What next for Adrian Newey? Red Bull exit will spark bidding war for F1 2026 battleground

Thomas Maher
A close-up shot of Adrian Newey with prominent Aston Martin and Ferrari logos alongside him

Adrian Newey is rumoured to have received offers from Aston Martin and Ferrari as he considers his Red Bull future

Adrian Newey will become a free agent ahead of the new regulation cycle, so what are the famed designer’s main options?

With F1 2026 set to introduce radically different chassis and aerodynamic regulations alongside the new power units, having someone of Adrian Newey’s stature could be a defining land for another team – if Newey even wants to continue in F1.

Adrian Newey confirms departure from Red Bull

On Wednesday, Newey and Red Bull confirmed the rumours that have swirled in recent weeks – the British designer will leave Milton Keynes “after the first quarter of 2025”.

As Red Bull’s chief technology officer, Newey oversaw all the technical work carried out by the technology group based at the campus in Milton Keynes but, effective immediately, will no longer play a role on the F1 side of things.

Instead, Newey will concentrate on the automotive project as his brainchild, Red Bull’s RB17 hypercar, is set to begin production next year – likely shortly after Newey has departed the company.

While Newey will be seen at a few Grands Prix this season, including the Miami Grand Prix this weekend, his time at the F1 team, for all intents and purposes, has already come to an end as the next 12 months serve as his ‘gardening leave’ and set him up for freedom by mid-2025.

If Newey does immediately begin work with another team then, he will have several months to wield his influence over the 2026 car said team will have in development. All the teams are allowed to begin aerodynamic and CFD testing and simulation work from January 1st, 2025, meaning Newey would be joining at least a few months into that cycle – arguably too late to play a major part in 2026 development.

But, with Red Bull no longer featuring in his future, what options might Newey be eying up for what comes next?

Is Ferrari the team most likely to tempt Adrian Newey?

With Fred Vasseur having secured Lewis Hamilton to the team from 2025, and now landing a big money title sponsor in HP, Ferrari would appear to be the leading candidate to secure Newey ahead of 2026.

All the ingredients are there. A no-nonsense team boss who is making things happen without being cowed by the politics that inevitably surround Ferrari, two massively exciting drivers in Hamilton and Charles Leclerc, amazing (and recently updated) facilities at Maranello, and a barren spell that stretches back to 2008 since a title victory.

Added to that is the fact, unlike Red Bull, Ferrari is – in theory – more likely to get the new engine regulations correct at the first time of asking once the 2026 power units are fired up and put in the back of a car.

That’s not to decry Red Bull’s efforts but, given Ferrari has been making its own power units since forever and rarely produces a dud, the last decade of making its own hybrid power units stands it in good stead to optimise the new regulations to a greater extent than Red Bull.

Newey has also admitted to having turned Ferrari down a few times during his career in the past, although a major alleged reason for this was due to wanting to keep his young family in the UK.

With his kids now grown up, and Newey approaching retirement age, a move to the warmer climes of Italy might not sound so bad any more. Lots of money, a huge new challenge to return Ferrari’s iconic brand to titles, and doing so while living in the Italian countryside and ticking off the box of working with Hamilton before the seven-time Champion’s career ends? That doesn’t sound so bad…

Can Lawrence Stroll tempt Adrian Newey into Aston Martin?

Should Newey not want to leave the UK for Italy, there are quite a few British teams that would throw money at him to join. McLaren and Williams are contenders, and Newey is known to get along famously with McLaren CEO Zak Brown.

But McLaren have just settled into a new technical arrangement of their own, and even split with David Sanchez due to the former Ferrari man not quite liking the role he’d been given. Having achieved success with McLaren in the past, would a return to Woking be the type of challenge Newey would enjoy?

Similarly, at Williams, the behemoth of the 1990s has become a shadow of itself. Under James Vowles, things are improving, but there’s no doubting that, even with significant investment, the Grove-based team are quite a few years away from being built up into a condition even close to what Newey is accustomed to.

Which leads us to Aston Martin. Lawrence Stroll’s investment has been significant, and the Silverstone factory is now one of the leading examples of an F1 production facility. Having Fernando Alonso secured for a new deal – both for racing and a post-racing career role – would be a major plus for Newey, who in the past has admitted he’d have liked to have worked with the Spaniard.

