Adrian Newey, the brilliant mind behind Red Bull Racing’s numerous Formula 1 successes, recently opened up about some of the regrets he has carried throughout his illustrious career. Among these regrets are the missed opportunities to collaborate with two iconic Formula 1 champions, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.
Newey’s journey with Red Bull Racing began in 2006, and since then, he has consistently turned down enticing offers from Scuderia Ferrari. Despite achieving remarkable success with the Milton Keynes-based outfit, Newey’s regrets lie not in the realm of technical innovations but in the emotional connections he could have forged with Ferrari.
In a candid conversation on the Beyond The Grid podcast, Newey disclosed the reasons behind these regrettable decisions. One instance saw him declining Ferrari’s offer due to personal circumstances. At the time, he had recently married, and his first marriage had ended in part because his wife struggled to adapt to the climate in the United States. Fearing a similar outcome for his second marriage, he chose to decline Ferrari’s proposition, a decision laden with emotional weight.
Tom Clarkson, the podcast host, probed further, asking if Newey would have considered establishing a remote working setup similar to the one adopted by Ferrari in Guildford, a proposal championed by designer John Barnard. Newey’s reply hinted at the depth of his commitment to his personal life and the impact it had on his career choices.
“[Ferrari approached] in my IndyCar days, which probably doesn’t count, then ’93 and famously in 2014. The ’93 one was very tempting.
“I went down, Jean Todt [team boss] had just started. I remember him talking about should he hire Michael [Schumacher] or not. Do you think that was a good idea?”
In another pivotal moment, Ferrari approached Newey in 2014, coinciding with the emergence of the 1.6-liter turbo hybrid era in Formula 1. Although content with his role at Red Bull, Newey’s frustration with engine supplier Renault’s approach prompted him to reconsider his options. The allure of joining Ferrari grew stronger, yet Newey ultimately decided to remain at Red Bull, guided by a combination of loyalty and his own intricate career calculations.
“I never asked the question and I don’t believe it. If you’re going to do it, Ferrari is an Italian team.
“The idea of having a research and design centre which is in a completely different place to the race team – I know we have a sister team [AlphaTauri], split between Faenza, Italy and Bicester, UK] that does that – but I don’t believe in the concept.”
However, these episodes have left Newey grappling with emotional regrets. When questioned about whether he regrets turning down Ferrari’s advances, he confessed that, perhaps, there lingers a lingering desire within him—one that transcends the confines of technical excellence and delves into the realm of unfulfilled emotional connections.
“My discussions in 2014 with Ferrari were purely out of frustration.
“I really didn’t want to leave but we were in this position where Renault hadn’t produced a competitive turbo hybrid engine.
“That happens in the first year, OK, new rules. We all make mistakes.
“But we went to see Carlos Ghosn [former Renault CEO], Christian [Horner], Helmut [Marko] and myself to try to put pressure on him to up the budget.
“Ghosn’s reply was ‘Well, I have no interest in Formula 1. I’m only in it because my marketing people say I should be.‘ That was such a depressing place to be.”
In the high-octane world of Formula 1, where milliseconds make the difference, Adrian Newey’s regrets serve as a poignant reminder that even the most brilliant minds in the sport are not immune to the complex interplay of personal choices and professional aspirations.
“Emotionally, I guess, to a point. Yes.
“But just as, for instance, working with Fernando and Lewis would have been fabulous. But it never happened. It’s just circumstance sometimes, that’s the way it is.”