F1 Winter Break
Red Bull design chief Newey opens up on Senna and Vettel
Red Bull Racing
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Oct 2013   |  8:14 am GMT  |  141 comments

Red Bull’s Adrian Newey is the most successful design engineer in the history of Formula 1, winning over 100 races and 17 drivers’ and constructors’ championships. But he was kicked out of school and has no A level qualifications.

The story of how he turned his life around from wild teenager to the benchmark designer in the world’s most technically advanced sport is compelling. His career forms the spine of modern F1, along with his nemesis Ross Brawn and it features triumph and tragedy.

He has worked with many of the greats and is able to give context to Sebastian Vettel’s recent success. He also admits that he is still “haunted” by the death of Ayrton Senna in one of his cars in 1994.

James Allen spoke to him for an exclusive feature which aired on BBC Radio 5 live on Thursday 3 October. Here’s what the 54-year-old had to say about being kicked out of school, getting into Formula 1 and working with the likes of Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell and Vettel.

You can listen to the whole thing here Adrian Newey Special

In Formula 1, how much is success down to the car and how much is down to the driver?

“It’s very difficult to put percentages on it. For me, what is fascinating about motor racing, particularly Formula 1, is that it is the ultimate blend of sportsman – the driver – and machine – the car. If you look elsewhere around the world, with the possible exception of the America’s Cup, there really isn’t a parallel outside the motor racing umbrella where you’ve got that complete interdependency of sportsman and machine.”

There’s a look in the eyes of competitive drivers, a rage to compete, and you have that look in your eyes too. How competitive are you?

“Frank [Williams] always used to say I was more competitive than his drivers, which I used to get upset about. Initially, I thought ‘that’s a bit unfair’, but I guess I’ve come to terms with that fact. I can’t help but take it personally, which is very satisfying when it’s going well and can be quite depressing when it’s not going so well.”

Were you always like that as a child? Did you always have to win at everything?

“No not at all. I was very average at sports at school. I guess I wanted to do well at university, mainly because I wanted to try and get into motor racing. My goal from an age of 8 or 10, which may sound a bit dull, was to be a designer in motor racing, so as I got into my late teens and early 20s, I worked hard to try and achieve that goal. Then as I became responsible for the design or performance of cars, initially with March and later with Leyton House, Williams, McLaren and now Red Bull, that competitive instinct as person who was responsible just grew and grew.”

You and Jeremy Clarkson went to the same school at the same time and you were asked to leave. Tell us what happened.

“I was asked to leave, just after O Levels – or GCSEs as they’re no called. It was a very Dickensian public boys school and I must admit I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I enjoyed art, I enjoyed doodling racing cars and that was my main hobby, but I just found school very restrictive. There was an end of term pop concert. There was no alcohol allowed, of course, in the auditorium, which was an 11th century building which was very historic with a stain glass window which the school was very proud of.

“The concert got under way and we’d smuggled in bottles of Coke with Bacardi and Tonic with gin. Towards the end of the concert, the DJ went off briefly, so yours truly jumped on the controls and slid all the sliders to the max just at the time the headmaster came in to see what was going in. I was caught behind the sliders and reprimanded. Then they found out in the morning that there were fairly large parts of the stain glass window which had fallen out. I got the rap for that and was asked to leave.”

You’re regarded as a pioneer in Formula 1, but many people might not know that you don’t have any A Levels…

“After that demise, I went to a local technical college in Leamington Spa. The obvious thing to get into university to study engineering was to study maths, physics and chemistry in those days but I had no real interest in chemistry, so I did what was known as an OND – Ordinary National Diploma – in technology.

“It was a very good little course which had a high practical content which appealed to me, but the big downside about the course was that the maths content was very weak. The only maths I had was advanced maths at O Level, and it didn’t advance over the next two years. I almost failed the end of the first year. I went a bit crazy. I discovered motorbikes and girls were suddenly on the horizon.”

“I was bit of a wild teenager. I have to admit I did go off the rails when I was 17 and nearly failed that first year, which would have been criminal as it was academically not a particularly difficult course. But it gave me a big shock so in the second year I got my act together and settled down. It was very tough to get into university, as universities found that people who went in on ONDs dropped out because they hadn’t got the maths. I was lucky enough to get place at Southampton to study aeronautics, which was my first choice anyway for the simple reason that Brabham, March and McLaren were all using the wind tunnel at Southampton so I knew the university had quite a good connection with motor racing.

“I chose Aeronautics because I figured racing cars were more similar to aircraft than any other engineering discipline so it was the obvious thing to study. That first year was extremely tough. I remember getting to Christmas and seeing my tutor who was really good to me. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude, as he told me I’d get through it if I stuck at it, and with his encouragement and help on the maths side, I got through it – and then it was much easier after that first year.”

Life is all about opportunities. How did you get your first job in Formula 1?

“Life is partly grit, determination and genetic ability but an awful lot is luck as well. My final year thesis at Southampton was on ground effect aerodynamics, which was relatively new stuff, so as the end of university approached, I wrote round to all teams I could find addresses for to ask if I could have a job and added that my final year project was on ground effect aerodynamics. Most didn’t reply and those that did gave the catch-22 answer that they only take people with experience.

