Adrian Newey’s next move: Ranking F1 legend’s options for life after Red Bull

Oliver Harden
Adrian Newey speaks on the phone with the logos of Aston Martin, McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari beside him

The race is on to sign Adrian Newey after it was announced that the F1 design genius will leave Red Bull

Adrian Newey will not be short of options after it was announced the F1 design genius will leave Red Bull in early 2025, having masterminded the team’s success with Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen.

Rumour has it that Newey has received contract offers from Aston Martin and Ferrari over recent weeks and he has given a strong hint that he will probably continue on with another team in F1 after a break. But where could he end up?

6: Retirement

But nothing is absolutely certain. Who would hold it against him if he decided to walk away and leave it all behind?

Who could possibly deny the most decorated individual in F1 history a happy retirement after more than 200 grand prix victories, 13 Drivers’ and 12 Constructors’ World Championships?

When Newey’s departure from Red Bull was confirmed, many pointed to the fact that last November he commissioned the production of a yacht with the intention of sailing around the world.

And the words of both Newey in Miami and his manager (who knew?!) Eddie Jordan, who claimed that he is “more likely” to “just cruise for a while” than seek a fresh start with another team, have made it clear that sailing across the seven seas is a serious possibility after conquering asphalt like no other.

But retirement is rarely an appealing prospect for people of Newey’s competitive spirit, let alone someone possessing of such a creative intellect and positively bursting with ideas 24/7.

Like his opposite number Ross Brawn, who soon found that sitting by the lake with his fishing rod wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, Newey effectively admitted in Miami that the urge to return would likely strike him out of nowhere one morning.

Retirement might start off as an appealing prospect, but a brain as magnificent as that just isn’t built to sit idle for very long.

5: Williams

God loves a trier.

So the big man in the sky no doubt approved of James Vowles ignoring his team’s spare chassis woes and the current Championship standings (zero points after six races of F1 2024) to propose that Williams could be the ideal next destination for Newey.

When Vowles revealed in Miami that he had engaged in a “light conversation” with Newey, it was difficult to think of that particular interaction consisting much more than: “Hi!”

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There is an obvious emotional connection to consider, of course, after Newey’s previous success with the team in the ’90s.

Yet it is plain that the Williams team of today is unrecognisable in pretty much every respect – except, Vowles readily admits, some of the facilities at Grove, which remain pre-historic – from the team Newey used to know in the days of Sir Frank Williams and Sir Patrick Head.

Could Williams sweeten a deal by offering Adrian a stake in the team, something Frank and Patrick are said to have denied him – and contributed to them losing him to McLaren – back in the day?

Maybe.

Returning to Williams at this stage, though, would be like travelling back in time.

4: Mercedes

Not too long ago, many would have argued that Mercedes did not need Newey.

Why?

Because they have James Allison, of course, widely regarded as the next-best thing in the F1 tech world.

Yet the team’s latest dud in the shape of the W15 – arriving after a winter during which Allison seemed to spend most of his time claiming to have finally cracked the ground effect code and talking up an F1 2024 title challenge – does not reflect well on Merc’s current technical director.

Reports from Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport over recent weeks have claimed that Mercedes are reluctant to join the race to sign Newey, wary that signing a designer of his stature “could cause too much internal unrest” among the existing technical team.

Are Mercedes prepared to take the tough decisions and do whatever it takes to return to their title-winning peak?

The sheer length of time it took for them to ditch the doomed zero-pod concept of 2022 provides a clue to the answer.

Nevertheless, if Newey really is on the market and really is open to joining another team, it would be a terrible look if Mercedes were not the ones to go out and get him.

It would serve as confirmation that no matter how much the team have achieved over the last decade, the name of Mercedes-Benz will never have the allure and pulling power of F1’s most sacred team(s).

3: McLaren

Another of Newey’s old flames, who despite some bumps along the way have managed to avoid letting themselves go in the same way as Williams.

The main argument against a return to Woking is that McLaren are doing really rather well without him, the team’s three-headed technical structure – so complex and so very McLaren – helping them to emerge as Red Bull’s most consistent threat over the last 12 months.

Into the third season of F1’s current rules cycle, McLaren arguably remain the only team outside of Newey’s band of merry men to demonstrate a complete understanding of what it takes to produce a truly potent ground effect car.

