Podcast F1 Unlocked
FULL TRANSCRIPT: Read every word from F1 design guru Adrian Newey’s Beyond The Grid interview
Adrian Newey has earned legendary status across his illustrious F1 career, designing championship-winning cars for Williams, McLaren and most recently Red Bull, who are set to do the title double for the second successive season in 2023.
Newey is this week’s guest on our Beyond The Grid podcast, presented by Paramount+, and you can read every word from his interview with host Tom Clarkson in the transcript below, listen to the episode in the audio player, or head here to catch it on your preferred platform.
Tom Clarkson: Adrian, thank you very much for your time. It's great to have you on the pod. You've worked in Formula 1 for more than 40 years. You've enjoyed a huge amount of success in that time. But have you ever experienced anything like 2023 before?
Adrian Newey: No, this has been our biggest running success that I've certainly ever experienced. We've been fortunate enough to be involved with cars that have been dominant in the past, but we've never had this level of consistency. People might think now that everything is guaranteed and it'll be smooth and blah, blah, blah. The reality is so many things can go wrong in a race. It's always actually getting two cars to the finish. One of them, or preferably both of them, near the front. Week after week, it's a difficult challenge because of all the elements that can go wrong; reliability, accidents, strategy, performance, so to achieve this is a real tribute to everybody.
TC: And it begs the question, what motivates you, Adrian? Is it a fear of failure? Is it the lure of success or is it neither of those things? Is Formula 1 just a scientific exercise for you?
AN: Well, I've kind of come to terms with the fact that my make up is very competitive now. I always thought I wasn't competitive and then Frank Williams said to me, ‘Adrian, you’re the most competitive person in the pitlane.’ I was actually slightly taken aback and fear of failure is certainly part of it, but it's not the whole thing. When we manage to guess ourselves, as a team, in a position where we can win races and hopefully Championships, then you want to capitalise and maximise that because getting to that position is not easy. Having said that, the ironic thing is that, from a chassis point of view anyway, when we're winning, it doesn't actually feel as if we’re doing anything different. It's just everything gels, including the vital three elements, which are the driver, the chassis and the engine, and if one of those three is not at, or near, the top of its game, you might win the odd race here and there, but you certainly won't win Championships.
TC: Where does this competitive streak in you come from? Is it sibling rivalry back when you were kids or is it something else?
AN: It's not sibling rivalry. My brother's seven years older than me, so as an age gap it’s too different to be competitive with each other. It's a question I ask myself and the truth is, I'm not exactly sure, but I think part of it was when I was at school, I always thought about things a bit differently. One example that's always stuck in my head is that when I was about 12 or so, we had a lesson in science on friction, and it was actually a video that went through what friction does, how it works, etc. At the end of it, the teacher said, ‘so everybody, is friction a good thing?’ I was the only one who stuck up my hand and said, ‘well, without friction we'd all fall over. I wouldn't be able to stand up because we’d just slide around everywhere,’ and everybody laughed and the teacher laughed at me. I thought, ‘well, that's a bit unfair because I think I actually have a reasonable point,’ and it's a silly little example, but it made me feel as if I needed to prove myself. The feeling of needing to prove yourself is, in truth, probably a close cousin to being competitive.
TC: Do you think you still need to prove yourself after all this success?
AN: Absolutely. I’ve been lucky enough to have a very successful career, but I don't really look back particularly. I'm not a statistic counter. I just enjoy being in it. Ever since I was about 10, or even younger, then my ambition was to be a designer in motor racing. When I got my first job in motor racing, for a little team called Fittipaldi’s, I got to the end of the first month and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I was fresh out of university, joined as junior aerodynamicist, which turned out to be senior aerodynamicist. Teams in those days were so tiny that they had no aerodynamics team. But I got to the end of the first month, I had no idea what I was doing, and I got a salary for it. And I thought, ‘this is amazing. Here I am, in motor racing, a complete numpty, but I'm getting paid. This is fabulous.’ And really I can say pretty much, I mean there’s the odd day I haven't enjoyed of course, but pretty much every day has been a bonus and a treat.
TC: What do you enjoy about the job then?