“I was on verge of going to work for Lotus cars, on the road car side when the late Harvey Postlethwaite, who was technical director at Fittipaldi’s team at the time, rang me up and said: ‘Can you come in from an interview?’ I rode off on my motorbike as I didn’t have a car at the time. I was sitting in the reception area when Harvey came out and saw me sitting in my leathers and said: ‘Oh you’ve obviously got a motorbike, what have you got?’ I said: ‘A Ducati 900SS’. He replied: ‘That’s great, I have a Guzzi Le Mans’, which was a big rival to the 900SS, ‘Can I have a go on the Ducati?’ I said: ‘Of course, be my guest.’ So off he went. I could hear him rumbling round the industrial estate. He came back with a big smile on his face and said when can you start? That was the interview and I was in.”

The word genius is often applied to you. What is genius and who do you consider to be a genius?

“What does it mean? I don’t know. I can only talk for myself. My modus operandi is to try and concentrate on the areas I feel I’m reasonably good at – which is on performance of the car. So I spend most of my time trying to do that in a varied way, partly working with all the talented engineers we have back at the factory in Milton Keynes and partly standing with my drawing board trying to come up with fresh ideas, which I can then discuss with them. What I try to avoid is the managerial side. I try to delegate that and some of the stuff that goes with F1 which could be time consuming if you don’t avoid it.”

Where do you get your ideas from?

“Very varied, sometimes it is in the shower! I do find ideas sometimes just pop up. The brain is an amazing thing. The way I try to work is consider various problems around the car, not just one specific problem, in any given week and try and absorb them. If I get stuck, I walk away and do something else and quite often subconsciously, the brain seems to work away and an idea will pop up and you’ll come back to it. There are then times when it’s just about hard graft.”

How highly do you rate Sebastian Vettel?

“I think Sebastian is a remarkable young man. I think it’s completely unfair to try and rank drivers I’ve been lucky enough to work with but Sebastian is outstanding. First of all, he’s only 26. To achieve what he’s done is remarkable. His focus is incredible and he’s very calm and very focused. He’s a bright lad who makes mistakes like all of us – and always learns from them. He very rarely makes the same mistake twice. He gives good, concise feedback. I think Sebastian and Mark, while they have unfortunately had their differences, they have been from an engineering point of view very good team-mates because they both contribute in different ways. Mark is very sensitive on the aerodynamics of the car, Sebastian is very sensitive in other areas like tyres and suspension characteristics, so they have complemented each other.”

There was an awkward moment in Malaysia when Sebastian Vettel disobeyed team orders, overtaking Mark Webber to win the race. What do you do in a situation like that?

“I was involved, very heavily, on the pit wall. I must admit, I didn’t intend to talk to Sebastian as I never normally talk to drivers these days. I couldn’t find the button so I asked Christian to talk. It’s a very tricky one, because in truth it wasn’t just Malaysia. Unfortunately there have been a few incidents stretching back to Turkey in 2010 and in Brazil at the end of last year. Those things kind of fester a bit on both sides. They’re like a married couple. There’s no right or wrong. It’s just one of those things when passions run high and sparks will fly occasionally. They’re both racing drivers and when they’re fired up, they are going to do things which perhaps they wouldn’t do in the cold light of day.”

You’ve won races – and championships – with Williams, McLaren and Red Bull – but there’s onbvious omission – Ferrari. Why have you never gone there?

“I guess it’s a whole combination of reasons. Generally, it’s been timing to be honest. Back in the mid-90s, I had young children at the time and I didn’t completely feel comfortable trying to move my family to Italy when the kids were established at school in the UK. More recently, when I felt in my latter days at McLaren that I was going a bit stale, I felt I needed a new challenge. While the Ferrari job would have been a challenge, it was still an established team, where Ross [Brawn] had been for some time with a considerable amount of success. I didn’t fancy stepping into that one.

“I needed a fresh challenge and that was being involved in new team, more or less from the start, and seeing if we can develop it into something that could win races and then go on to win championships. In many ways, it was trying to finish off unfinished business from the Leyton House days. When I first came into F1 with Leyton House, having been at March already, the team came in very strongly given our size, which was tiny. We had decent results, a few podiums here and there, and we were going in a very positive direction, but unfortunately, we lost our funding. If you lose that, you’re only going one way so I left and joined Williams, which was a great opportunity and the right decision at the time. But it has always wrangled me that we never had the opportunity at Leyton House to prove what we could have been competitive so to have another crack at it with Red Bull has been fantastic.”

What are your memories of your time at Williams?

“They were great times. I arrived at Williams in the middle of 1990 and straight away charged into the design of the following year’s car. Patrick Head was technical director and I had the title of chief designer. Patrick was a great guy, he was very good to me in as much as he really gave me a free hand on the design of the car. He always had great interest in the gearbox itself and we had one or two tiffs about gearbox layouts but apart from that we got on very well. The 1991 car was my first car and straight away it was competitive.

“We got to Montreal and had a very good competitive outing. Nigel was leading by almost a whole lap, which is inconceivable nowadays, and that was when the famous incident happened. Coming up to final hairpin, half a mile to the finish, he started waving to the crowd and forgot to change down for the hairpin. He managed to stall the engine. I was in tears at that one. Finally after three years in business, I thought I could get a win here and it had slipped away. But that’s the frustration of sport. We just lost the title in 1991, but with the active suspension version of car, we had a dominant and extremely pleasurable 1992 season.”

Do you ever have a chance to relax?