And the golden rule of F1 tech, remember? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

And regardless, despite McLaren’s progress in recent times, reports around the time Newey’s Red Bull departure was confirmed indicated that he holds reservations over the team’s resources and, by extension, their ability to recapture their former glories.

And yet…

Newey is known to have a healthy relationship with Zak Brown and would surely relish the chance to busy himself with McLaren’s non-F1 activities including the Automotive road car division and the IndyCar project (Brown has hinted that a Hypercar program could be on the horizon too…).

In many ways, McLaren too are unrecognisable from the team Newey left behind – but in this case, given the disdain he held for Ron Dennis by the end of his previous spell, that is not such a bad thing.

A return is not as outlandish as it might seem, but still pretty unlikely.

2: Aston Martin

The word on the street is that Lawrence Stroll, the Aston Martin owner, made a lucrative offer to Newey during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend in March.

All very well, you might say, but the real problem here?

The offer came from Lawrence Stroll.

And ev-ery-thing we hear about Mr Stroll – mostly, it must be said, from his former team principal Otmar Szafnauer – suggests he is a highly demanding, hugely overbearing figure inside Aston Martin.

And ev-ery-thing we know about Newey, who famously grew tired of Ron Dennis’s picky management style at McLaren, suggests he would struggle working for a man like that.

Which is a shame as, viewed objectively and overlooking their muted start to 2024, the Aston Martin team have quite a lot going for them right now.

Last year Newey voiced his “regret” about never having the opportunity to work alongside Fernando Alonso – a driver for whom he has “tremendous respect” – and in 2026 Aston Martin will welcome Honda, managed to perfection by Newey’s gang at Red Bull, as the team’s engine partner.

Newey has a pre-existing relationship with Aston Martin, of course, having overseen the development of the Valkyrie supercar during the brand’s sponsorship of Red Bull, but that came under the old, pre-Stroll regime.

Undeniably this would have all the makings of a great F1 fairytale, Newey finally joining forces with Alonso and building the car to take him to his third World Championship two decades after his last.

But that near-guaranteed personality clash with the man at the top?

A likely insurmountable hurdle, sadly.

 

1: Ferrari

Lewis Hamilton’s move to Ferrari was the type of bombshell that can make a grown man pause for a moment to question his own life choices.

What do I really want to do – what do I really want to achieve – before I shuffle off this mortal coil?

Clearly, Hamilton for one could not comprehend the end of his F1 career without first taking a big, glorious bite out of Ferrari.

How many others could his decision have inspired to finally do the one thing they’d always wanted to try, but never had due to circumstance?

As events unfolded at Red Bull towards the end of the winter break – internal politics within a team is thought to be his absolute pet hate – was the little boy inside Newey calling out for Ferrari too?

Like it was for Lewis, it’s now or never for Newey.

By his own admission, he has come close to joining Ferrari on three separate occasions over the course of his illustrious career, most memorably in 2014 before he accepted a wider role within Red Bull.

His reasons for staying put – explained at length in his autobiography – provided a revealing glimpse into the psyche of Newey, who places a value greater than most on “principles in keeping with the true spirit of motor racing.”

Ferrari’s status as an inherently political team – under relentless pressure from the board, the media, the fans – has always been cited as a very good reason for him to steer clear of the stresses of life at Maranello.

(As is the fact that he has never worked outside of the English-speaking world – though Red Bull have had no issue with him working from his place in South Africa over recent years and Ferrari, if they know what’s good for them, surely wouldn’t mind compromising on that score either.)

Yet under the impressive leadership of Fred Vasseur, Ferrari are now the closest they have come over the last two decades to recapturing the spirit of the Jean Todt/Ross Brawn/Michael Schumacher era – a logical, well-drilled, tight-knit race team with the mighty Ferrari name attached, as insulated as they can be from the outside noise.

Put another way, look beyond the results on track and Ferrari are looking more like Red Bull than Red Bull do in early 2024.

Even at the age of 65, even after 35 years in this sport, there has simply never been a better time for Newey to swear allegiance to the Prancing Horse.

A Ferrari F1 car designed by Adrian Newey and driven by Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc, you say?

Vive la Fred-olution!

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