regulations [in 2026], if he would go somewhere else, with his knowledge, he can bring a lot to a team.”

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