The facilities are there, the money is there, and a driver Newey admires is there. He’s believed to have recently turned down a big money offer from Stroll, meaning this particular possibility might already be a dead end.

The possibility of an Aston Martin switch will thus likely come down to Newey’s own feelings regarding Stroll and the seriousness of the project, and whether he wants to continue with Honda – the Japanese manufacturer swaps from Red Bull to Aston Martin at the end of next season.

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Might Toto Wolff coax Adrian Newey to spearhead Mercedes?

Given the recent tensions between Mercedes and Red Bull, it almost seems unthinkable from a pantomime perspective that Newey would leave Red Bull only to join the Brackley-based squad.

But, in real life, the existence of historical sporting hostilities is no logical reason for Newey not to sign with Mercedes if an agreement can be reached with Toto Wolff – the team has the budget, and the facilities, and is going through a period of rebuilding that could prove tempting for Newey.

However, Mercedes has only recently turned back towards James Allison – the only contemporary car designer that enjoys a similar reputation to Newey’s. Allison returned to the role of technical director to replace Mike Elliott only 12 months ago and needs to be given time to try getting the team back on track.

After all, Allison is responsible for the designs of some of Mercedes’ most dominant machines and, while he perhaps can’t boast the same consistency as Newey, bringing in the former Red Bull man alongside Allison isn’t a dynamic that is likely to work out. And replacing Allison for Newey? That would be a draconian and, arguably, sideways move, with no guarantee of success in the few short months Newey would be able to wield his influence before the 2026 season starts.

A sabbatical or retirement?

But, as it stands right now, Newey is without an F1 project once he leaves the Red Bull Milton Keynes campus next year for the final time. Even if he never picks up his drawing board ever again, he can look back on an illustrious F1 career with nothing but pride.

After all, he has carved out a legacy all by himself – right from the early days of impressing Harvey Postlethwaite and convincing him to give him a job, through to his years of success in the United States with IndyCar, stints with Leyton House, Williams, McLaren, and then near two decades with Red Bull.

Almost without fail, wherever Newey has ended up has prospered under his watch – consistently, over some 44 years at the top level. It’s a huge amount of success but, alongside that, a huge amount of pressure.

There’s also the fact F1 has changed immeasurably over the decades, and even over the last handful of years. When Newey joined F1, the sport wasn’t quite the sex and rock & roll it had been in the 1970s but it was still very far from the corporate beast it has evolved into. F1 is now a product, show business on the global stage, with the racing almost taking a back-seat to the entertainment.

Is that a world the old-school Newey still wants to belong to? At 66 years of age when he is free, would anyone blame him if he wanted to take a few years to simply do… nothing? Some idle time, relaxing on his boat sailing around the world, contemplating whether or not to return to another high-pressure role. He also doesn’t need to worry about employment – pretty much any team would snap him up if he expressed an interest in joining them.

Of course, Newey could look to the likes of Rory Byrne as being the template for the life he now wants to lead. The former Ferrari chief designer ‘retired’ at the end of 2006, but has remained a consultant and advisor for the Scuderia ever since – including being heavily involved in the designs of the 2022 and ’23 cars – despite having now turned 80.

Newey is a spring chicken by comparison and has plenty of years left to give F1, if he so wishes. Close friend and manager Eddie Jordan has offered a clear hint that the likely outcome, for now, is that Newey takes some time out from F1.

“Remember that he’s been in Red Bull under constant pressure,” he said.

“So, if he’s going to take time out and just cruise for a while, then everyone would understand that.

“I think that’s probably more likely to see, rather than diving into any other possible employment career.

“Things have slightly changed. He’s got a bit older and the various things is that, this is a great team. He’s had great drivers there. He’s got great personnel there, he probably should and would look to the future about a change of life.”

It’s also worth noting the date Newey and Red Bull chose to make the announcement of him leaving the team he had dubbed his “family”. May 1st marked 30 years exactly from the day Ayrton Senna died at the wheel of a Newey-designed Williams and this moment has lingered heavily on his shoulders for a long time.

With age comes contemplation and, often, the dulling of competitive instincts. The timing of Newey confirming his current F1 employment will end, coming on such a seismic anniversary of great personal meaning, suggests it would not be a shock if he decided another full-time role isn’t for him.

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