AN: The mixture and the challenge. It's competitive sport. That of course gives you very quick feedback, every two weeks, typically in a season, or every week now, the way the season’s gone, which can of course be painful if it's going badly, but you know where you are. That immediacy, that feedback, is something that is invigorating.
TC: Your dad was a veterinary surgeon. Were you ever tempted to follow him in medicine and that aspect of science?
AN: No, not really. I loved going on farm visits with him. I’d sit on his knee when I was about six and do the steering wheel while he did the pedals. Then occasionally, when I was kind of a little bit older into my very early teens, if there was an operation at the weekend and the surgery nurses weren't around, then I would help him with the operation.
TC: How good were your stitches?
AN: I definitely wasn't doing any stitching. I was handing my dad the utensils and trying not to faint. But the the bit of my dad's make-up, or interest that did definitely rub off, was that he was a huge car enthusiast, so he had Mini Cooper S's and then Lotus Elans and so forth. He used to enjoy tinkering with them and modifying them and so forth. He had a small workshop in his garden, which had basic metalworking equipment and welding equipment, and so forth. Using that workshop was probably quite key to me. When I was about eight to 10, then I'd buy these 12 scale models. The first one was a 1967 Surtees Honda, and then the second one was the Hill Lotus. Those 12 scale models were great actually, because all the parts are labelled so you got the terminology. In assembling them, you started to understand how the chassis side of the car works. But by the time I was about 11, I started to become bored of building, effectively, other people's designs. So I started sketching my own designs and then used my dad's workshop to make the fold up bits of aluminium and bits of fiberglass and so forth, to create these 12 scale models. The bits I couldn't make, like the tyres and the engine, I just cannibalised off the old models. Those long boring summer holidays, I would sketch away and then make it. Whilst of course I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I think the practice of sketching and then turning that into a 3D object was great practice from a very young age.
TC: So you go to university in Southampton, there were Formula 1 teams using the wind tunnel there. Why a degree in aeronautics and astronautics, and not mechanical engineering?
AN: Simply that I figured that racing cars were closer to aircraft than anything else. That would have been 1977. I'd avidly read every magazine I could find that had anything vaguely technical in it. I visited a few races, particularly Malory Park, which was close to where I went to school, and that was a great little paddock because you'd walk around and I could watch all the F2 cars and five thousands, and so forth. In those days, there wasn't actually a lot of television or coverage of motor races. So actually seeing the cars, hearing them, smelling them, looking at them in great detail, and the paddock was completely open, so nobody minded this spotty little kid poking around. In fact, the opposite happened. A lot of them would actually explain what they were doing. That was that was without doubt key, combined with my attempts to go karting. I said I'd love to go karting so we went along to the local kart tracks and my dad made the very obvious observation that, as far as he could see, a lot of the kids were there, not because they were really passionate about it, but because their dads were. So he said, ‘look, if you want to go karting, you're going to have to buy your own car. I'll double your money.’ For every pound I earned, he would put a pound in. I started washing cars, doing the newspaper rounds, picking plums from the orchard and selling them outside the veterinary practice. Even doubles, I didn’t earn very much. Anyway, the bottom line is I bought this very tired old kart, with a Villiers engine in it, and tried racing it. A combination of it and me was absolutely hopeless. It wasn't actually the driving that really interested me. It was how to make the kart go faster. I then took myself on a welding course at BOC, British Oxygen Company, in North Birmingham, which was an hour’s bus ride from Stratford where I grew up. I was about 15 when I did it so I got a bit of peer pressure from all the other guys who were on the course because I actually turned out to be reasonably good at welding and brazing, so I became the lecturer’s pet, which I got a bit of flak for. It was actually a good lesson because it made me start to learn how to fit in. I developed my Brummie accent, which was quite easy, but I think the combination of going to Mallory Park, Oulton Park, the karting, it all just helped to develop me and to understand that I needed to get to university, which suffered a bit of a setback when I got chucked out of school at 16. I went to this very Dickensian public school which, I'll be honest, I absolutely hated from every single day there.
TC: What aspects of it did you hate? Was it being away from home?
