Some stories do the rounds each or every other year, and this is one of them. Christian Horner speaking to SKY F1 on Sunday reminded us of Newey’s previous position when asked this question. “A lot of approaches are made to our staff, but he [Adrian] enjoys the environment at Red Bull and he has always said he would like to finish his career at Red Bull. The team have a great relationship with Adrian.”
If this causes heartache and disillusion for any TJ13 readers, may I apologise now. But winning in F1 is about money and the best people. Further, the teams who have delivered continued success over a number of years, are those who spend gazzilions, have a stable team of high quality engineers and a top driver. This was the Ferrari story of the early 2000’s and has been the Red Bull story for the past years.
However, every dynasty eventually is on the wane and the brain drain of talent becomes apparent as pastures new are viewed with greater favour.
TJ13 suggested when we revealed that Peter Prodromou had handed his notice in at Red Bull for a return to McLaren, something may indeed be afoot with Adrian Newey himself. Prodromou worked with Newey at McLaren and was one of his first appointments when he joined Red Bull.
Peter Prodromou has probably been closer to Adrian Newey than anyone else in the past 14 years. So his departure from the master’s side must be a cause for concern and suggest Newey himself will not be in Milton Keynes for the long-term.
Red Bull without Newey may revert to that which they were prior to his arrival. Mateschitz could even sell the team and walk away from F1. All this makes Prodromou’s exit the more intriguing, because it surely is not merely about money.
There was talk last Autumn of Adrian Newey retiring from F1 and building an America’s Cup challenging yacht, and Ben Ainslie flew to the Abu Dhabi GP to spend time with the Red Bull car designer.
Since then, Ainslie has secured the seed capital for a British campaign in the next running of the world’s premier yachting competition, and his entry will be announced next month. This is but the first stage of getting a British team competing in the next America’s Cup event, likely to be held in 2017 and Ainslie will need to raise some £100m to see the venture through.
Interestingly, Ben Ainslie passed on 4 highly rated designers recently who have been snapped up by the Swedish entry and Ainslie’s friend, Iain Percy. However, along with the unveiling of the British campaign in June, it would be normative for Ainslie to announce who will be heading up his design team, as these are the people who provide confidence for those putting up the investment required,
We can but wait with bated breath and see who Ainslie has up his sleeve to lead the charge to return the America’s Cup to English soil for the first time since the inaugural event in 1851.
Yet it is not inconceivable that Newey has indeed been offered ‘the world’ by Ferrari in a desperate bid to persuade him to join their perpetual ailing attempts at conquering the world of F1. Newey is reportedly earning over 7m euro’s a year, yet when the rule of thumb suggests in F1 the car is 80% and the driver 20%, wouldn’t a maestro car designer be worth more to Ferrari than Alonso’s reputed annual pay of 30m euros?
Then to enter the Ferrari hall of fame as one of it’s great car designers – isn’t that tempting for Newey?
Adrian did nothing to quell the Ferrari rumours when asked by SKY F1 prior to the race whether he expected to see out his career at Red Bull. He interestingly replied, “I don’t know. I need to think about it. We’re in the middle of the season and I’m just getting on with it.”
However, a number of other factors may come into consideration before Adrian makes his decision. He joined Red Bull in 2006 yet his first championship winning car and drivers’ title was not for 5 years. Newey is now 55 years of age and it would indeed take some time for him to get to grips with matters in Maranello – if this is even possible for one man.
Interestingly, it was Christian Horner – not Newey, who almost persuasively observed, “For sure, the lure of Ferrari is always there, but there’s the politics and the pressure that goes with it and the fact is in Italy. Lots of us have been linked with Red Bull but so far none of us have gone.”
Then the final consideration is the newly invigorated Jean Todt who says he is determined to drive down costs in F1, and as the teams are not playing ball his only option is to do this via the technical and sporting regulations.
With aerodynamics still a huge part of the spend of the big teams, restricting severely their ability to spend on aero development could deliver Todt’s desired cost savings of 30-40%. This could be done simply by restricting the number and design of aero upgrades allowed on the car each year.
The question then would be whether Newey would be interested in what some may consider a highly neutered form of Formula 1.
One thing is certain, Newey’s continued evasiveness over his future in Milton Keynes was once again evident in a post race interview when he declared, “At some point I am going to have to think about the future, but at the moment my focus is getting in front of the silver cars,”
Horner was also coy when asked how long was left on Newey’s contract with Red Bull when he replied, “that’s like asking a lady about her age”. Of course it would be remiss not to factor in the fact that Sebastian Vettel’s contract expires this year – with an option (which way it works… we know not) of an extension to the end of 2015.
Something is afoot in at the home of Red Bull Racing and that’s for sure. Remember Martin Whitmarsh resigned from FOTA and a few months later was gone from McLaren. Similarly, Peter Prodromou may yet have been the first indication that Adrian Newey’s time in Milton Keynes is now short.