Disillusionment with Renault almost drove Newey to join Ferrari

Michelle Foster
Adrian Newey with an open book. Saudi Arabia December 2021.

Red Bull technical director Adrian Newey reads his data ahead of the race. Saudi Arabia December 2021.

Such was Renault’s deficit to the Mercedes engine at the start of the V6 era that it had Adrian Newey considering dropping Red Bull in favour of Ferrari.

Winning World Championships with Williams, McLaren and Red Bull it has been widely reported that Ferrari wanted to bring Newey over to Maranello.

The Scuderia’s third approach for the design guru was made back in 2014 when Red Bull lost the World titles to Mercedes.

Newey has previously spoken about the Italian outfit’s “ridiculously large” financial offer, one that more than doubled his Red Bull salary.

It was an offer he gave serious consideration to, not because of Red Bull, rather it was Renault and their under-performing V6 engine that had him considering jumping ship.

He told The Race: “Back then I was pretty disillusioned with the whole thing to be honest in as much as… obviously I nearly joined Ferrari but didn’t, which was kind of [part of it]… but more than anything, although I felt happy at Red Bull and didn’t really want to move teams, the only thing that had pushed me towards even thinking about moving teams was that we were stuck with an uncompetitive engine.”

Remi Taffin, former Renault Sport F1 Engine Technical Director, talking with Red Bull's Paul Monaghan and Adrian Newey at the Canadian Grand Prix. Canada June 2018

“We had a supplier that seemed more interested in the marketing angle that came from being in F1 than actually being competitive,” he added.

“If you have an engine partner who comes up with a power unit that’s below the competitors but shows a real desire and a will to fix it and go forward, then you accept it. But one that won’t recognise it’s behind and doesn’t seem to be interested in doing anything about it is altogether more difficult. So it caused me to lose motivation. I still enjoyed F1 but not like that.”

The Briton, though, ultimately didn’t want to change teams.

He remained with Red Bull but took a bit of a mental break from Formula 1 as he worked with Ben Ainslie on the America’s Cup while also collaborating with Aston Martin on the Valkyrie road car.

“I didn’t want to change teams – and that’s really where the road car project came in,” he said.

“That kept me motivated and occupied for a bit and then once we’d signed the deal with Honda and it was clear that we had a partner that, OK, might not be quite there at that point, they definitely had the drive and motivation to get there, that changed things.”

So when will Newey, now 63, eventually call it quits on Formula 1?

“That’s a good question. I enjoy design. Design combined with competition has been my career really and I’ve hugely enjoyed that but it does bring its own pressures of course. I’m 63 and I’d get bored if I stopped and did absolutely nothing. I always thought I’d do a hobby – rebuild motorbikes, that sort of thing. I think that would keep me occupied for a bit but ultimately I would get bored of that too,” he said.


“So maybe trying to get in a position where I can be involved as an overview – which I think is what Rory [Byrne] does at Ferrari now – which is quite a nice place to be. So long as you can contribute in a positive way.

“I’d hate to be a distraction. ‘Oh, Adrian’s coming in today’. That means handing the reins over to somebody who is responsible and I’d be purely a contributor as long as they found that useful.”


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