Red Bull design guru Adrian Newey reflected on Ferrari’s 1993 approach as “very tempting”, while in 2014, fresh talks with the Scuderia were born out of frustration with the Red Bull-Renault situation.
Newey has been approached multiple times in the past by Ferrari, who were looking to bring the all-time great of Formula 1 challenger design to Maranello, though for one reason or another, it has never quite come to pass.
And it was back in 1993 where temptation seemingly reached its peak level for Newey to embark on a Ferrari career, having met with then team boss Jean Todt.
Adrian Newey could not repeat life mistake with Ferrari move
Todt at the time was fresh to the Ferrari role, even asking Newey if he thought the team should look to sign Michael Schumacher, who ultimately went on to win five Drivers’ Championships with the team, Ferrari also securing six Constructors’ titles in their most successful F1 period yet.
But, despite the huge temptation, Newey held in the back of his mind how his first marriage had failed when he was working over in America in IndyCar, and so he did not want to risk his second going down the same route by moving to Italy to be with Ferrari.
Asked on the Beyond the Grid podcast about the past Ferrari interest and why a move never happened, Newey replied: “Well, IndyCar days, which probably doesn’t count, then ’93 and famously in 2014.
“The ’93 one was very tempting. So I went down, Jean Todt had just started. I remember him talking about should we hire Michael or not? Do you think that was a good idea?
“The main reason I didn’t is my first marriage failed, for various reasons, but probably predominantly because I went off to IndyCar, so I was living in the States during the season. My relatively newlywed wife came out with me to start with, really didn’t like living in America and went back and that put a strain on our marriage that we never really recovered from, to be perfectly honest.
“So ’93, I was one year into my second marriage. I didn’t want to make that same mistake again.”
Newey was then pressed on whether Ferrari would have been prepared to let him work from the UK.
He revealed though that he never asked, arguing that a remote design team is a concept which does not work to his mind, though acknowledged this takes place for Red Bull now with their junior team AlphaTauri.
“I never asked the question,” Newey confirmed. “I don’t believe in it so I never asked.
“I think if you’re going to do it, Ferrari is an Italian team. The idea of having a Research and Design centre, which is [in a] completely different place to the race team, I know we have a sister team that does that, but I don’t believe in the concept.”
Newey admits that “emotionally”, there is a part of him which regrets having not worked with Ferrari, though such feelings are not exclusive to that team, Newey admitting it would also have been “fabulous” to work with all-time Formula 1 greats like seven-time World Champion and current Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, plus two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso.
Nonetheless, Newey continues to enjoy a career which makes him one of the greatest F1 designers of all-time, having designed title-winning cars for Williams, Ferrari and Red Bull, though it was an extended baron spell with Red Bull which drove him to return to Ferrari negotiations.
The relationship between Red Bull and their former engine partner Renault infamously imploded, the union having yielded four Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles in a row from 2010-13, though turned sour in the turbo-hybrid era as the Renault engine remained uncompetitive.
And without a viable escape route at the time, Newey admitted that this was a “very dark tunnel to be in”.
“Emotionally I guess to a point, yes,” he replied when asked if he regrets not having Ferrari on his CV? “But, just as for instance working with Fernando or Lewis would have been fabulous, but it never happened. It’s just circumstances sometimes and that’s the way it is.
“My discussions for 2014 with Ferrari, were purely out of frustration that…joined Red Bull, it was Christian [Horner, team principal] being centrally involved more or less from the start in developing it, for me, it’s a huge career gamble going from McLaren, this championship-winning team to this start-up kind of joke-of-the-pit-lane team, which it was at the time.
“But you know, the ambition, obviously of hoping to win a race and maybe even a championship, we’d just won four on the trot, which was above wildest dreams. Centrally involved, felt very kind of almost paternal with the team in terms of how it developed and the ideas and the effort that we put into it.
“So really didn’t want to leave, but we were in this position where Renault hadn’t produced a competitive engine in the turbo hybrid engine, which you know, that happens first year, okay, it’s new rules. We all make mistakes.
“But [we] went to see Carlos Ghosn [former Renault CEO], Christian, Helmut [Marko, Red Bull advisor] and myself, to kind of try to put pressure on him to up the budget and basically ask how can you free more resource, so Viry, the engine division, can accelerate their programme, because they are all understandably saying they’re resource limited, and they needed more people and more money.
“And Ghosn’s reply was, ‘well, I have no interest in Formula 1. I’m only in it because my marketing people say I should be’.
“And that was such a depressing place to be. We knew Mercedes wouldn’t give us an engine, Ferrari had a great engine, but we’d used Ferrari’s initially and I’d taken us away from Ferrari in the first year to Renault, because I believed, rightly or wrongly, that if you’re in a championship battle, Ferrari would never give us equal equipment.
“So, we were stuck with Renault for some huge amount of time looking forward to the future. And so being in this position, where it looked like we couldn’t be properly competitive in any visible point in the future, was just a very dark tunnel to be in.”
It is safe to say that all turned out well for Red Bull though from there, with their subsequent Honda partnership helping Red Bull to return to title glory.
The current dominant force of Formula 1 will become a power unit manufacturer in their own right from 2026, in partnership with Ford, when the new generation of PUs come into force.