“I do try to relax as F1 can be an all-consuming sport and it would be very easy to spend silly hours, seven days a week, at the factory. So I try to make sure I do have some free time to spend with my girlfriend, the kids and go on holiday or whatever. I enjoy doing the odd hobby race, too. I think I’ll only do two this year.”

You’ve done the Le Mans 24 Hours and also had some big smashes in other races…

“I did Le Mans 24 Hours a few years ago and it was an amazing event to do. I did it with three friends on a whim and somehow we got an entry. I think we were the only amateur team that year. Everyone else had at least one professional driver. I went there to enjoy it and we did. We kept it on the track and finished fourth in our class which was a great result. I’m almost reluctant to go back because it was such an amazing result and going back would kind of a disappointment. I do some historic racing which is great fun. Yes, I have had some accidents and I’ve possibly had some unfair press there. It sounds like I’m moaning, but I’m not. If I have good result, no one says anything but if I have an accident, everyone starts saying ‘oh, he’s crashed again’. But hey, I enjoy it.”

Do you think your racing helps understand the drivers better?

“Yes, I believe it does. I think at the base level it helps with what they go through psychologically, the pressures they face and particularly when describing feelings they get from the car and being able to relate to what they’re describing through my lowly amateur level racing.”

You worked with Ayrton Senna for a brief time at Williams. What was he like?

“There was an aura about him, it’s something difficult to describe. He most certainly had a presence. He was very personable, in terms of involving you and making you feel as if you were special. He was very involved at the factory and would want to know what we were doing with the wind tunnel model and I think that motivated people at the factory without a doubt. In the car, his results speak form themselves. I guess one of the things that will always haunt me was the fact that he joined Williams because we had managed to build a decent car for the previous three years and he wanted to be in the team which he thought would build the best car and unfortunately our 1994 car at start of season wasn’t a good car. With Ayrton’s raw talent and determination, he tried to carry that car and make it do things that it wasn’t capable of. It seems such a shame, and so unfair that he was in that position and by time we did get the car sorted out, he wasn’t with us any longer.”

How did you get past that?

“It was extremely difficult, a very dark time for all of us. Damon [Hill] did a fantastic job in only his second proper year in F1. He was straight away elevated to team leader in a difficult situation. For Frank, Patrick and myself, we had two choices – either stop or dig deep and get on with it. With all people that we were responsible for – the workforce – the first was the easy option but it wasn’t the proper option so we chose the second and that’s what we did.

“What happened that day, what caused that accident still haunts me to this day. Nobody will ever know. The steering column failure was it the cause, or did it happen in the accident? There is no doubt it was cracked. Equally, all the data, all the circuit cameras, the on-board camera from Michael Schumacher’s car that was following, none of that appears to be consistent with a steering-column failure. The car oversteered initially and Ayrton caught that and only then did it go straight.

“But the first thing that happened was oversteer, in much the same way as you will sometimes see on a superspeedway in the States – the car will lose the rear, the driver will correct, and then it will go straight and hit the outside wall, which doesn’t appear to be consistent with a steering-column failure.”

You’re the most successful design engineer in the history of Formula 1. Where do you go from here?

“It’s a good question, one I sometimes ask myself. The answer is I still really enjoy it. The pressure can be onerous at times if I’m honest. The hours are long and if you’re not careful it can be all-consuming but you get a tremendous buzz when it goes well. And that’s quite addictive. I’m 54 so I’m too young to do nothing, but equally at some stage I’d like to be involved in something different rather than only motor racing. When that might be and what that might be, I have no idea.

Can Sebastian Vettel match or eclipse Michael Schumacher’s records?

“It would be fantastic if Sebastian could go on to eclipse Michael’s record, but that doesn’t necessarily define greatness. When we talk about all-time greats, the names of Senna, Clark, Stewart, Fittipaldi come up as well as Michael and Fangio. In terms of championships, some of them have had a fraction of the success Michael has. There’s that intangible thing that defines greatness which isn’t simply results. What Sebastian is well on his way to doing is establishing himself as one of the all-time greats.”

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Truly a man who conducts himself with great dignity....And apart from the blemish of Sennas death probably the greatest F1 designer ever!


Newey should watch the NatGeo episode with corrections regarding how Senna was killed. It was certainly no driver error. The '94 Williams car was designed for the '92-'93 regs. Should never have let Senna drive such an unstable car not fit for the track. Frank Williams and Newey should be in jail.


I've been reading some of the comments, and the comments on the Barrcello to sauber story.

there are lots of views and opinions on drivers, very few on designers, technical directors, engineers and the like.

Who have been Newly's rivals over the years? Who are the next set of 'superstar' designers / engineers coming through?

What sets Newey, and the other top designers, apart from the rest - how much is the team, how much is the designer?


It's really obvious how much Senna's death still affects him.

After the Belgian GP (think it was 2011) when Red Bull had major problems with tyre blistering and they sent the cars out knowing they were taking a big risk. Newey was clearly very emotional when both drivers finished safely.

It must be quite a weight to carry.

kenbrit francis

Senna came into the Williams team after Prost and Mansell had won world titles at Williams. The car was a dog to drive on cold tires at that stage of the season. Senna was desperate for success and was inclined to push his car to the absolute limit if necessary. In the Williams on cold tires this was not advisable. We will never no for absolute certain but the data suggests Senna lost control through a combination of cold tires, bumpy track, driving too fast for the conditions and lifting off at a critical moment there by reducing exhaust assisted downdraft. The steering column would have broken in the impact although the modification carried out on this component was a clumsy piece of engineering and consequently cannot be totally excluded as a cause of the crash.