AN: A little bit away from home. Perhaps I was a bit homesick for sure. But I think the key thing for me was that I wasn't terribly sporty. I was pretty average and looking back, I didn't particularly recognize it at the time, but I did look at things a bit differently. That didn’t make me very popular so I had one or two friends, but not many. I got bullied a bit, the usual thing. I just couldn’t engage in my hobbies particularly. Although, actually, the workshop manager was very good and he used to take my kart up there and work on it during the term time. There was a load of paths around the chapel and I thought, ‘okay, let’s run it around, make sure it works.’ It made a hell of a racket so pretty soon the whole school turned up to watch me going round in this thing, which then got shut down. Unfortunately, the workshop manager got quite a telling off from the headmaster for it. So yeah, I just didn't fit in.
TC: Can I ask how were your O-Levels?
AN: I was pretty good academically. The funny thing is that I was actually better at the arts than sciences, if anything. So the careers advisor at school said I should take art, which I was pretty good at. Sorry, it doesn’t sound very modest does it?
TC: I have read people referring to you as the Michelangelo of Formula 1…
AN: Recommendations were English and History, but I had no interest in doing Art, English and History. I was completely single-minded at that point of wanting to work in motor racing and design. I was very lucky, to be perfectly honest, because for most people it takes them a long time to find their vocation. But for whatever reason, I think with me it just clicked from that very young age.
TC: Now, can we talk about the drawing board? Famously, you still use a drawing board when CAD (Computer-Aided Design) is ubiquitous in Formula 1. What are the advantages of the board?
AN: Well, I'm a dinosaur and it suits me… For me, CAD or a drawing board is a way of getting ideas in your head down into a medium that can be developed from. Nowadays, of course, if it’s aerodynamic, I'll look at the computational fluid dynamics, which is aerodynamics on a computer, which is an amazing tool that really didn't reach maturity in Formula 1 until the late 90s. I’ll look at the CFD and I'll sketch from that some ideas and then draw something. Now I use a drawing board because to me it's the language that I'm most comfortable and most fluent in. If I try to use CAD, I feel I would never be as fluent and I will spend too much time thinking about how to operate it and not just drawing naturally, if you like. The drawing bit has to be subconscious, or for me it does. CAD came in properly somewhere around the early to mid-90s in Formula 1. Those early CAD systems were quite mechanical. People used to have to concentrate a lot to get it into the system. Of course, now, the systems are developed and the guys who are fluent in it can draw subconsciously in the way I can. The drawing is not the part that is loading them. I'm never going to achieve that and, to me, it doesn’t matter. I seem to have a quite of a good ability to visualize something in 3D and then put it down onto paper in 2D, whereas the CAD system does free you of that. You don't have to go through the 2D to do that. You can start straight in 3D.
TC: Now, the tools at your disposal have changed hugely over the years, but what about your thought process when you're designing a new car? Is that the same as when you started?
AN: Yes, it is. I think the inputs are more thorough and better understood than when I started. If I think back to when I started designing IndyCars in ’84, your knowledge on which to base a new design was not as well informed as today because the teams were much smaller and we didn't have the tools that we have today. People often ask, ‘what's the biggest revolution that I've seen in motor racing through the years?’ And it has to be computing power in the simulation and tools that run off the back of that, because it's that that allows a much more thorough understanding of the car.
TC: But where does the process start?
AN: The big rule change that we had at the start of last year, which I think you can easily argue is the biggest single rule change we’ve had since Venturi cars got abandoned at the end of 1982. So, sitting down with the rulebook and then trying to understand what architecture, in terms of where do you put the front wheels, where do you put the rear wheels, relative to the fixed bits of the chassis, engine, and gearbox. The underlying architecture you have to decide. Then from that, the front and rear suspension, because they’re kind of key bits that you want to try and get right if you possibly can. If you get the bodywork wrong, within reason, you can change it during a season. But if you get the underlying architecture wrong, at the very least you’re stuck with it for one season.
TC: What is it that you got so right about these regulations that's given you the advantage that you have got?
AN: I can't tell you that can I??
TC: …or what is the greatest strength of RB19?
