Adrian Newey’s gardening leave explained: How F1 legend will spend his final days at Red Bull

Thomas Maher
Adrian Newey

Adrian Newey has now confirmed his exit from Red Bull, which will take place in the first quarter of 2025.

Adrian Newey’s actual departure from Red Bull doesn’t come for almost a year, and he’ll be a free agent when he does.

The much-vaunted rumour of the past few weeks has come to pass – Adrian Newey is leaving Red Bull after almost two decades working with the Milton Keynes-based squad.

Adrian Newey leaves Red Bull in early 2025

Having already enjoyed multiple world championship titles as a technical director at Williams and at McLaren, Newey was a huge land for Christian Horner and Red Bull when they successfully convinced him to leave Woking in the mid-2000s.

Joining the young upstart Red Bull team, Newey’s technical prowess enabled Red Bull to become race winners in 2009, and world champions in 2010. Since then, Red Bull has pretty much always been competitive – aside from a few barren years while using the less powerful Renault engines in the early hybrid era.

With Red Bull still dominating F1, there’s no doubt that the loss of Newey will be a blow for the team when he does depart. But, with Newey’s chief technical officer role being that of an overseer of all areas, it’s meant a highly proficient F1 technical structure is in place – headed up by technical director Pierre Wache, and head of aerodynamics Enrico Balbo.

Initially, the likelihood of Newey joining another team seemed remote. At 65 years old, having to serve out his contract plus a year’s gardening leave would have meant he’d be 68 before he could begin work for someone else.

But, perhaps indicating the good relationship between Newey and Red Bull, it seems the two sides have reached terms that will allow Newey to be a free agent on the team market sooner than initially anticipated – that’s if Newey wants to continue working in F1.

With Newey taking an immediate step back from direct work on the F1 team, his gardening leave period has effectively now begun. While he will be in attendance at a few select Grands Prix this season, including this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix, this won’t reset the timer – another indication of an amicable split.

After all, as Martin Brundle put it earlier this week: “Teams with the funds and resource will have been courting Adrian Newey for a while.

“If and when he becomes available it’s a double whammy for any team, they’ll have access to his experience and genius, and it stops another team having him.”

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The fact Red Bull doesn’t seem to want to exhaust all their options fighting Newey’s departure and holding him to his existing contract (which runs until the end of 2025 following his three-year renewal last year) suggests the Milton Keynes-based squad doesn’t want to force Newey into doing something he clearly no longer has an appetite for.

With Newey set to leave Red Bull “after the first quarter” of 2025, he is understood to be a free agent having served his year’s ‘gardening leave’. Between now and then, Newey will concentrate on further developing the RB17 hypercar in Red Bull’s automotive side project with F1 no longer being his key focus – the car is set to go into production mid-2025.

With Newey not attached to the F1 team and free on the open market in a year’s time, the next question is what Newey may do next. Known for his competitiveness, might the challenge of a new project at the likes of Mercedes or Aston Martin tempt him if remaining in the UK is still a key consideration?

What of Ferrari? Newey may yet be able to work with Lewis Hamilton at the Scuderia, if Maranello finally tempts Newey to leave the UK and woo him to try returning the Scuderia to the front of F1 under the new regulations.

The timing of Newey’s departure from Red Bull will allow him to have a few months of influence on a team’s preparations for the new regulations, with the teams permitted to begin aerodynamic and CFD testing from January 1st, 2025 – meaning their designs will have matured somewhat by the time Newey would be permitted to have a look.

Or could it be as simple as Newey wanting some downtime to himself? It’s understood that Newey has been somewhat disheartened by the direction F1 has taken in recent years and, at 65 years old and more than 40 years working at the top level in motorsport, perhaps the British designer simply wants some peace and quiet to himself with the option of taking up a new project if he finds retirement a little too boring.

After all, take note of the date of the announcement of his departure from Red Bull, the team he labeled his “family”. May 1st was perhaps the most traumatic day of Newey’s life back in 1994 when Ayrton Senna died at the wheel of a Newey-designed machine.

As readers of his book will have learned, Newey has admitted to how difficult a period of time that was for him to get through and, on the 30th anniversary of that date, has chosen to announce he is leaving the project which he himself played a huge role in building up.

With his gardening leave taken care of by this time next year, what will Newey choose? Another team and another challenge, or a quiet sabbatical to evaluate his own future?

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