Watch the YouTube video "what NatGeo didn't tell you about senna". The steering column failed. Period. If it was cold tires, why do he crash on lap 7 rather than 6, when the tires would have been colder? Newey has been quoted as saying "the steering column was faulty". Is that not an admission? The car didn't "step out". It wrnt straight because the steering column failed.


That Americas Cup thing keeps popping up.....



I think America's Cup has to be the greatest test for an aerodynamicist. In F1 it might be the dominant tool but in sailing it is the only source of power as well as all your other forms of control if you include all fluid dynamics. To see those huge boats doing nearly 50mph with almost no boat in the water this year was amazing.


As F1, America's Cup is the ultimate in terms of sailing tech and ability (and requires huge amounts of money), and as in F1 a good boat with a so-so crew can beat slow boat with a good crew, but a great crew can fight with a relatively slower boat

Newey probably sails as a hobby or at least is interested in the development and technology used in them (as tim posted above)

In this last Cup, (ended two weeks ago in San Francisco, California) "sails" are no longer made of "cloth" , but are carbon fiber flexing wings tested in wind tunnels, so I am sure he is interested

Just to add, RedBull sponsors boats and events related with AC regattas


There was talk of this when he was at McLaren.


Not surprising when you think about it. Both are test beds for alien technology.


newy has also said that you are dealing with two fluids with yachts, water and air- which is appealing to him - where is f1 is only one (air).


Wow, that is one of the best reads of my life. Very, very interesting. Adrian Newey and Gordon Murray are my inspirations... I don't enjoy school. I am currently a student at Silverstone University Technical College studying High-Performance Engineering and want to be a Technical Director in Formula 1 just like Newey and Murray. I have a similar life to them both, which is weird.

Many thanks for a great read.


Will, wishing you the best! hope to see you in one of the F1 teams in future.


Thankyou very much, Sasidharan. I am going to work hard.


Fantastic journalism James! It really does distinguish this F1 site from others.

I thought Adrian's wonderfully mature character with a brilliant and open mind comes through clearly in the piece - his will to live life as he wants to, determination, and a mind open to ideas no matter how radical, family children's schooling first ahead of Ferrari, ability to articulate sharply on a range of matters etc

There are those mature in their attitude but imprisoned intellectually by out of date thinking or knowledge, and those free spirited souls at the cutting edge but lack direction. It's wonderful to see both attributes come together in one person, and to see the results that come out.

Quite inspirational and wonderfully heart warming to see someone who was kicked out of school come through in life on merit.


Totally agree with your post and thanks for putting it so well.


Will, if you turn out to be any good - go to Ferrari, I'll pay for your flight myself.

They need all the help they can get.


Glad you find it inspiring


Hi James,

I followed the link to the Adrian Newey special (because he obviously is).

There was not podcast titled "Adrian Newey special" is it part of the CFF1 preview for the Korean GP or a separate episode yet to be uploaded? I'd hate to miss it.

Brilliant website and podcasts James - really informative. I enjoy the fact you cover a whole range of F1 topics not just drivers and races - awesome work.



I've listened to the CFF preview now. It is a good interview, he's obviously quite a driven character, interesting how he talks about going 'stale' at various times in his career, other designers must be thinking if that's what a stale Newey can do we should find other work.


Yes it's in the Korea preview


I echo this, James....was really inspired by this article. Shared with people who are not into F1....


One of your best and most comprehensive interview James. Well worth listening to from the BBC podcast, just to get the tone of voice right.

Amazing and well balanced man overall I thought.

Am I wrong in saying he doesn't show the typical F1 paddock behaviour?


James surely the "lost" on-board footage of Senna 's crash, which I thought Adrian had seen, would have confirmed when the steering column was broken.

I'm surprised you didn't ask Adrian about the on-board Senna footage.

Otherwise an excellent and very insightful interview.


Whoever made mistake didn't do it intentionally or on purpose to kill Ayrton. If the steering broke anywhere else but at Tamburelo most likely he wouldn't suffer fatal injuries. Must be that his sixth sense signaled Airton that ending is approaching fast. During that week he phoned his old friend in Italy, Parilla ( for whom he raced DAP karts in his karting days) asking would he join him in Brazil where Senna wanted to start Kart production. In that telephonic discussion he also said that he would quit F1 there and then. Parilla said to him to leave everything and drive to his home if he doesn't feel driving F1 anymore. His reply was similar to that one he gave to Prof. Sid Watkins when discussed same matter that weekend when he lost life. " I may not quit right now I got job to do ", or similar to that effect. Parilla is saying that even today he feels terrible as he didn't take that discussion more seriously and possibly went to Imola to talk him out of driving there. Another witnessing is also interesting. Gerhard Berger remembers that two of them walked the track after tragic accident that took life of Ratzenberger. They approached that concrete wall and looked there wondering why it is relatively so close to the track. When they looked other side they saw that on the other side is the river. They concurred that nothing could be done about that, there end then. That is the exact spot where he would crash into following day. I just may not understand even today how on Earth FIA delegate could have approved that track for GP without even requesting that a protective tire wall to be placed in front of the concrete wall ?