AN: 19 is clearly a very close evolution of 18. 18 actually was conceived probably in a much shorter time than most, if not all, our rivals, because in ‘21 we were in the big Championship battle with Mercedes and, possibly wrongly, because we were for the first time in many years with a shout for the championship, we decided to put quite a lot of effort into developing that car throughout the year, whereas Ferrari, for instance, took the opposite approach. They weren’t in the Championship battle in ‘21, so they stopped developing the ‘21 car very early on and just concentrated on the design of the ‘22 car. Mercedes are somewhere in between that. We kept developing for longer than either of those teams, so theoretically that puts us at a disadvantage. I think what we did manage to do is get the architecture right. When RB18 first came out in Bahrain last year, the Ferrari was certainly as quick, if not quicker in the early season, but we managed to get the fundamentals right and that gave us a good development platform.
TC: And did you know within ten laps of testing in Bahrain that it was borne well?
AN: Yes, we did. We had an amount of bouncing, not as bad as the other teams, but we still had some bouncing, which we needed to get on top of. We had a reasonable understanding of what we needed to do to that. So come the first upgrade we had for the Bahrain race, then bouncing was much less of an issue than it was for other teams. It meant that we didn't have to put a lot of our development energy into fixing bouncing, such as Ferrari and Mercedes did.
TC: Now, Adrian, is there a trademark ‘Neweyism’ on your cars? Is there something that you've carried all the way through?
AN: Philisophically, I think it’s trying to get the car to work over a broad envelope and that's something that all the Leyton Houses didn’t achieve, in as much as those cars worked extremely well at some circuits. Indeed in ’88, I think at Estoril, and Ivan Capelli finished ahead of Ayrton driving a dominant McLaren and was actually closing in on Prost in his McLaren. Ivan went on to lead a race, albeit only for one lap, in the wet at Suzuka at the end of the year. So that car worked very well at some circuits, but not all.
TC: There’s a famous story, Adrian, of Prost coming in at Estoril, having followed Capelli through the 180 degree last corner, and he got out of his car and told everyone at McLaren ‘that’s a good car aerodynamically.’ Did that story ever feedback to you?
AN: Well, funnily enough, I do remember Ivan coming round the lap before, with Prost just behind him, and then Ivan coming round the following lap and past us on the main straight, with Prost trawling along in around third gear and then accelerating again. I thought ‘what on earth is he doing?’ It turns out that the entry speed Ivan carried into that long corner, Prost was convinced he was going to crash and he didn't want to get tangled up in the accident, so he backed right off.
TC: Wow, great story. Do you get inspiration from other sectors?
AN: I do, actually. I try to always look around. So, for instance, a silly example of that would be, I remember going to the Caribbean on holiday. Part of that holiday, I think we flew into one island and then took a little propeller aircraft from one island to another. Looking at the aircraft before we took off, I noticed the way they shaped the air intake for the engine. Behind the propeller, it was swan-necked and waisted, and separate to the main body of the engine. We’d been struggling in ’96 with Damon, where the air box pressure, and hence the engine power, was incredibly sensitive to the headrest shape and his seating position. That just gave me the idea of actually what we need to do is raise the air intake part of the roll hoop up, to be completely separate to the headrest, and then waist in the headrest, which is the standard solution nowadays. But that came from looking around and there are other little examples.
TC: So you never switch off, not even when you're on holiday in the Caribbean? That's what we've learned from that.
AN: I must admit, I prefer to have a two-week holiday because I find it takes me a week to wind down.
TC: Now in terms of rules optimisation, which of your cars has given you the most satisfaction?
AN: The ‘98 McLaren because that was the year where we went to the narrower track and the grooved tyres. It was my first McLaren. I started on the 1st of August, so it was an incredibly compressed design cycle. A lot of my more successful cars I’ve been involved in have actually started quite late. I think we got the fundamentals right. Because the track had gone so much narrower from 2 meters to 1.8, then there was a lot of theories floating around about wheelbase to track ratio. I just couldn't see why that would be an important ratio. What we really needed was to try to maintain entry stability, which is when you first turn into the corner and you're still on the brakes. That's when the car's unloaded at the rear and can easily become unstable. That's dominated by how much weight the outside front and inside rear carry in that condition. So if we’d narrowed the track, the only way to maintain a similar distribution is to go longer in the wheelbase. That's exactly what we did. That was a unique feature of that ‘98 car. Unfortunately, Ross Brawn at Ferrari, spotted it and they started to move their front axle forwards. But we were first on that one and it wasn't the only feature. We managed to get the car very light, very low centre of gravity, to try and minimise the weight transfer onto these very fragile tyres.
