Christian Horner has revealed details about his battle to keep Adrian Newey at Red Bull after the legendary Formula 1 designer came within “half an hour” of switching to Ferrari.
Off the back of four consecutive double world title wins with Sebastian Vettel between 2010 and 2013, Red Bull slipped from their seating atop the pecking order amid F1’s switch to V6 turbo power units in 2014.
The regulation shakeup heralded the beginning of Mercedes’ reign of dominance and paved the way for Vettel’s departure from Milton Keynes to Maranello.
Storied F1 designer Newey then also looked set to follow the German had it not been for a meeting with Horner in an English pub.
“We went from winning ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13, four on the bounce, and then a massive regulation change to the engine and our engine supplier completely missed the target,” Horner told the Eff Won podcast last week.
“And at that point, Vettel leaves because of the engine, Adrian came very close to leaving, he was within about half an hour of signing [for Ferrari].”
Newey is undoubtedly the sport’s most decorated designer, having played a role in 12 Constructors’ championship-winning cars.
Having helped the likes of Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve all to Drivers’ titles with Williams, Newey went on to do the same with Mika Hakkinen at McLaren before being pried away from Woking to new-start Red Bull in 2006.
After transforming Red Bull into a title-winning force in under a decade, Horner was acutely aware of the risks that came with losing Newey from his arsenal.
“Ferrari came hard for him,” the Red Bull Team Principal continued. “They promised him the world. You can have a Hollywood lifestyle, fly into the factory from Monaco every day and you won’t pay any tax and you can design a road car and this, that and the other.
“I managed to persuade him to stay by saying: ‘We’ll do a road car. If you want to do a road car, we’ll do a road car.’
“He said, ‘Well, how?’ – and I said I have no idea, but we’ll find a way. We’ll make it. We’ll make it happen.”
What came from the conversation between the two Red Bull stalwarts was the starting point for Newey’s Valkyrie project produced with then-technology partner Aston Martin.
“I went to [then-Aston Martin CEO] Andy Palmer and said: ‘Look, we’ve got arguably the best designer of all time, you’ve got two great brands. We’re not going to finance the car but it makes sense to bring these two things together,'” he added.
“And that’s literally in a pub in England, that’s how it happened.”
While Red Bull’s relationship with Aston Martin came to an end in 2020 ahead of Lawrence Stroll’s rebranding of Racing Point the following year, the 1,160hp, 6.5 Litre V12 Valkyrie began production in November 2021.