Adrian Newey reveals two key Austrian GP incidents that made him ‘nervous’

Oliver Harden
Red Bull's Max Verstappen in action at the Austrian Grand Prix. Spielberg, July 2023.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen in action at the Austrian Grand Prix. Spielberg, July 2023.

Max Verstappen’s victory at the Austrian Grand Prix may have looked simple, but Red Bull design genius Adrian Newey has revealed that two moments over the Styria weekend had him on edge.

Verstappen claimed his fifth successive victory at the Red Bull Ring to maintain the team’s record of winning every race in 2023, with Red Bull now holding a huge 199-point lead in the Constructors’ standings after just nine rounds.

Although it has been suggested that Red Bull are finding it too easy this season, Newey has insisted it is anything but – with Verstappen’s close call with team-mate Sergio Perez on the first lap of Saturday’s sprint race and the Dutchman’s late pitstop to pursue the bonus point for fastest lap making him “nervous” in Austria.

Adrian Newey urges Red Bull caution despite 2023 dominance

Perez forced Verstappen to take to the grass at the start of the rain-affected sprint, with the Red Bulls racing hard before the reigning World Champion reclaimed the lead with an aggressive pass into Turn 4.

Twenty-four hours later, Verstappen’s stop for a set of soft tyres on the penultimate lap saw him remerge just seconds in front of Charles Leclerc’s second-placed Ferrari, with the Dutchman taking the bonus point from Perez to crown another perfect weekend.

Despite the team’s flawless start to the season, Newey urged the team to remain cautious with the near-miss between Verstappen and Perez proof of how quickly things can go wrong.

He told the F1 Nation podcast: “We have to be nervous. These things can go so wrong so quickly, as we almost saw yesterday with Max and Checo having their little tussle up to Turn 3, so we can never relax.

“We had good pace this weekend but there’s still lots of other things that can trip you up and people keep developing, so we’ve just got to keep pushing.”

Asked how he felt when Verstappen then pitted with one lap to go of Sunday’s grand prix, Newey replied: “Slight trepidation, because the reality is it didn’t make any difference to our Constructors’ score – Checo already had fastest lap and, as far as we could see, nobody else would pit to try to beat it.

“So it was a little bit nervous, but that’s Max – you can’t take it away from him. He always wants to go for everything and the boys have been doing fantastic pit stops today so there’s hopefully not too much concern.” recommends

F1 2023: Head-to-head qualifying and race stats between team-mates

Ranked: The 10 most successful Adrian Newey Formula 1 car designs

Newey is among the most successful individuals in F1 history, having designed multiple title-winning cars for Williams, McLaren and Red Bull over three decades.

When asked if this season is the best it’s ever been, Newey told the tale of his experiences of the 1999 season at McLaren when Michael Schumacher’s broken leg – sustained in a crash at Silverstone – seemed to open the door for Mika Hakkinen to ease to a second successive Championship.

However, Hakkinen only just pipped Ferrari’s surprise title contender Eddie Irvine to the glory by a margin of just two points.

“Ask me at the end of the season, you really never can assume that,” Newey said.

“Obviously we’ve had a fabulous start – better than any season I’ve been involved in before – but we’ve still got however many races to go. What’s happened, this could reverse.

“I’ve been there before [in] ’99. We were leading going into Silverstone, Michael had his accident, Mika’s well ahead – and then we kind of fell asleep a bit at McLaren, made silly mistakes and then it went down to the wire.

“So you have to be a little bit careful of relaxing. It’s that old thing: it might look smooth on the outside, but the duck feet are paddling away underneath.”

Read next: Austrian Grand Prix team ratings: McLaren making moves, Mercedes off-colour