Adrian Newey: How legendary designer’s departure from Red Bull could impact Max Verstappen, Christian Horner and Ferrari

Adrian Newey looks set to depart Red Bull having decided he wants to leave the team; Newey is recognised as Formula 1’s best designer and has helped Red Bull win 13 titles since joining in 2006; Newey’s potential exit could have major implications for Christian Horner and Max Verstappen

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Ex-Aston Martin strategist Bernie Collins is worried about how Red Bull might perform from 2026 onwards following the news that chief technical officer Adrian Newey may leave the team

Following Adrian Newey’s decision to leave Red Bull, Sky Sports F1 analyse the wider impact the legendary designer’s impending departure could have on the team.

First reported by Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport on Thursday, Sky Sports understands from senior figures within the sport that Newey has informally communicated to fellow senior Red Bull colleagues his wish to cut his near two-decade ties at F1’s world champion team.

Senior sources at Red Bull say the team have received no formal resignation from Newey, who is contracted until at least the end of 2025 in his role as chief technical officer for the Milton Keynes-based outfit, and that they believe there is still room for dialogue with the 65-year-old.

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The bombshell news, which would send shockwaves around F1 should Newey’s exit ultimately materialise, comes amid a period of sustained turbulence at Red Bull following the investigation earlier this year by their Austrian parent company into allegations of inappropriate behaviour against team principal Christian Horner by a female colleague.

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Sky Sports News reporter Craig Slater revealed Newey could be set to leave Red Bull over the alleged ‘power struggle’ within the team

The grievance against Horner, who has always denied the claims, was dismissed on February 28. The woman who brought the complaint has since appealed the outcome.

Amid an apparent power struggle at the top of the team which appeared to almost lead to the departure of motorsport advisor Helmut Marko, there has also been speculation over whether three-time reigning world champion Max Verstappen could leave.

Why is Newey so important?

Newey has worked at Red Bull since 2006 and been a central figure in their subsequent rise to becoming an F1 superpower, leading the design of the cars that have taken the team to all 13 of their world titles.

Sebastian Vettel won four consecutive drivers’ titles at the team in 2010-2013, with Verstappen taking the last three and currently dominating the early stages of the new 2024 season with Newey’s latest creation.

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The Guardian’s Jonathan Liew and The Times’ Charlotte Duncker talk about how Newey’s departure would affect Red Bull’s future prospects

His recent designs have absolutely dominated the sport since the current ground-effect regulations were introduced in 2022, with Red Bull winning 25 of the last 27 races.

Newey is one of the most revered and successful figures in Formula 1’s history and had previously designed multiple title-winning cars for McLaren and Williams before being convinced by Horner to join a then-fledgling Red Bull team in 2006.

Red Bull confirmed in May 2023 that Newey had signed a contract extension, which it has now emerged runs until at least the end of the 2025 season.

Is Verstappen’s future in doubt once more?

Since the allegations against Horner became public, the majority of the media’s focus has been on whether uncertainty at the top of the team could result in Verstappen making a shock departure from a car that has brought him a historical level of dominance.

The saga reached its most heightened point during March’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix when, amid reports Marko was on the verge of leaving, Verstappen suggested he could follow the Austrian out of the team.

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Max Verstappen discussed the importance of Newey at Red Bull and praised the chief technical officer for what he brings to the team

The situation appeared to have calmed during the three races that followed, but Mercedes boss Toto Wolff notably said in China last weekend that he – and the rest of F1 – were still “waiting” on Verstappen to make a decision over his future as the 2025 grid takes shape.

The comment from Wolff, who has admitted he would “love” for Verstappen to fill the vacancy left at Mercedes by Lewis Hamilton’s move to Ferrari, appeared odd given the apparent easing of tension at Red Bull, along with Mercedes’ struggles on track, but now suddenly make a lot more sense.

Whether or not Wolff knew the Newey bombshell was coming, there is no doubt that his departure from Red Bull would dent the team’s chances of maintaining their position at the front of the grid when radical new regulations are introduced for the 2026 season.

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Sky Sports News’ Craig Slater explains that Newey could be set to leave Red Bull and might join Lewis Hamilton at Ferrari in the future

With Red Bull manufacturing their own engine for the first time for the 2026 season, the absence of Newey would add another huge question mark as to whether they can create a title-challenging car.

Verstappen is contracted until 2028 but has previously admitted that whether Red Bull are able to keep delivering him a winning car will play a role in whether he sees out the deal, which is understood to contain exit clauses.

It will be fascinating to see what the straight-talking Dutchman has to say about Newey’s decision when he faces the media ahead of next weekend’s Miami Grand Prix.

A huge blow for Horner

Losing Verstappen as well as Newey would be a total disaster for Horner, but the latter alone is a seismic blow.

BBC Sport is among the outlets reporting that Newey’s exit is directly related to how he feels about Horner.

Newey has yet to comment since reports of his desire to leave emerged, but the suggestion that the sport’s undisputed best car designer is departing the team because of Horner, creates terrible optics for the team principal.

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Christian Horner says ‘no one individual is bigger than the team’ as he answers questions on whether Helmut Marko or Max Verstappen are leaving Red Bull

Horner has already had to withstand public calls for him to leave the team from his star driver’s father, Jos Verstappen, and is now likely to come under renewed pressure.

If there remain influential figures at – or around – Red Bull who want Horner out, they have fresh ammunition with which to make their case.

Rather than the brilliance of an RB20 that has enabled Verstappen to claim four dominant victories in the first five races, the focus in Miami will undoubtedly be on Newey’s possible exit and its consequences.

When fielding questions in Saudi Arabia on Verstappen’s future, Horner insisted that no individual is bigger than the team, but the fact his presence appears to be threatening the future of Red Bull’s two most prized assets may lead some to question whether he is applying the same rule to himself.

Could Newey finally join Ferrari with Hamilton?

Firstly, it must be remembered that Newey’s departure from Red Bull has yet to be officially confirmed, with the team saying he is contracted until at least the end of 2025 and apparently maintaining hope of convincing him to remain.

There are also suggestions there may be a clause in the deal preventing him from joining another F1 team for a further year.

But in the event he does leave, there will be no shortage of teams seeking his services.

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Red Bull’s chief technology officer Newey described their car as an ‘extreme version’ of what they had in 2022

The most likely destination for Newey within F1 would appear to be Ferrari. During an interview with Sky Italy last year, Newey said he had previously been “very tempted” to join the Italian team.

Newey also said last year that the chance to work with either Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso “would have been fabulous”, since which time the Brit has signed to drive for Ferrari from 2025.

There is little doubt Ferrari, who have failed to win the constructors’ championship since 2008, would jump at the chance to add Newey to a team that is being reshaped under the leadership of Frederic Vasseur.

Newey has also been linked with a move to Aston Martin, who would be a viable option if he were to want to remain in the UK.

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Newey admitted he gave serious consideration to joining Team Ferrari twice in the 1990s

Team owner Lawrence Stroll is hellbent on building a title challenger and may be able to provide the most lucrative offer to Newey.

Then there’s Mercedes, who are surely desperate for guidance in the technical department having struggled to adapt to the design regulations introduced to F1 in 2022.

Wolff hasn’t held back at all in expressing his interest in signing Verstappen, so it would be a surprise if the Mercedes boss doesn’t provide a candid response when he is inevitably asked about Newey in Miami.

Swap the early alarms for prime-time evening viewing on Sky Sports F1 as Formula 1 next makes its first of three visits to the USA in 2024, with the Miami GP on May 3-5. Steam every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime

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