Adrian Newey sabbatical? What we know so far about shock Red Bull exit rumours

Thomas Maher
Adrian Newey, Red Bull, 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Red Bull's Adrian Newey.

Adrian Newey’s supposedly imminent departure from Red Bull begs the question of whether the designer is aiming for a quieter life.

On Thursday, following weeks of rumours about cloak-and-dagger approaches from rival teams, several prominent and reputable publications reported that Adrian Newey is set to leave Red Bull in order to join another team.

Red Bull “not aware” of Adrian Newey joining another team

PlanetF1.com made its own enquiries in light of the reports and came away with a particularly muddy picture as to what the true state of play is at the moment.

A Red Bull spokesperson told PlanetF1.com that “Adrian is contracted until at least the end of 2025 and we are unaware of him joining any other team.”

But this statement lays out two separate facts without answering the question of whether or not Newey is remaining with the team or not. Yes, Adrian is under contract until the end of 2025 and, officially, the team has not been told Newey is joining another team.

Sources within Red Bull told PlanetF1.com that there are no preparations being made for a Newey departure and that the British engineer has not come forward to tell anyone he plans on leaving but, without Newey stating otherwise, the possibility of Red Bull and Newey parting ways does remain a possibility.

How can such a scenario happen? Well, with a valid contract in place following his extension with the Milton Keynes-based squad last year, Newey is off-limits until, at least, the end of the 2025 season.

After such a long time with Red Bull, stretching back almost two decades, Newey is understood to have a year’s gardening leave as a requirement on his contract following its conclusion – meaning the earliest the engineer could theoretically join another team is early 2027.

According to Auto Motor und Sport’s initial report, Newey is said to believe that he could join another team as early as 2025. This could be, in theory, possible if Red Bull was willing to play ball with Newey in allowing him to leave for a competitor prior to his contract ending, and if he was already, or very near to, starting on a short six-month gardening leave period.

But, as it stands, Newey will be in attendance and working for Red Bull at the upcoming Miami Grand Prix, suggesting that such a gardening leave period has not begun – the designer was also on the ground at the Japanese Grand Prix, although remained at home for the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix.

According to some reports, Newey is said to have grown unhappy with the internal politics at Red Bull following the internal investigation by Red Bull GmbH into team boss Christian Horner, which led to a power struggle between various senior members of management within the team and the organisation.

In a recent interview with RacingNews365, Newey suggested he’d be happy to continue working with Red Bull, but didn’t firmly state that his future remains with Milton Keynes.

“I think as long as I continue to enjoy it and the team wants me then I’ll continue to do it for the moment and then we’ll have to see in the future,” he said. “I don’t tend to plan too far forward.”

But while Red Bull would be able to affect Newey’s immediate F1 career by delaying a possible start elsewhere for a few years, assuming they would exercise all their rights to prevent such a powerful weapon being utilised by a rival team, what Red Bull can’t stop is Newey simply leaving F1 if he no longer wants to do it – at least temporarily.

Newey’s career in the category stems back over 30 years – he’s designed title-winning cars harking right back to his early days with Williams in the early 1990s, through to McLaren in the late ’90s before a quiet 2000s period as he switched from McLaren to a young Red Bull team.

Make no mistake about it – Newey was hugely pivotal in transforming the precocious paddock upstarts into the unstoppable juggernaut it is today, and it’s a big part of why he is able to command a reported $10 million price tag for his F1 efforts as well as having the freedom to pursue passion projects such as the RB17 hypercar – something which some reports have suggested he’s actually unhappy about having been assigned to concentrate on by Christian Horner.

Production of the RB17, which is said to be “Adrian Newey unleashed”, is set to commence in 2025 – would Newey really choose to leave the organisation before the fruits of his labours become a reality?

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Between his pay packet and that engineering freedom, with Newey being the organisation’s chief technical officer rather than having to concentrate solely on F1, perhaps it’s only the lure of a completely new challenge that could tempt him to start afresh.

Or could it be that Newey simply wants a break? After all, it’s 35 years of racing in F1 and a full 10 years before that in IndyCar, where he also designed Indy 500-winning machines. That’s almost 45 years of non-stop action in top-level motorsport.

It’s also worth pointing out that the speculation surrounding Newey comes just a few days shy of the 30th anniversary of three-time F1 World Champion Ayrton Senna suffering a fatal accident at the wheel of one of his cars – something that would weigh heavily on anyone’s mind.

If Newey does want to part ways with Red Bull, which has not been denied as a possibility by the team, could it be a case of him accepting a sabbatical is on the cards for a few years before starting afresh elsewhere?

After all, Newey is now 65 years old and, by the time he might be able to join another team without a lengthy contract battle, he’d be 67 or 68.

Is it unthinkable that, after nearly two decades with Red Bull, Newey might be considering a year or two on the sidelines away from the pressures of F1? Certainly not, and it would also allow him to weigh up whether or not he wants to return and start over with another major project. Perhaps Fred Vasseur, armed with loads of extra money from new title sponsor HP, could tempt him onboard to help deliver a title for the Scuderia with Lewis Hamilton?

Or, if he wants to stay in the UK, a move to Aston Martin to team up with former Red Bull teammate Dan Fallows to deliver the Silverstone-based squad their first title, or a return to McLaren to try helping his former team return to the forefront of F1?

Certainly, there doesn’t appear to be smoke without fire on this speculation and, without any official word on what moves are being made, the only person who can answer what Adrian Newey wants to do is the man himself.

At this point in time, if a divorce is on the table, the most logical next step for Newey, therefore, is a sabbatical – or outright retirement – rather than immediately jumping to another team.

But, if leaving Red Bull is at the top of his list, just how hard will the team for whom he’s designed seven (closing on eight) title-winning machines fight to stop him from joining a rival?

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