Adrian Newey leaves Red Bull: His incredible journey through F1, IndyCar and sports cars


While the racing world waits to see what comes next for Adrian Newey, we take a look back at the renowned designer's career so far, which includes penning title-winning IndyCars, as well as 13 championship-winning F1 machines

Adrian Newey with Mika Hakkinen on McLaren pitwall in 1998

Häkkinen drove Newey-designed McLarens to F1 titles in '98 and '99

Uta Tochtermann/AFP via Getty Images

Red Bull has announced that technical director Adrian Newey will leave its Formula 1 team at the start of 2025.

The engineering genius is the most successful grand prix designer of all time, with his cars being driven to 12 constructors’ titles and 13 drivers’ crowns, with over 200 F1 wins to his name also.

Rumours are now swirling as to whether Newey will join Lewis Hamilton at Ferrari, accept a big-money offer from Aston Martin or move elsewhere.

However, one of racing’s most fertile minds has won across other categories too, with his extraordinary run of success actually beginning in the US motor sport scene.

We chart his beginning from the back of the F1 grid, through Indianapolis glory and onto grand prix domination.


Fittipaldi Automotive: Newey’s first F1 steps

Fittipaldi 1980

Newey joined the Fittipaldi F1 team in 1980, which was fielding Emerson Fittipaldi and Keke Rosberg

After becoming a motor sport fanatic as a child, Newey studied aerodynamics and aeronautics at university.

Desperate to get into F1 following his graduation, he phoned up as many teams as he could, only for them all to rebuff him – until a famous name gave him a call…

From the archive

“I was actually on the verge of staying on to do a PhD on helicopter rotor blades, when Harvey Postlethwaite rang me up, a good two or three months after I’d written a letter to Fittipaldi,” he told Motor Sport in 2000. “So I went up for an interview and he offered me a job the next day.

“I remember turning up for the interview on a Ducati 900SS. Harvey had a Moto Guzzi Le Mans and the two bikes were great rivals at the time. Before we started on the interview he looked at the Ducati and asked if he could ride it. He went round the trading estate on it and I think we spent the first hour chatting about bikes rather than cars. It was a good start.”

The young, green designer soon found out he was to be a one-man aerodynamics department, and says the Fittipaldi F8 he was tasked with improving – driven by Emerson Fittipaldi, Keke Rosberg and Chico Serra – wasn’t a bad car.

However, the money soon ran out, and Newey was faced with finding a new job not long after his first.


March onwards: Newey’s Daytona and IMSA success

1983 Daytona March Chevrolet Randy Lanier

Randy Lanier gives chase at the back of this trio when fighting for the ’83 Daytona win in the Newye-optimised March 83G IMSA GTP car

Getty Images

Though Newey had a chance to join Lotus and Colin Chapman, after former Fittipaldi team manager Peter Warr offered him a place at Hethel, the engineer preferred to take on a more diverse role at March, helping with its junior single-seaters, IndyCars and sports cars.

“That’s the great thing about it,” said Newey. “You’re involved in different formulae in all sorts of different areas: aerodynamics, race engineering and mechanical. You learned a lot very quickly.”

From the archive

Working both as a detail draughtsman and race engineer, the designer soon spotted a way to gain more experience – this time in endurance racing.

“March’s GTP sports car was an unloved project, lying on the side, and because my final year project had been on ground effects, and ground effects applied to sports cars, I thought I should be able to do something with it,” he remembered.

“I went to Robin Herd and asked, and he said, ‘Be my guest’, but there was no budget to build a model and go wind tunnel testing. The car was designed by Max Sardou, and I modified it just by eye, using the results from my final year project, and took it over to Daytona. That was a hell of an experience, I can tell you.”

Newey found himself running the car at the 1983 American sports car classic, Marty Hinze, Terry Wolters, and Randy Lanier behind the wheel, with the squad nearly taking an unlikely win until reliability issues relegated it to second.

However, the car would win Daytona the next season in the hands of Kreepy Krauly Racing, and its development car the 84G (masterminded by Newey) would clinch the 1984 title in the hands of Lanier – a notorious racer cum drug dealer who used his black market manouvering to fund his on-track activities.


IndyCar glory: Newey cars win the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar titles

Bobby Rahal 1986 Indianapolis 500 Truesports March 86C

Bobby Rahal en route to winning the 1986 Indy 500 in Newey’s March 86C

Getty Images

After overseeing the 84G, March sent Newey on to its IndyCar project, teaming him up with driver Bobby Rahal at Truesports for the 1984 season.

As the American told Motor Sport, the pair got on famously from the beginning.