Senna's death was a freak occurrence. Neither the broken steering column, nor the wall killed Senna, but the front suspension that pierced his helmet. That could have happened almost anywhere.

Remember Gerhard Berger had practically the same crash in 1989 (although because of a front-wing problem). The angle of the crash into the wall made the impact less of a problem.


Are you serious on this one? That would be the same as stating that the sky diver didn't die on impact , hitting the ground, but his helmet failed to protect him. Hitting the wall in the excess of 200 Km/h isn't exactly beneficial. Must be at least +/- 150 G deceleration at the impact. Turns human brain easily into the mash. The fact that the final blow to his head was due to a broken suspension makes no difference. The suspension broke on impact with that massive block of the concrete. If there bas a tire wall what was the chance of the suspension being torn into the chunks ?, BTW if it was safe why they didn't continue with concrete blocks on the track side. All of those antics were protected afterwards with tire and conveyor belt walls. Berger's accident wasn't even near the same comparing this one. Angle of impact was completely different and Berger was able to steer after all...


Darn, what an inspiring story Newey's life is, this is a true rags to riches story and if am not mistaken, Newey's life will become the first F1 movie ever made based on an engineer's perspective.

Now, Newey's life journey reminds me of what Senna used to say and that is, wealth, talent and all kinds of good fortune are nothing but gifts from God.

Yes, how many stories have we heard of people without a formal education go on to become geniuses e.g. The mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan and personally, I have seen a couple of chaps that can compute vast numbers in their heads in pretty quick times without the aid of a calculator.

Anyway, this is a pretty nice and enlightening interview but seeing what Newey has done for other teams over the years, am afraid Red Bull are in store for a massive hangover once Newey calls it a day or the magic touch abandons him someday >>> This is what usually happens to a team without history to fall back on.

Regards Senna, I guess he was one of those rare characters in the mold of Caesar, Napoleon, King David and Alexander the great etc.

You know the type that have charisma oozing out of them that somehow make people around them to give 100% in a bid to achieve their dreams.

And so 1994 was a real sad day for Newey and his team but as always such decisions aren't in our hands.

Regards Vettel, I will be beyond surprised if he was able to beat Schumi's records for least we forget, it took the sport over half a century before anyone could come along and challenge Fangio's championship records.


Seeing as Newey was/is a bad boy too, it's also true what they say >>> good guys really finish last.


Rags to riches? Lol – He was attending a public school where the fees are in the order of £30,000 a year!


@ Tim

Lol... Oh I see.



Please please come back to Williams!!


I'd second that. Great interview James.


F'real eh? Frank/Claire should give him all the shares he wants, just come back! Tell him it's another chance to exorcise some of those Leyton House demons he talked about.

Though maybe he'd rather try to match his 5 Williams' WCC's with Red Bull?


'When that might be and what that might be, I have no idea.'

If the Alonso/Raikkonen Combo Fails in the next 2 years, I can imagine a final push by Ferrari to bring in the Newey/Vettel Combo for 2016. What do you think, James, is that viable?


Christian Horner has glued himself to Newey. It will be very difficult for Newey himself to release himself from the CH/RB grip. He will have to give some BS reason like "I'm going to quit F1" etc to get himself out of RB. And then join McLaren or Williams.


Garbage besides Bernie he is the upmost person (generally speaking) that you could use the term of what the man wants the man gets.


Newey wont leave for Ferrari. In a way its good. Vettel needs to prove himself without having Newey's Name attached to his success. I Just hope Alonso is at Ferrari when Vettel joins. It would be epic to see two of the most consistent driver on the track in the same car


Do you think VET/NEW can succeed alongside with LdM/Dom??? Huumm.... Don't think so.


If LM can secure the services of SV, he will be able to put in place the necessary bits to succeed. Vettel knows what he needs and the only thing required from Luca is to listen to him.


+ 1000


Firstly James thank you for an outstanding interview and audio. I think you asked the questions most 'average joes' like us would ask which makes it more appealing that the usual. And Adrian gave some straight answers.

Adrian answers were inspiring and just shows that if people are determined to achieve their girls, I mean their goals!, then you have a great chance to do so.

Interesting perspective between Vettel and webber. Vettel has always stated that if you see mark and him in team meetings no one would ever believe that there are any issues between them. If only Turkey 2010 and possibly Germany 2009 was handled better by RBR management maybe the problems between the two may never have festered.

And lastly, hopefully it will 'put to bed' the Vettel naysayers. It's a combinations of the team, one compliments the other and both Vettel and Webber make the team it is. Vettel just gets more out of it.

Now what was Adrian going to say on the radio in Malaysia?


That professionalism may be due to Mark who is one of the few real gentlleman in the sport. Unlike, the "balls in pool" Vettel - he still thinks he is in highschool. Somehow he reminds me of Justin Bieber 🙂


Just the way I see it as well.


Full respect for Mr. Newey. Credit, also to Mr. Mateschitz for making it happen by bringing Newey, Vettel, and let's not forget, the great Red Bull Formula One team together.

Success well deserved.


Great interview. The undisputed F1 Master.


Well, that finally answers the Mansell stalling thing once and for all! 🙂


Just what I was thinking! Very interesting.

Many said he switched the engine off, turned out he just hadn't changed down!


