Christian Horner has revealed that Adrian Newey was “half an hour” away from joining Ferrari – and what Red Bull offered in order for him to stay.
Having won four titles in a row with Sebastian Vettel between 2010 and 2013, Red Bull may have felt they were invincible but massive engine regulation changes in 2014 saw the pendulum swing to Mercedes.
Sensing their days of challenging for the title were over, Vettel left for Ferrari and lead designer Newey very nearly did too until a meeting in an English pub stopped him.
Christian Horner reveals last-minute pub meeting with Adrian Newey
Red Bull had worked incredibly hard to prise Newey away from McLaren and join their new venture in 2006 but 10 years later they were faced with the very real threat of him departing.
Team boss Horner revealed that Newey was “half an hour” away from swapping Milton Keynes for Maranello.
“We went from winning ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13, four on the bounce, and then a massive regulation change to the engine and our engine supplier completely missed the target,” he told the Eff Won podcast. “And at that point, Vettel leaves because of the engine, Adrian came very close to leaving, he was within about half an hour signing [for Ferrari].”
Losing one of the greatest minds in F1 history could have been the death knell for Red Bull and Horner was all too aware of that fact. In an effort to convince Newey to stay, the pair met in a pub and Horner offered something that he was not even sure they had the capability to achieve.
“Ferrari came hard for him,” Horner recalls. “They promised him the world. You can have a Hollywood lifestyle, fly into the factory from Monaco every day and you won’t pay any tax and you can design a road car and this, that and the other.
“I managed to persuade him to stay by saying: ‘We’ll do a road car. If you want to do a road car, we’ll do a road car.’
“He said, ‘Well, how?’ – and I said I have no idea, but we’ll find a way. We’ll make it. We’ll make it happen.”
The idea that was formed over a couple of pints turned into the Valkyrie – a car designed with the help of Aston Martin, who spent five seasons as Red Bull’s technology partner between 2016 and 2020 before Lawrence Stroll rebranded the Silverstone-based Racing Point team.
“I went to [then-Aston Martin CEO] Andy Palmer and said: ‘Look, we’ve got arguably the best designer of all time, you’ve got two great brands. We’re not going to finance the car but it makes sense to bring these two things together.’
“And that’s literally in a pub in England, that’s how it happened.”
The final product would go on to be one of the best road cars ever created and the Newey-designed Ferrari would be consigned to what could have been.