“The key is how a driver and his engineer communicate, and Adrian and I were so much in tune, he knew the answer before I’d asked the question. I’d finish his sentences for him, he’d finish my sentences for me. Adrian is a genius, and he’s as competitive as hell, too. All he wants is to win.”

From the archive

As Newey would learn the ropes, the Truesports team would gradually improve throughout the year taking two wins at Phoenix and Laguna Seca at the end of the season.

For 1985, Newey would be race engineering an IndyCar he himself designed: the 85C.

“It won’t go down as one of the cars I’m particularly proud of, but it was my first clean-sheet-of-paper car; the sports car had been an adaptation of an existing car,” he said.

Modest though Newey is, the car was hugely successful. Al Unser took the title driving the 85C for Penske, Danny Sullivan won the Indy 500 with an 85C Penske also and Rahal himself scored three wins.

Moving over to work with Michael Andretti at Karco for 1986, the designer would pen that year’s machine too: Rahal would win the ’86 Indy 500 and drivers’ title in the 86C, but by the middle of the season the precocious engineer was off to F1.


1986: Newey’s failed second go at F1 with Haas-Lola

Lola Haas F1 driver Patrick Tambay 1982

Newey would race engineer for Patrick Tambay at Beatrice Haas Lola

Keen to get back to F1, Newey took on the opportunity to become Patrick Tambay’s race engineer at the Beatrice Haas-Lola team – but things didn’t exactly work out.

From the archive

“That became my first race engineering job in F1,” he said. “The timing was unfortunate in hindsight I think my first race was the French GP, and very shortly after that Carl Haas decided to wrap the team up. It was certainly a very talented drawing office.

“Unfortunately the management style of Teddy Mayer seemed to be to tell Ross Brawn, Neil Oatley and myself that we were the boss, and then let us fight it out. The atmosphere wasn’t as congenial as it might have been, and it isn’t a period I look back on with any fondness.”

Newey went back to IndyCar for a stint engineering racing legend Mario Andretti, but it wasn’t long before F1 came calling once more.


1988: Newey finally arrives in F1 with Leyton House 

4 Paul Ricard 1990 French GP Leyton House CG901B f1 car

Ivan Capelli almost won the 1990 French GP in CG901

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From 1987 Leyton House had become financially involved with the March F1 team, and in ’88 Newey was invited to become technical director. Though he had won IndyCar and IMSA titles via cars of his own design, as far as the engineer was concerned, he had finally arrived.

“It was a good little outfit. Most of the people there had come out of the production side of March, so I knew them. What took me a while to understand was the difference between working for a team which is already organised, and joining a team which is brand new, and building it up. It’s quite different. In designing the 881, where we fell down was in understanding how to manage and grow that team.”

Still, the car took two podiums in the hands of Ivan Capelli as the team finished sixth in the constructors’ championship.

From the archive

While 1989 turned out to be a struggle, 1990 was a seismic moment in Newey’s F1 career.

His CG901 had a difficult start to the year, with plenty of DNQs, but in Paul Ricard, it all came good.

Capelli qualified seventh and his team-mate Mauricio Gugelmin tenth. With both cars deciding not to pit, they ran first and second from just before the race’s halfway point.

While the latter eventually fell away, Capelli clung on to the lead until an engine issue allowed Alain Prost past with three laps to go. Still, the F1 world sat up and took notice.

“With our 650hp Judd V8 we had to find the speed elsewhere, from aerodynamic efficiency,” Newey told Damien Smith when reunited by Motor Sport with his CG901. “So we designed it very much from an aero perspective, making small compromises in the mechanical packaging to achieve this. I think it’s fair to say the approach changed the design direction of F1.”

However, it was all too little too late. With Leyton House in financial turmoil, Newey had already agreed to join the Williams F1 team – he started the Monday after the French GP as its chief designer.


The 1990s: Newey’s F1 triumph and tragedy with Williams

Mansell Williams FW14B

Mansell’s Williams FW14B during 1992 British Grand Prix

Silverstone Museum

Joining Williams under Patrick Head for 1990, the first car Newey had influence over was the 1991 FW14, which was a winner from early on.

With the best drivers, team and resources he’d ever had at his disposal, Newey was able to produce his best car yet.

Though Ayrton Senna and McLaren stole a march that year with four straight victories from the off, it was clear the Grove car – which was suffering from gearbox issues – was faster.

From the archive

Riccardo Patrese won Round 6 in Mexico, and Nigel Mansell would subsequently win five races, but the team would just fall short to Senna and McLaren.

“It was the first time I’d designed an F1 car that won races,” remembered Newey. “But our reliability wasn’t good enough; we had a lot of gearbox problems.

