Newey: Ferrari deal closer than anyone knew

Adrian Newey will go down in history as one of Formula One’s greatest ever car designers. He sits up their with the pantheon of revolutionary engineers like Colin Chapman, Gordon Murray, John Cooper and John Barnard. Newey has won titles with three different teams and his designs have racked up 193 race victories in Formula One.

May people don’t know Newey was expelled from school, but did graduate with a degree in aerodynamics and joined the F1 team March in the late 1980’s and quickly gained a reputation for prioritising aerodynamics ahead of all other aspects of his car design.



Newey establishes F1 reputation

At Williams, with Patrick Head, he won five titles and he took one more at McLaren before joining Red Bull in 2006, where he, Christian Horner and Sebastian Vettel enjoyed a run of four consecutive titles from 2010-2013.

However 25 years into his F1 career, Adrian Newey suffered a crisis. Having won 4 consecutive driers’ and constructors’ titles with Renault as their engine partner, the French manufacturer clearly got the design of their ew typo hybrid power unit completely wrong in 2014.

Renault struggled on a number of fronts including a significant lack of power compared to the field leading Mercedes together with chronic unreliability. The previously happy Newey began to grow disillusioned with Formula One.



Disillusioned Adrian Newey

However, shortly after the inception of the 1.6L V6 units back in 2014, a previously “happy” Newey began to grow disillusioned with Formula One and considered leaving the sport or joining another team.

“Back then I was pretty disillusioned with the whole thing to be honest in as much as obviously I nearly joined Ferrari,” Newey explained to The Race.

“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 was that we were stuck with an uncompetitive engine.



Renault uninterested in improvement

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

“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.”

Early in 2014, Red Bull recognised they could lose their genius designer and so increased his responsibility to include Red Bull Technologies.



Other projects for Newey

While considering his future in F1, Newey began work on other projects, including in Sailing’s America’s Cup with four-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie.

Then while Aston Martin were the Red Bull F1 team sponsor, Newey turned his hand to designing Aston Martin’s Valkyrie hypercar – with jaw-dropping results!

Red Bull were stuck with Renault as their power unit supplier because neither Ferrari or Mercedes would supply a team they considered a significant rival. The Honda arrived in the sport and had a short and ill fated spell with McLaren.

Fernando Alonso once famously described the Honda power unit as a “GP3 engine.”



Honda F1 makes the Red Bull difference

However, when an opportunity opened up as Honda and McLaren parted ways, Newey saw something in the Japaneseengine manufacturer he felt had been missing from Renault.

It was Honda’s “drive and motivation” to continually improve which inspired Newey to hang on in at Red Bull Racing.

“I didn’t want to change teams and that’s where the [Aston Martin Valkyrie] road car project came in.

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



Honda win in F1 again

Honda worked with just Toro Rosso in 2018 and then stepped up to supply Milton Keynes swell the following year. Honda technically withdrew from Formula One in 2020 though the power unit remained with Red Bull Racing with some technical support from Japan.

As when Honda left the sport in 2008 and their old team branded “Brawn” won the world championships, so Red Bull took the unbranded Honda power unit to glory in 2021 as Verstappen claimed the drivers’ title on the last lap of the season in Abu Dhabi.

The Honda name re-appeared on the Red Bull car part way through the 2022 season as a new deal for continued technical support was agreed. However the long term view is for Honda to deliver the electrical aspects of the new Red Bull Powertrain for the regulations changes in 2026 while Red Bull will design and manufacture the internal combustion engine and the gearbox and turbocharger.

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