I know, great insight. Also the extent to which Webber's behaviour at start in Brazil last year caused a rift inside the team again


James I could not believe what Mark did in Brazil - it was crazy any way you looked at it.A lot of casual observers thought there was very little to it. But Im glad Adrian mentioned it in this very fine interview because- I saw as certainly a turning point for Mark within the team.


He alluded to Brazil but did not go into detail. I wish you'd asked him what exactly happened that day. It's an incident which continues to go unexplored.


why cant he be really nice , and do like 1 days work at each of the teams through out the season ... lol ..i know it would not happen , but i bet he could add some time easily to the lower end teams , give them some pointers etc..

close the grid up a bit 🙂


He doesn't have to go very far. Just to sort out his other design, Squadra Torro Rosso car that is plain rubbish. Or they are so naughty and not listening to him. I really do not get where from is such a difference under one roof, for so long.


Perhaps the Drivers are making the difference.


Pretty simple, Red Bull marketing would crash if Toro Rosso had a competitive car and beat Red Bull even more than only a couple of times. Not hard to see why Newey's talent isn't spread to the sister team.

And I am a Red Bull fan, but it's hard to ignore how important marketing is to the company - even to the detriment of their lesser known, sister team.


Did RB marketing crash in 2008?


Red Bull marketing , why ? they are wearing the very same logo and similar color skim. Marketing could only benefit.


Starting in 2009 customer cars were outlawed so Toro Roso has had design their own chassis ever sinc. There is no more Newey DNA left in that car.


Giving "some pointers" and good advice is not out lawed


What a briliant article.

Newey just comes across as someone that doesnt get fazed by the "circus" of F1 but is clearly passionate about what he does - and winning!

Thanks James


Well said, that's exactly how he came across - how refreshing.


Hi James

Can you please post a direct link to the interview please? The link in feature goes to the 5live page but cant see the Newey feature? Cheers, from New Zealand!


It is there in the "Korea Preview" first item on the list


I love hearing about people who made their childhood dreams come true. Very cool story, talk about making the most of life.


great guy with a great natural ability who tells it as it is without trying to cheat nature. I have studied him for years, watched all video interviews and this this is the most extensive.



The McLaren MP4/20 of 2005 was the best car not to win either e championship. Largely because it was fragile.


I doubt the blame lays at Neweys shoulders. The engine caused all the trouble they should blame Mercedes


These things are rarely as simple as they first appear. It's the whole package that needs to be considered. The engine doesn't run in isolation from the car. For instance, the amount of cooling required has an impact on the aero',

so they try to keep that as an absolute minimum. This has a knock on effect on the engine life.


Therefore it wasn't the best car!


A brilliant man.

I think he is much too harsh on himself on Senna. The FW16 wasn't the best car out of the box, but still won the Consructors in the hands of Hill / Coulthard. It would still have given Senna the title I'm sure.

As for the accident, we'll never know what really happened, but the thing that actually killed Ayrton was a freak event with the suspension. Otherwise it would have been a crash Senna would have just walked away from. Newey cannot blame himself for that.


Great piece James.

I also shared this with my family something I never do.

Maybe if Vettel eventually moves to Ferrari, he'll take Newey with him, and Adrian can complete the set.


Hmm. As soon as I read this story, I sent the link to my wife who knows NOTHING about F1. Now, I realize that I'm NOT the only one and there are a couple others in this forum who did the same... wonderful. James, is this a spell or some magic?


Thanks James, great interview, great questions.

The fact Adrian Newey doesn't have any A level qualifications makes you wonder whether it's so crucial to have one. Can talent be really measured by grades and levels? I think it goes well beyond that.

Also, Bernie doesn't have any MBA, does he?


He has an honorary doctorate from one of the universities, I believe..


Since not many like Bernie & his politics, I'm gonna correct this statement for fun, no insults to anyone..:)

He has an "honorary doctorate" from "one of the universities", I believe..


He's an incedible businessman, a ruthless one, probably as ruthless as the success he achieved, one of the last of his species in this corporate world.

In my view it's more about the attitude than any MBA qualifcation. In an interview, to a question about his success, he simply responded "I took opportunities".

Alexander Supertramp

Great stuff


Reading between the lines:

Q: how much is success down to the car and how much is down to the driver?

A: car 99.9, driver 0.1

Q:is Vettel best?

A: no, even Schumacher no.


Rory Byrne once said it was 80% car 20% driver.

There are quite few interviews with Rory however, and I am pretty sure he'd have a lot of interesting things to tell. James, do you think it's feasible? He's never been in the paddock in the last few year which probably doesn't help.


People have an amazing ability to hear what they want to hear.

Newey always refuses to get drawn into ranking the drivers he has worked with. It's not a knock on any of them.


You must have heard a different interview!


... well he did say he was focussing "between the lines" ... 🙂

Very, very good interview, James. Chock full of unique biographical insights and anecdotes. Sports journalism from the top drawer.


LMFAO, You are funny James.


Go and design and win with Ben Ainslie the Americas Cup for Great Britain.

The world's best sailor coupled with the world's greatest techical design egineer would be magic and a sure winner.

Doing the above would also make F1 a little more interesting again as Newey is just too good compared to the rest - for sure it'd be good to see how good Redbull and Vettel are after a couple of years without Newey!