TC: And was Mika Hakkinen very effective at driving that kind of car?
AN: The great strength of Mika was, first of all, his self-confidence and self-belief, and he just didn't seem to be affected by pressure. I digress to a very key example of that briefly. ‘98 was a very high-pressure year and the same with ‘99 actually, where both years, the Drivers’ Championship went down to the last race. I do remember in Suzuka, you had these little offices above the pits and on Saturday evening before the race, Ron Dennis, myself, Mika, the other key race engineers sat in that office upstairs, coming up with strategy. It became very complicated: ‘if Irvine pits here, then we do that, if Schumacher does that, we do this, and blah blah blah.’ After about half an hour of that, if not more, Mika was just sitting quietly in the corner saying nothing. He just got up and left and the following morning he got in the car, disappeared into the distance, and won the race. That was Mika’s way of doing things. He kept things simple. He didn't appear to feel the pressure. When I first arrived at McLaren, particularly within the engineering team, there was actually quite a low regard for Mika because he had his own way of communicating in describing what the car was doing. People weren't really taking the time to listen to that and understand what he was saying. I think, from my race engineering background, particularly from the IndyCar days, I seemed to be able to break through that and get it out of him. Once you understood his language, he used very few words. He would just describe very succinctly what he needed to make the car go faster and then he would go away and go back to the hotel room or whatever. He didn’t want these long, painful debriefs.
TC: With your race engineer head on, how much info do you want from the driver, given the amount of data you have now?
AN: The driver is absolutely key. Data on its own doesn't even begin to tell you the whole story, not least because the data obviously tells you what the car's doing, but a good driver will adapt his driving to whatever the limitation of the car is. It might be that the data, for instance, is the car's understeering, and it is understeering, but the reason it’s understeering is because the driver feels it's unstable and so he changes his line and driving style to cover that instability. Then the result is understeer. Getting that out of the driver and trying to understand what is really holding him back, and what he needs to make the car go faster, is still very much a human element.
TC: Was Mika good at describing that or was he so natural that he would be driving around a problem without realising he was driving around it?
AN: With the ‘98 car when we first started running, he just kept coming in and saying ‘it's understeering, it’s understeering,’ and so you’d do the things you normally do for understeering. You’d increase the front wing angle, soften the front roll bar, whatever it might be. He’d go out and say the understeer is even worse. That was part of the learning process for both of us. It was actually not understeering, it must have been unstable, so we went in the opposite direction and suddenly the understeer was much better because he was such a natural driver. He didn't even realise he was doing it himself. I think that was also a big lesson for him that he learned from to become more cognitive of what he was doing in the car.
TC: Now look, while we're talking drivers, seven different guys have won World Championships in your cars. Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve, Mika Hakkinen, Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen. Which two would make the most formidable teammates?
AN: They’re all so different. In the process of doing that, I’m favouritising and singling out. I don’t think that’s fair. Any World Champion is clearly a great driver. All those guys, they're very different in their character and their makeup. Some of them have a very high level of self-belief and that has been one of their keys, but not all of them. The first thing a teammate wants to do is, particularly if he's young or ambitious, is show that he's the best and he probably comes in thinking he's the best, and that can then destroy a driver's self-confidence or whatever. Indeed, I think Max, with his incredible ability, has, not by any deliberate action, but I think Alex struggled to come to terms with just how quick Max was, as did Pierre Gasly, another example. If you're going to have two teammates, where one is exceptional and the other is brilliant, but not quite at that level, the other one needs to be somebody who will at some point accept that he certainly can't beat Max on pace. You're going to have to do it in some other way, which of course has been done. If you look at Niki and Alain against each other, then Alain was always the quickest driver, but Niki managed to win a championship. You could probably argue the same for Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
TC: So for team harmony, can you have two number one drivers in a team or do you need a number one and a number two? Can we recreate a Senna/Prost situation?
AN: It's a difficult one to manage for sure. There are some drivers who will be happy battling each other on the track, but not bringing it into the garage. There are other drivers who will perhaps turn it into a bit of a political game as well. That's the difficult one. Politics is such a destructive force because it just saps everybody's energy.
TC: Do you think age is important?
