Red Bull left ‘vulnerable’ as star designer Adrian Newey could join F1 rivals

F1's budget cap is proving problematic for some of the paddock

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Red Bull are facing a fight to keep hold of one of their most crucial engineers as the impact of new Formula 1 regulations related to budget cap take effect in 2024.

The budget cap is becoming a problem for the big teams to cope with, and Red Bull are no different. Even with their unparalleled success, winning 21 of 22 races in 2023, there remains a possibility where the team could lose their chief designer, Adrian Newey, at a time where McLaren are closing the gap.

Newey is switching his attention to focusing entirely on the £5million RB17 Valkyrie hypercar project so that one of the three top-earner positions can be freed up. The star designer is currently still working part-time in the Formula 1 team, but that is set to change – and Newey could soon be devoting himself fully to the RB17.

The issue with specialist staff is that the big teams prefer to operate with 800 to 1,000 employees and, in order to retain their high earners, they assign them to other projects and only let them work part-time in F1.

But the FIA shut down this loophole in April 2023 with new regulations, meaning anyone who makes a contribution to the F1 project is counted towards the operating budget from 2024 onwards.

Red Bull rivals could move for Adrian Newey

Newey, 65, is one of the highest earners in the Red Bull team and because he is working on their hypercar, he would be classed as being exempt from the budget cap. That would free up one of the three spaces for Red Bull to promote another star designer.

According to German outlet Auto Motor und Sport, Red Bull could be left vulnerable to approaches for Newey from rival teams such as Aston Martin and McLaren, who have already successfully poached other key staff members from their engineering team.

Dan Fallows and Rob Marshall, two renowned names from the Red Bull organisation, switched sides in 2023. Aston Martin not only lured Fallows and his former Red Bull colleague Andrew Alessi, but also Eric Blandin from Mercedes, as Lawrence Stroll’s ambitious team continue to recruit the best talent.

Losing Fallows and Marshall was a blow for Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, but the pair were not deemed as irreplaceable. The same cannot be said for Newey, who is regarded as one of F1’s greatest innovators, having designed 12 constructors-winning cars throughout his illustrious career.

And if Max Verstappen wins a fourth title in a row in the 2024 F1 season, it will represent the second time a Newey car has achieved the feat after Sebastian Vettel won four titles between 2010 and 2013. That would give him the best possible opportunity to end his 18-year association on a high if their rivals make him an offer that he can’t refuse.

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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