Daniel Ricciardo’s crucial and dramatic victory for Red Bull in Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix came during the weekend the Milton Keynes-based team ended weeks of speculation over the future of design guru Adrian Newey by announcing a multi-year extension to his contract. To keep him, it is understood the company agreed to also let him work on new-technology projects involving road cars, boats and aeroplanes.
Newey, an introspective 55-year-old from Stratford-upon-Avon, is the one technical figure as valuable financially to the team as the best driver, perhaps more so.
He is also the only designer in Formula One history who can stand comparison with the late, great Colin Chapman of Team Lotus. But where Chapman was able to innovate or better exploit the ideas others had used elsewhere, Newey’s forte has been aerodynamic integration in an era of regulations so restrictive that innovation is all but impossible.
Therein lies the problem for those who employ him: every so often he gets tired of the shackles imposed on his fertile imagination and begins to yearn to do something else. In the days when his genius helped Williams and McLaren to championship successes Newey hankered after the freedom of an America’s Cup challenge.
Recently, Ferrari’s new team principal Marco Mattiacci offered to build him a new technical base in Britain if he joined them. So, in order to keep Newey, it is believed that Red Bull will create a design facility of their own for him.
It is where he will work on new-technology projects, while still advising and mentoring Infiniti Red Bull Racing as they develop their Formula One cars which, as Ricciardo so ably demonstrated on Sunday, keep on winning.