Without the like of Larry Ellison's $200m+ and the win at all costs attitude, very similar to Red Bulls!, he stands zero chance.


If he gets a car that has a whiff of competitiveness, Vettel will be in the mix for sure.


Newey comes across as a person filled with passion blended with confidence and sprinkled with a coating of humbleness.A solid guy.


I really enjoyed listening to your interview James. Great to get Adrian's insight into so many big F1 topics.

Nice work.

Guys, is James the Newey of F1 media or what?


Great interview.

He is making the rest of the designers in F1 look very ordinary.


Newey doesn't exactly give praise easily. Vettel's closing in on a 4th successive championship, he's clearly the best driver of this era, Schumacher has 7 and 91 wins, yet he's saying Vettel wouldn't be a great even if he beats Schumacher's records.

"Well on the way" to establishing himself as an all time great? He's about 6 races away from being without question one of the top 5 greatest drivers of all time.


Interesting that you read into something he actually didn't even say. He said that not only mathematical scores make you great, and he is right whether you like it or not. After all it is his own opinion, isn't it ?


This isn't Nelson Piquet with 3 championships. Of his rivals in this era he's the youngest driver, most complete driver and statistically by far the best driver. His pole to race and win to race ratios are up there with the best of all time despite trundling around in a Toro Rosso in 2008 and going to a team in 2009 that had previously done nothing.

It's not until Vettel went to Toro Rosso that they had results. They haven't had any since.

It's not until Vettel went to Red Bull that they had results. All the talk about Newey but it's conveniently ignored that he didn't win anything in the 2000's despite being with the equal biggest team in F1.

I think it suits a lot of people at Red Bull (Horner and Newey) to not label Vettel as one of the all time greats since it diminishes their accomplishments.


"Well, one could beat a dead horse but it want change reality. There are results that speak for itself, so no one could deny that, for sure. But he said, and I agree, that results are not the only measure for greatness. I wonder if your wunderkind would be equally successful in Marussia, what you got to say on that one ?"

Top drivers find themselves in top teams. The Max Chilton's of the world pay to drive a car, while top drivers are paid tens of millions to drive a car.

"There is always a combination of the man and machine. Look at MS when he got back to F1 he was nowhere with Mercedes. Surely he didn’t forget how to drive and win."

He sat out retired for three years getting rusty, and came back at 40 - which is about 10 years past the peak performance of a driver.

He was up against the best in the world, all hungry for success and fighting for their careers. Schumacher came back for a swansong, yet still stuck it on pole at Monaco (the drivers track) and slightly outperformed Rosberg in 2012. Points don't reflect that because his season was marred by poor luck and reliability.


"I wonder if your wunderkind would be equally successful in Marussia, what you got to say on that one ?"

That no top driver would suddenly go to a team like Marussia, and that this question is never thrown at anyone else (such as Senna), it seems.


Well, one could beat a dead horse but it want change reality. There are results that speak for itself, so no one could deny that, for sure. But he said, and I agree, that results are not the only measure for greatness. I wonder if your wunderkind would be equally successful in Marussia, what you got to say on that one ? There is always a combination of the man and machine. Look at MS when he got back to F1 he was nowhere with Mercedes. Surely he didn't forget how to drive and win.


With nine Constructors' Championships he has won more than any other designer and is the only designer to have won Constructors' Championships with three different Formula One teams.

I think that proves he doesn't need Vettel.

Any top drover will do, of which Vettel is obviously one, but it could just have well have been Alonso or Hamilton.


gille vileneuve


A great driver. but look at the stats in history he is not there.


who is that?

if he was a driver did he know how to overtake cleanly?


Thank you very much James!!! It´s good to hear he was doing all typical things teenagers always do 🙂

Does Southampton have some connection with motor racing this days?

I hope one day he can go back to Williams


In those days teams didn't have their own wind tunnels, so many of them started going to Southampton.

Now they pretty much all do.


Very nice. Thank you for this James.


Fantastic interview! And inspirational on many levels. The thing about concentrating and trying to be best at what you are good at is something we all must apply no matter which field we work in. He also gives hope to those youngsters who are made to feel like "losers" if they don't succeed at school. I guess, in the end its all about developing a passion for something, and going after it with all you've got.

It must have taken Schumacher and Ferrari an almighty effort in the 90s to take the title to the wire against Newey Williams and Mclarens. One can only wonder how successful Schumacher would have been had he moved to Williams in the mid-90s and to Mclarens in the late 90s/2000s.

On a related note, Rory Byrne is the only other guy who managed to put a spoke in Newey juggernaut. And somehow he has remained an unsung hero despite winning almost equal number of constructors/drivers titles during the same period.


Even though it's been said above by many folks, thanks, James, for the perspective and the opportunity to look through this window. It is this sort of effort which set your work apart from others and is very much appreciated.


Is true telemetry was on its earlier days but I dont buy the "we dont know what happenned" story.

I don't know the italian law but IMO their refusal to say the truth may have to do with the trial, they could still been found guilty.


Thanks James. Great article. I enjoyed every word.

I wonder, what *was* he going to say over the radio to Seb in Malaysia? Don't scratch it?


When you look at the serious accidents that occurred within a few months at the start of 94 (Senna and Ratzenbergers deaths, Wendlinger left in a coma at Monaco, Lehto and Alesi with broken necks, Lamy with multiple fractures and Montermini's broken ankle), you can only conclude, for whatever reason, those cars were fundamentally unsafe.


