Scuderia Ferrari made three different attempts in order to secure the services of design guru Adrian Newey over the years, the last of which involved a massive amount of money revealed the Red Bull tech boss, as Formula 1’s most acclaimed designer, who penned winning cars for Williams, McLaren and Red Bull, has always been hot property.
But one team which never succeeded in poaching the renowned engineer is Ferrari. It hasn’t been for a lack of trying however. Speaking recently about his life and times in motor racing with Sky Sports F1’s Natalie Pinkham following the publication of his book ‘How to build a car’, Newey revealed a few details about how his dealings with the Scuderia came about: “It’s come close three times.” – Adrian Newey remembers.
“Initially in my IndyCar career where Ferrari decided to build an IndyCar, I was offered to join as chief designer on their project but didn’t feel it was right so I turned that one down. Then, much more seriously, Jean Todt offered for me to join as technical director in 1996. At that point, I had offers to stay at Williams, join McLaren or join Ferrari. I thought long and hard about it but I had a young family at the time, and decided I wanted to stay in the UK.” – he explains.
Ferrari ‘s most recent offer however, which was tabled back in 2014, at a time when Red Bull was struggling for performance with down-on-power engine partner Renault, led to many sleepless night for Newey: “It became evident that the Renault was a long way behind the Mercedes in particular and to some extent the Ferrari – with no obvious end in sight,” Newey remembered – “Renault didn’t seem to be willing to put the funding in to really sort the problem out, which was the depressing and worrying bit. I was in a bit of a difficult position. I didn’t want to walk out of Red Bull because it feels like home and I’d been heavily involved from the start with Christian [Horner, team principal], building the team up from the ashes of Jaguar to where it was today. I didn’t want to walk out on that but equally I didn’t want to be in a position where we were operating with one hand tied behind our back in the engine department. It was a very difficult decision. Ferrari came up with an incredible offer, very attractive, and it caused me a lot of sleepless nights deciding what to do and who to go for. In the end, it would have felt wrong to walk out on Red Bull.”
In his book, Adrian Newey also recounts the time he visited Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo at his farmhouse in Tuscany, and the mind-blowing offer he received.
“We held serious talks and their offer was amazing. Luca wanted to give me the whole Ferrari operation, road and race car. The promise was of an almost film-star lifestyle and the most ridiculously large financial offer, well over double the already generous salary I was receiving at Red Bull. I had a very difficult decision to make, and it was one that cost me many nights’ sleep as I went over and over the various factors; family, cultural, work differences, the chances of success or failure, the repercussions of either… But in the end I thanked Luca and turned him down.”