How a Newey departure could impact Red Bull
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By Robert Hansford profile image Robert Hansford
5 min read

How a Newey departure could impact Red Bull

There's talk that Adrian Newey could be heading to pastures new. But how much would that affect Red Bull?

Just when you thought that there couldn’t be any more bombshells in Formula 1, news broke on Thursday that Adrian Newey looks set to depart Red Bull for pastures new.

Right now, that news hasn’t been confirmed. Red Bull and Newey are remaining tight-lipped, with Red Bull insisting that Newey has a contract with the team until the end of 2025.

But as the saying goes, there’s no smoke without fire, and it’s highly unlikely that media outlets such as the BBC would go to print with a story if it wasn’t confident what it knew was true.

If it does become a reality then Newey is likely to head to one of two destinations. It’s expected that he will either land at Aston Martin or there’s a possibility that he could even relocate to mainland Europe to link up with Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton.

But whether or not he chooses to go to either of those two teams, that decision in itself is almost irrelevant. It’s the hole he’ll leave behind at Red Bull that could be most significant.

Newey has always had a special talent

There’s a reason why Red Bull pursued Newey hard as soon as it arrived in F1. It doesn’t matter what team he’s worked for, at some stage Newey has always produced a top class car.

Even when he was starting out with limited budgets, he still managed to produce a car at Leyton House that was on course for victory at Paul Ricard in 1990 until Ivan Capelli’s engine expired just a few laps from the end.

After leaving Leyton House, Newey went on to join Williams, becoming the mastermind behind the legendary FW14B that dominated the 1992 championship, as well as Damon Hill’s 1996 championship-winning FW18.

Then the call came from Mclaren. Time ran out for him to have a real impact on the 1997 car, but in the following two seasons McLaren successfully took the fight to Ferrari to win the championship in 1998 and 1999.

And even when Ferrari was dominating with Michael Schumacher in the early 2000s, McLaren was almost always its closest challenger.

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So when Red Bull arrived on the scene with lofty ambitions of disrupting the status quo to become championship contenders, it was no huge surprise that they would throw everything that was required at Newey to get him to sign.

And it paid off too. 

Under Newey’s design philosophy, Red Bull has won seven world championship titles in 18 years. That’s not a bad return rate at all, especially when you consider how many regulation changes the championship has gone through during that period.

Even now, Red Bull is completely dominating the championship, with Max Verstappen consistently leaving his rivals for dust at every single grand prix. 

It therefore begs the question, how will Red Bull cope if it lost its start designer?

The hole would be massive

It’s always easy to say that nobody is irreplaceable. We hear it all the time when it comes to drivers, and largely that phrasing is correct. 

Even in Newey’s case, Red Bull could find a replacement, but could it replace him with somebody who is as good or better?

That’s the crux of the issue. 

Right now, Newey is undisputedly the best F1 designer on the grid. There’s nobody better than him, and even when teams have tried to poach some of his proteges from Red Bull, they’ve rarely produced a car that’s capable of regularly beating one of Newey’s machines.

He’s able to understand aerodynamics in a way that so few people can. While some need to learn different aerodynamic philosophies in order to improve, for Newey, it all seems to come so naturally. 

Take this year for example. Red Bull had a dominant car in 2023, but Newey took note of Mercedes’ design with its sidepods. Mercedes couldn’t get its design to work, but Newey saw potential and adopted the philosophy for 2024. 

It was a gamble, but he could see where Mercedes had gone wrong, and the end result is a Red Bull that’s even more dominant than it was before.

That’s just how good Newey is. Yes, he doesn’t do all the work alone, but these cars are based on his concepts, and his design philosophies, and if he were to leave Red Bull, it’s this element that would harm the team the most.

He’s their designing talisman. He leads from the front, producing inspiring design after inspiring design, and as history has already proved, his proteges aren’t guaranteed to create a car that’s as good as what he can create.

It doesn’t mean that a Red Bull car post Newey would be bad. The design team still has plenty of knowledge and expertise after all. But with regulation changes coming up in 2026, it’s hard to imagine that the team would still be able to produce a car that’s as dominant without Newey steering the ship.

The knock-on effect could be significant

If Red Bull loses that level of performance, while Newey’s away working at a rival team, helping them produce a car that could well be the next dominant force, where does that leave Verstappen?

Could he move on, and if so, where does that leave the team as a whole? 

It might sound dramatic, but in some ways it feels like Newey’s departure would have the potential to be the beginning of the stack of cards falling around Red Bull’s feet.

There’s no way his departure would not impact the team in any way, and it could well mark the beginning of an exodus if the team’s performance drops as a result.

Of course, it’s not like it will be a dramatic fall from grace with Red Bull suddenly finding themselves at the back of the grid. But it could still face a substantial drop in performance compared to its immediate rivals.

And then what happens? Would Red Bull be prepared to continue operating an F1 team at that level? 

These are all questions we can’t answer. We just have to sit and wait and see how everything pans out.

But one way or the other, if Newey does leave Red Bull, it’s going to have huge ramifications for Red Bull and for F1 as a whole.

By Robert Hansford profile image Robert Hansford
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