How F1 genius Adrian Newey ‘almost bankrupted’ Aston Martin

Jamie Woodhouse
Adrian Newey, Red Bull

Red Bull tech guru Adrian Newey is one of the most successful individuals in F1 history.

Considering that Adrian Newey is being linked with a “big-money” move to Aston Martin, it is rather ironic that he once “almost bankrupted” them, according to Christian Horner.

Aston Martin Lagonda and Red Bull Racing Advanced Technologies teamed up to produce the Valkyrie hybrid sportscar, Newey playing his part in the design phase by putting all of his extensive and wildly successful Formula 1 experience into creating what they claimed would be the world’s fastest street-legal car.

Adrian Newey almost left Aston Martin penniless

The road car’s production was limited to 150 units – though it sounds like Newey almost made it zero – while Aston Martin will enter a track version of the Valkyrie into the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2025, as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship and the IMSA SportsCar Championship.

Of course a Formula 1 designer is very much focused solely on making the car go faster. How that impacts the budget is the concern of the finance HQ, with Red Bull team principal Horner previously joking that Newey probably does not even know where Red Bull’s is.

He went on to tell the story of how Newey stretched Aston Martin’s financial capabilities to the very limit with the Valkyrie, with rumours now swirling that Aston Martin Formula 1 team owner Lawrence Stroll has made a “big-money” offer to Newey in an attempt to lure him away from the dominant Red Bull team.

“It was a very different experience, because working with an OEM, even a small OEM like Aston, obviously cost is absolutely driven into anything in everything they do,” Horner told the Financial Times as he discussed the Valkyrie project back in May of last year.

“And of course, we’ve got Adrian Newey, who probably doesn’t know where our finance department even is!

“He created an incredible, incredible car, that almost bankrupted Aston Martin! But I mean, it is an absolute gem of a car.

“And many lessons of course, we have a set of regulations in Formula 1, but they’re nothing like the road stipulations and regulations, so it was a huge learning exercise from that side of things.

“And yeah, it was an interesting exercise and one that the Advanced Technology side of our business learned a huge amount from, and I think will stand us in good stead for the future.”

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And the next big sportscar project which Red Bull has planned, which will once more allow Newey’s creativity to roam free, is the RB17, which Horner describes as the “ultimate track car” and one that will exceed the downforce level of their Formula 1 machinery. It is due to be revealed during 2024.

While ‘RB17’ is in-keeping with the naming policy for Red Bull’s Formula 1 cars, that name was never actually used by the team.

The global pandemic meant that large parts of the 2020 challengers were carried over into the following season, Red Bull therefore choosing to succeed their RB16 with the RB16B.

When the new ground-effect aerodynamics regulations were introduced in 2022, Red Bull skipped ahead to RB18 for that year’s chassis and have continued from there, with their latest masterpiece for F1 2024 christened the RB20.

The RB17 name will not remain absent though thanks to this new project as Red Bull let Newey “off the leash”. It may be wise to keep a close eye on the bank account in that case!

“After all the lessons with Valkyrie and if you like the constraints that we had with Valkyrie, we felt that there was unfinished business there,” said Horner.

“And so we announced the RB17, which was basically Adrian let off the leash to go and produce the ultimate track car with downforce that exceeds our Formula 1 car’s phenomenal power to weight ratio.

“And the plan is to produce 50 of these track-only cars, very much as a halo project, taking all of the Formula 1 DNA that Adrian has come across throughout his career and applying it to the ultimate driving experience.”

Speaking of ultimate driving experience, the RB20 has been providing that on the track so far in F1 2024, with Red Bull scoring three 1-2 finishes in four races to start the season – all headed by Max Verstappen – as the Dutchman chases a fourth World Championship in succession.

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