Bravo! A very good interview. I knew nothing of Adrian's story and with the little I know now, l am even more impress by him. Surely inspirational. That Leyton house was a beautiful car by the way, plus it managed a couple of good results. The signs of his talent were there. I am sure l did not know who Adrian was back then. Finally, all along the interview he seems to give relatively candid answer, as in his take on Vettel. He seems to think of Seb as Talented if not special. That should upset a few here:) Marc


can somebody put a beer mat under one leg of his designing desk? a slightly wonky line may give other teams a chance


Oops, that was a reply to 6. Goforet


It's about time Newey got a knighthood.

(Along with Patrick Head and Ron Dennis.)


Great stuff, James. Reading it got me thinking about the amount of work involved in getting this end result. And I am not refering specifically to gaining access to the interviewee, as difficult as that is. I am thinking of the years of making a name for yourself for him to get this comfortable in front of your microphone. Congrats from a fellow hack, and don't forget journalists like you have a duty with future generations: Leave your professional secrets written somewhere!


Very Nice!


"with the possible exception of the America’s Cup, there really isn’t a parallel outside the motor racing umbrella where you’ve got that complete interdependency of sportsman and machine."

Downhill ski racing is another example Mr. Newey. Maybe the best, since man and technology are literally physically bonded together to become one machine.


once again, an interesting interview but i am disappointed that newey's comments re sepang weren't pursued with any further in depth questions? another missed opportunity. his comments are rather ambiguous insofar as the incidents alluded to are not an open and shut case.

what he doesn't say is really more telling than what he does say. i just find it shallow to gloss over such an incident that has has had such far reaching comment from every corner of the F1 world.


I would also love to hear more about this but it's mid season. Maybe Webber will spill his guts when he leaves the team.



Given Adrian's age and comment of;

"at some stage I’d like to be involved in something different rather than only motor racing."

it very much sounds as if Red Bull will be his last team in F1?

Was there anything he said which hinted that he might like one final challenge in F1? If not, when do you think he will quit F1?


I'm sure I'm in minority, but after reading the interview, it just left me shallow.

Seems the focus on more of his life story than what happens in f1 behind the scenes. Sorry.


Hungover waiting for a plane in Manila but this has perked me up. Thanks James for a great read


Great picture you paint there! Thanks


james, is there any reason why you and the rest of the media do not seriously question the likes of horner et al re the details of sepang? i mean, how many times do we hear the comments but no in depth follow up?

i don't want to bang on forever on this subject as it will, if it hasn't already, have bored the pants off most posters, but the question needs to be asked. why don't you really get into the meaty issues of this topic when you obviously have the opportunity?


I think it's pretty clear what happened and what the fallout was. What more detail do you mean?


the detail i am talking about is, '

why was the multi 21 agreement in sepang put into place if vettel was able to ignore it?

why didn't horner use his authority as team principal to order vettel to give the place back?

why, when the team were faced with a massive backlash, sanction vettel for ignoring team orders?

why did vettel change his attitude from apologies to webber and the team then to retract them all two weeks later?

did vettel do this of his own volition or was he coached by horner/marko?

did horner/marko approve of this turnaround?

why didn't red bull disassociate themselves from vettels position instead of passively letting him get away with the cheating?

what was the position of adrian newey vis-a-vis his comments to you in your interview?

why didn't you ask him to further explain his stated position?

what was marko's position in all of this?

what was DM's position in all of this?

i'm sure that if i put my mind to it i could come up with other questions which need answers but these will do for starters.


The first question you should ask is: "why should they treat Vettel differently than Webber, who was also not sanctioned in any way for openly ignoring team orders"?

There are still plenty if questions regarding Malaysia, but why they would treat Vettel different from Webber, is not one of them.


Vettel being compared to Senna, hahahaha whatever.....




If anything, Vettel is the complete opposite of Senna. Senna was as charismatic as a semi-God, while Vettel inspires like a noisy but fast vacuum-cleaner.


And lots of booing, we mustn't forget that.... hahaha!!!!


Just listened to the audio interview after reading this written article yesterday. I am unable to find the part in the audio where AN states:

"The concert got under way and we’d smuggled in bottles of Coke with Bacardi and Tonic with gin."

Did he do that or did the Editor just make it up?


No it was edited down in the radio version, it's a long story! He admitted he was very drunk


During the interview?


Can't see the podcast on the linked page...

has it already gone ?

Thanks, regards,



Korean GP preview show. It's the first 30 mins


Senna` lethal accident in a Williams that performed like a mad dog remains a painfull open wound and can never be compensated .....


Re the interview with Adrian Newey: What a great insight into the human side of f1! Mister Newey comes across as a really genuine bloke. We, the punters who follow F1 tend to forget that the people involved in Formula One racing are real people just like us, with the exception of course, that they are where we would like to be, doing what we would like to do. Could we have other interviews of a similar nature at some time in the future? Thank you.

Adrian Newey Jnr

Thank you James for this detailed insight into an F1 enigma. Its great to hear more about the people behind the scenes rather than whatever Alonso had for breakfast (like most copycat sites!).

The one question I think you forgot to ask is why given the same tools, Mark has underperformed compared to Seb.


Thank you, James. You've really set yourself apart from the others with interviews like this one. Greatly appreciated.

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