AN: Possibly. I mean, Fernando is one of the most formidable competitors ever and famous for not getting on that well with his teammates. If it’s Lewis vs. Fernando again, would Fernando, with all that experience he now has, be different to the Fernando vs. Lewis back in 2007? That’s an interesting one.
TC: What do you think?
AN: I think Fernando would be different now.
TC: I think he's mellowed, certainly in my dealings with him.
AN: Yeah, I think that's exactly right.
TC: Now, as an aside, you didn't work with Ayrton Senna for long, but did you see enough of Ayrton to understand what made him different?
AN: It was obviously a very short relationship unfortunately. I'm not as bad as I used to be on this but part of my competitive makeup is that, when you have someone like Ayrton who you’re up against and battling year after year, you don’t demonise him, but he's the enemy. Of course, I met him occasionally, but never really talked to him, until he first visited the factory at the end of what must have been ‘93. I was introduced to him and then straightaway he was asking ‘can I see the wind tunnel models?’ So we walked round to the wind tunnel and straightaway he's down on his knees, looking underneath the car, he wanted us to explain what we'd done differently, what was different about this car to the previous car, why were doing this etc. He was phenomenally inquisitive. You could argue that he didn't need to know that, but for him, he just wanted every bit of information he could possibly have because that might be useful to him at some point in the future. I think probably, more than any other driver I've been involved with, that’s what I found unique about him.
TC: And those pole laps, was he doing something different?
AN: One of my huge regrets, regardless of what the cause of the accident was at Imola, the one thing you could definitely say about the cars was that it was aerodynamically unstable. We'd had two years with active suspension. It's my fault. I completely messed up the aerodynamics of going back to passive suspension, and the much bigger ride height range that has to cope with. It was a very, very difficult car to drive, and the bumpier the circuit, the worse that became. Of course, Imola’s quite a bumpy circuit. So what he did with that car was quite extraordinary and he could do that in qualifying. In Brazil, he managed to carry it but spun at the last corner near the end of the race, extracting that performance from it. Damon didn't try to extract that level of performance from it and so he finished the race. But he knew it was unstable and Ayrton’s self-confidence and self-belief in his car control, he would always try it. His car control and his concentration was quite extraordinary.
TC: Can we talk a little bit more about Damon? When Patrick Head came on the podcast, he said that the way Damon led Williams after Imola ‘94 was more impressive than his title win in ‘96.
AN: Yeah, we were a shattered team to be honest. We’d had a bad first four races anyway, the cars were very difficult to drive and not terribly reliable, so as reigning World Champions, we were not where we thought we were going to be. Then, obviously the events of Imola were a shock for all of us. It sounds stupid to say, but I'd never ever thought what happens if somebody is badly hurt or dies in a car that I've been responsible for. What happened that weekend makes you question everything really. There was the whole postmortem of trying to understand what happened, what caused the accident, there was the manslaughter charges hanging over us, so it was a very difficult period. I think Patrick was also asking himself the same questions. Interestingly, of course, Damon was in the exact same position as his dad had been in when Jim Clark passed. But it was much more extreme for Damon because he was still only in his second proper season in Formula 1 and was now the team leader. I think his inner strength and mettle to then carry things forwards from there was quite extraordinary. He had to carry the team forward and the fact that he did that and took it down to the wire in ‘94, I think was a phenomenal performance.
TC: Did 1994 make you question your involvement in Formula 1? Did you ever want to stop?
AN: I thought about it. There’d be something wrong with you if you didn't question yourself and what you're doing. First of all, it would have been quite selfish because if Patrick or I, or both of us, had decided we were stopping, we would have left the team in complete disarray. Like all mistakes, regardless of what caused the accident, you have to learn from the possibilities of what might have caused the accident and make sure you react to that and take appropriate measures to stop that ever happening again.
TC: I'm interested about gut feel. Do you ever go with your gut or is it purely an academic thing for you?.
AN: I think there has to be a degree of gut. Even with all the tools we have now, there still has to be a degree of gut. The reality is that, even before the cost cap, we were still resource and people-limited. We have never had the capacity to be able to research endless different paths in great detail. If you take a recent example, obviously with last year's car, we took an academic direction with the sidepod and design and the concept of the car, which was almost polar opposite to what Mercedes did. Mercedes showed flashes of competitiveness last year, they obviously won in Brazil. Then you're faced with a choice of ‘well, do we start to research Mercedes in case we’ve missed something, or do we do we stick with what we're doing? And gut feels ‘let’s stick with what we're doing.’
