Newey lawyers negotiating early exit from Red Bull

Adrian Newey in the pits
Newey’s Red Bull contract is said to contain a clause which theoretically stops him working for another team until 2027 [Getty Images]

Leading designer Adrian Newey is negotiating an exit from Red Bull that would leave him free to join another team in early 2025, BBC Sport has learned.

The early departure of the man regarded as F1's greatest ever designer from the world champions is to be announced within days following negotiations over his contract.

A spokesperson for Red Bull said: “We don’t have any comment at this time.”

Newey’s next team is not yet decided but Ferrari are hot favourites to sign him.

The 65-year-old’s contract as Red Bull’s chief technical officer runs to the end of 2025 and is said to include a 12-month “non-compete clause” that theoretically should have precluded him starting work for another team until 2027.

But his lawyers are securing an early exit and he will be free to start work from next year, high-level sources close to Red Bull and Newey have said.

The early exit from his Red Bull contract allows Newey to be in place at any team for which he signs in time to start work on their 2026 car - a crucial step.

F1 is introducing new engine and chassis regulations in 2026 and Newey has become famous for his ability to spot the secrets of new rules and steal a march on his rivals as a result.

This happened in 1998 when he was at McLaren and in 2009 and 2022 at Red Bull.

Ferrari, who have at least twice previously failed to secure Newey’s signature after negotiations, are known to be pursuing him.

Aston Martin have offered him a contract.

McLaren Racing chief executive officer Zak Brown said: “Adrian is a good friend and clearly the most successful designer of all time.

“However, we have a plan in place at McLaren and I am extremely happy with our technical leadership team and the progress we’re making to get back to the front of the grid.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has indicated he is not interested in pursuing Newey.

He said at an event in New York on Monday: “Adrian Newey is an iconic engineer in F1 with a great track record and again also there are so many people talking about what he eventually might do and whether he leaves Red Bull or not.

“I’m just looking at it like a fan and watching that space.”

When will the announcement be?

Christian Horner, Adrian Newey and Red Bull celebrate the team's one-two in Japan
Newey (right) has been at Red Bull since 2005 and has overseen two dominant eras with the team, from 2010-14, and the current era with Max Verstappen [Getty Images]

Red Bull’s confirmation that Newey is to leave is not expected to come until Thursday at the earliest.

This is out of respect for the memory of Ayrton Senna - Wednesday, 1 May is the 30th anniversary of the legendary three-time champion’s death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix in a Williams car designed by Newey.

Newey, who along with former Williams technical director Patrick Head was cleared of Senna’s manslaughter after lengthy legal proceedings in Italy, has regularly spoken about his sadness at the Brazilian’s loss.

Newey has been unsettled at Red Bull by the fallout from allegations by a female employee that team principal Christian Horner was guilty of sexual harassment and controlling, coercive behaviour.

Horner has always denied the charges and was cleared by an internal Red Bull investigation in February. A second investigation is under way after the complainant appealed.

The allegations unearthed a power struggle at Red Bull between Horner and motorsport director Helmut Marko, and between the Thai controlling shareholder Chalerm Yoovidhya and minority shareholders Red Bull GmbH in Austria.

There has also been growing tension in recent times between Horner and Newey over the designer’s importance to the team.

Horner has seemed to diminish Newey’s input in some interviews, and emphasise the role of the rest of the design group under technical director Pierre Wache. Newey, who eschews the public eye, has privately pushed back against this inside the team.

What effect will this have?

Newey’s departure will be regarded as a seismic blow to Red Bull, given their domination of the sport since 2022, and will raise further questions about the future of world champion Max Verstappen.

The Dutchman is known to have been unsettled by the fallout from the Horner saga and has repeatedly ducked the question when asked to give his team boss his full backing.

But Verstappen, who is under contract to Red Bull until the end of 2028, has expressed his desire for the senior team to stay in place.

As a result, Newey’s departure will increase optimism at Mercedes that they will be able to tempt Verstappen away.

Mercedes are pursuing the 26-year-old and hope to secure his signature for the 2025 or, more likely, 2026 season.

The Horner controversy may yet have further ramifications within Red Bull. Insiders say other senior figures in the team are also considering leaving as a consequence.