Sad to see Newey's genius curbed
Red Bull win the tussle to keep their master designer from the hands of rivals, but it may be at a cost to creative freedom
Formula One is back at the Red Bull Ring this weekend. You may remember it better as the A1-Ring, but it would appear that the drinks company has the money to buy whatever it wants, especially in the home country of owner Dietrich Mateschitz.
To be fair to him, without Mateschitz's investment the circuit would have drifted into disrepair, and Austrians would have waited a lot longer than 11 years for F1 to return to their country.
So in many ways this is a home grand prix for Red Bull Racing. For fans of the team, they will be relieved to see ace designer Adrian Newey prowling around the pit garage. Only the deep pockets of Mateschitz have stopped Newey from leaving the team, but it's not clear that the Austrian has got all he wants for the outlay.
For many weeks the whisper around the paddock was that Newey was off to Ferrari. Certainly the Italians would have loved to have him to revive their flagging outfit. Despite subsequent denials, they chased him to join the outfit at Maranello. You can see why. Ferrari are a long way from their glory days of 10 years ago. Each year starts with fresh hope and promise, only to be dashed by the time the chequered flag falls in Australia. It's a long hard season to be an also-ran; even more so when you have the pedigree of Ferrari.
Newey, of course, took Red Bull and gave them wings (well, designed some anyway). If truth be told, he may be more important than Sebastian Vettel in securing four world championships on the bounce.
Ferrari may have come very, very close to getting their man. And yet on the morning of the Canadian Grand Prix, news started to filter through that Newey was staying at Red Bull.
It soon became clear what it had cost Red Bull to keep their man - and not in monetary terms. Newey was to step away from the day-to-day involvement in the F1 team and concentrate on other, as yet unspecified, projects. Although team boss Christian Horner stressed he'd still be mentoring the team, when Newey was interviewed on the grid he seemed very valedictory in tone.
In some ways Red Bull had won the tussle, by keeping Newey's genius out of the hands of others. How Ferrari would have loved to see the Brit making notes for them on rival cars. And yet, at no outlay to themselves, the threat Newey posed had been nullified.
In the end, it's the fans who will suffer most from not seeing the full force of Newey's genius at work. After all, most of us follow F1 because it is the summit of motorsport.
The new deal may well suit the man himself. Newey doesn't like the new regulations in force that seem to focus on engines rather than aerodynamics. He feels that the rules don't allow him creative freedom and that has dampened his enthusiasm.
Certainly, the engine is king this season, and getting it right as Mercedes have done gives you a big advantage. It could be argued that engine technology should enjoy primacy over aerodynamics. It's true the engines this year have stretched the teams, which is not a bad thing. Neither is the prospect of the green elements of the engine finding their way to road cars.
Just as important in Newey's decision to take on a new role is he is at an age where time is running out for challenges. "I'm 55 and not ready for the beach just yet," he has said. "I'll do this for a little bit and see what happens after that."
Don't rule out a return to the fray full time in F1, but only when rules allow a master designer like him to make a bigger contribution. Although that might be good for fans of Adrian Newey, it might not be so good for fans of a more evenly-matched grid.