TC: So there's just two more topics I wanted to run past you. One of them is Ferrari. I was actually chatting to Gerhard Berger earlier in the week and I said, ‘Gerhard, how hard did you try to get Adrian in 1993?’ He said, ‘we tried hard, we tried very hard.’ Ultimately, why did that never happen? How many times did they come asking?
AN: Well there was the IndyCar days, which probably doesn't count. Then there was ’93, and famously in 2014. The ‘93 one was very tempting. I went down and Jean Todt had just started. I remember him talking about should he hire Michael or not. The main reason I didn’t join them was that, my first marriage failed for various reasons, but probably predominantly because I went off to IndyCar. I was living in the States during the season. My relatively newlywed wife came out with me to start with. She really didn't like living in America and went back, and that put a strain on our marriage that we never really recovered from, to be perfectly honest. So ’93, one year into my second marriage, I didn't want to make that same mistake again.
TC: Were Ferrari prepared to do a deal and have you design from the UK?
AN: I never asked the question. I don't believe in it so I never asked. I think if you're going to do it, Ferrari is an Italian team, and 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 that does that, but I don't believe in the concept.
TC: Do you regret not having Ferrari on your CV at some point?
AN: Emotionally, I guess to a point, yes. But just as, for instance, working with Fernando or Lewis would have been fabulous, but it never happened. It's just circumstance, sometimes that's the way it is. My discussions with Ferrari for 2014 were purely out of frustration. I’d joined Red Bull, with Christian being centrally involved more or less from the start and developing it. For me, it was a huge career gamble going from McLaren, this Championship-winning team, to this start-up, kind of ‘joke of the pit lane’ team, which it was at the time, but with the ambition obviously of hoping to win a race and maybe even a Championship. Then we’d just won four on the trot, which was above our wildest dreams. I was centrally involved and felt almost paternal with the team, in terms of how it developed and the ideas and the effort that we put into it. I really didn't want to leave, but we were in this position where Renault hadn't produced a competitive engine in the turbo hybrid era, which happens in the first year when there’s new rules. We all make mistakes. But we went to see Carlos Ghosn, then the boss of Renault, to put pressure on him to up the budget and basically ask if he could free up more resources so the engine division could accelerate their programme. They were understandably saying they were resource-limited and they needed more people and more money. 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. We knew Mercedes wouldn't give us an engine. Ferrari had a great engine, but we'd used Ferrari initially and I'd taken us away from Ferrari in the first year to Renault. I believed, rightly or wrongly, that if you're in a Championship battle, Ferrari would never give us equal equipment. We were stuck with Renault for a huge amount of time. Being in a position where it looked like we couldn’t be properly competitive at any visible point in the future was just a very dark tunnel to be in.
TC: Do you think in 2014, if you’d had a Mercedes power unit, you could have run the works team pretty close?
AN: Yes, I think we probably could have done. All credit to Mercedes on the chassis side. They obviously had a great run. There were some years where arguably we had the better chassis. There were other years where they definitely had the better chassis, but we would have certainly given them a pretty good run for their money I think.
TC: Well, Adrian, it's been a brilliant chat. I've really enjoyed it. What does the future hold for Adrian Newey? Are you the kind of guy who's going to retire? I find it hard to believe.
AN: It's difficult to answer. My father always wanted to retire in his early 60’s, which he did. But retirement didn't suit him very well, to be honest. When I was 50, I thought I’ll retire soon, but here I am at 64.
TC: Because you love it?
AN: I do love it. Of course, things change and the way you do your job changes. I do now enjoy more and more working with the team and all the engineers. Seeing them develop is very rewarding so that’s an aspect which I particularly enjoy. I do also involve myself in other things now. We're doing this track car project and I try to take a bit more holiday time. Things do slowly change, but whether it's Formula 1 or something else, I need something to keep my brain active.
TC: Adrian, thank you very much for your time. Good luck in the future!
AN: Thank you very much.