“Patrick Head was good enough to give me a pretty free hand. He always enjoyed the design of the gearbox and transmission, and gave me the general packaging, layout and aerodynamics. Very trusting. I’ll always be grateful to him for that”.

Next up though were two of Newey’s greatest hits – the FW14B and FW13C. In the hands of Mansell and Alain Prost respectively, the cars utterly dominated F1.

Both cars benefitted from active suspension, traction control and a whole host of other technical tricks.

Alain Prost Williams 1993

Prost continued Williams success in ’93

“If you ignore the power unit side of things, then you can easily argue that [the FW15C] was the most technologically advanced F1 car there’s been,” said Newey.

From the archive

“It was effectively the last of an era, and that always makes a car special. To win with that car was fantastic. I look back on that year with fond memories. And working with Alain for that one season, and then seeing Damon’s progress through the year, was a highlight.”

However the good times were brought to a devastating halt by the death of new Williams recruit Senna who fatally crashed in Newey’s FW16 at Imola.

“It was dreadful,” Newey told The Guardian. “Both Patrick and myself separately asked ourselves whether we wanted to continue in racing. Did we want to be involved in a sport where people can die in something we’ve created? Secondly, was the accident caused by something that broke through poor or negligent design?”

However the team regrouped and would eventually claim the ’96 and ’97 drivers’ and constructors’ titles, with Newey-designed cars. But he was set for a new challenge again.


Newey’s McLaren years: More F1 titles with Mika Häkkinen

Mika Hakkinen driving for McLaren at the 1998 San Marino GP

Häkkinen proved formidable force in Newey McLarens

Newey would join McLaren for the 1997 season. His first task was to help improve on the Neil Oatley-designed MP4/12, with both David Coulthard and Mika Häkkinen winning races.

This car wasn’t good enough to challenge his own creation – penned the previous year – which Williams was using, but that all changed for 1998 and the McLaren MP4/13.

Starting a habit that would become a hallmark, Newey spied opportunities in a set of new technical regulations to leap ahead of the field, with F1 stipulating grooved tyres and narrower axles.

The MP4/13 was a winner right out of the box, with Häkkinen and Coulthard dominating the season-opening Australian GP.

The Finn would become locked in a battle for the title with Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher, though Häkkinen’s eight wins would be enough to prevail in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships for ’98.

From the archive

Häkkinen would snare the drivers’ crown again in ’99, but lost out in to Schumacher in 2000 as the balance of power began to move towards the Scuderia axis of the German driver, team principal Jean Todt and technical director Ross Brawn.

McLaren would still win races but, in trying to regain ground hit upon Newey’s one big failure: the MP4/18, intended for use in 2003.

A radical, tightly packaged design it featured several F1 innovations in their infancy, including the blown diffuser later used on Newey’s dominant Red Bull RB7.

Though the car was supposed to take on the Ferrari, its myriad of reliability issues – overheating, floor delamination and engine failures – meant it never raced.

A version of the MP4/18 would compete and win one race in 2004, while McLaren and Newey challenged for titles again in 2005 with Kimi Räikkönen and Juan Pablo Montoya with the MP4/20.

However, it was announced the designer would soon be off to pastures new once more in 2006…


Newey’s Red Bull revolution 

Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 2009

Red Bull were transformed from midfield also-rans to title contenders in 2009 by Adrian Newey design

Grand Prix Photo

Newey was persuaded by Red Bull and Christian Horner to make the Milton Keynes switch, tempted by a less restrictive, corporate culture – and a huge salary increase.

After taking up a few years to get up to speed, once again the designer used a broad rule change to vault the team up the grid.

In 2009 Red Bull went from being a midfield runner to a title contender with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber driving the Red Bull RB5.

From the archive

The car went toe-to-toe with the reborn Brawn GP team, with Jenson Button just about managing to hang on to claim the drivers’ and constructors’ titles.

However, while Brawn had just been struggling to stay alive throughout that season before its Mercedes buyout, Newey and co had been developing its latest F1 challenger.

This meant that for 2010 the team turned up with the dominant RB6, with Vettel clinching the first of four consecutive driver and constructor doubles for the team.

This would be capped off with the brilliant RB9, which Vettel would take to nine consecutive victories at the end of 2013.

While a fallow period would follow, largely due to the failures of the Renault hybrid turbo engine, the team would challenge once again in 2021 when technical regulations imposed restrictions on low-rake F1 cars like Mercedes, allowing Red Bull, which had an opposing high-rake philosophy, to close the gap.

Max Verstappen would clinch his first drivers’ title that year, and what followed was classic Newey. Sweeping new ground-effect rules were exploited by the designer and his team, allowing Verstappen and co to claim a dominant title double in both ’22 and ’23 – and that performance margin continues today.

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