MPH: End of the Brawn and Newey era? The designers more significant than any recent F1 driver


Almost every F1 champion of the last 31 years owes part of their success to Ross Brawn or Adrian Newey. In that way, they've had more impact on GP racing than any driver during that time, says Mark Hughes

Ross Brawn with Michael Schumacher and Adrian Newey with Max Verstappen

Brawn and Newey have been associated with most world championship winners in the past 31 years

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Looks like Adrian Newey is putting in place his exit plan from Red Bull, though the team itself is adamant that he is contracted there until the end of ’25 and is required to take a year’s gardening leave after that if he is to work for a rival team. But this is F1 and there are expensive legal ways to cite other matters which may be argued to make a contract void. If Newey is determined to leave – and we have not been able to verify that from the man himself, as he is being advised against talking to the media about it – then it could either happen very quickly or get messy and drawn-out. This development is not unconnected to the Christian Horner controversy around the now suspended employee, who acted as PA for both Horner and Newey. So this extraordinary story of the team rupturing itself as it defeats all-comers on track continues to unfold.

Inevitably there is speculation that he is headed for Ferrari or Aston Martin or even Mercedes. But even if none of those are true he looks set to be exiting Red Bull regardless. That is our current understanding. A team cannot force an employee to work if the employee does not wish to, but they can use a contract to prevent them working for a rival. What constitutes a valid contract will be the battleground around any departure.

Regardless of any such legal battle, there is nothing to stop him simply retiring. He’s 65, after all, and surely has nothing left to prove in his standing as one of the all-time greatest of F1 technical brains, perhaps even the greatest.

Adrian Newey with red notebook in 2024 Japanese Grand Prix pitlane

Still watching with his notebook at the ready: Newey at Suzuka earlier this season

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But he had a nemesis. A man with a very different skill set named Ross Brawn. More of a technical manager than a creative, he was nonetheless fantastically effective in how he brought the ingredients of success together – and like Newey he displayed his skills in many different teams: Benetton, Ferrari, Brawn and Mercedes in his case. Even the last period of Mercedes domination between 2014 and 2020 was built upon the foundations Brawn put in place in structuring the team and in getting two steps ahead in the power unit which was such a dominant part of the equation. He left on the eve of that formula beginning but he’d put all the important pieces in place, including the recruitment of Hamilton.

In fact, if we begin with Newey’s first title-winning car – the 1992 Williams FW14B — in the 31 title years since, there have been only two championships not won by either a Newey or a Brawn-related car. They are the two Fernando Alonso/Renault championships of 2005 and ’06. Newey’s Williams’ won titles between 1992 and 1997, interrupted by the two Brawn-related Benetton titles with Michael Schumacher in 1994 and 1995. Newey’s move to McLaren coincided with the Mika Hakkinen titles of 1998 and ‘99. Then we were into the Brawn/Ferrari/Schumacher years when the record books were annihilated, just prior to that Alonso/Renault interruption. Although Brawn was no longer at Ferrari when Kimi Räikkönen won the ’07 title, he had left only at the end of the previous season. Lewis Hamilton sneaked in a non-Newey/Brawn drivers’ title in ’08 but the constructors’ title went Ferrari’s way again with what was essentially still a Brawn-era car.

Brawn was by then re-organising the under-performing Honda team which of course morphed into the one-season only Brawn Grand Prix, world champions of 2009 before morphing once again, this time into Mercedes. From there it was Newey and Red Bull for the remainder of the V8 formula all the way to 2013. Then the long Mercedes domination from the Brawn foundations and on to the current Newey Red Bull era, with the crossover 2021 season.

Jenson Button and Ross Brawn celebrate winning the 2009 F1 World Championship

Title success for Button in Brawn GP’s sole F1 season

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Yes, of course there are many important others who contributed to the successes of these two men. And the champion drivers still had to go out and win those titles. But is it not remarkable that between them Newey and Brawn have been associated with all but two titles in the last 31 years? Seen through that prism, they have been way more significant than the drivers.

Well, Brawn is retired now so won’t be winning any more titles. Will Newey be following him into that status? Or does he have one big move left in him? Ferrari fans and Alonso/Aston Martin fans will surely be willing him not to stop just yet.

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