Why are two key allies of Adrian Newey leaving Red Bull?
Red Bull Racing
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Oct 2013   |  9:06 am GMT  |  209 comments

Although the news that Red Bull’s leading aerodynamicist Peter Prodromou and his right hand man are to leave the championship winning team came as a surprise, further investigation has revealed that the move had been rumoured for a long time on the engineering grapevine.

Prodromou is one of the closest working associates of the design maestro Adrian Newey.

It was reported as news during the Japanese GP race weekend and since then the story has evolved as a clearly irked Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has made it clear that Prodromou has a contract until 2015 and he will not allow him to leave before then.

The central question here however is why would Prodromou want to leave Newey’s side to rejoin McLaren and what does that tell us about Newey’s long term plans?

Red Bull’s success has come in large part by replicating the model created at Ferrari in the late 1990s and early 2000s: a strong and stable management group, based around a champion driver, with huge resources and powerful influence behind the scenes with the governing body and the commercial rights holder. Ferrari won the constructors championship for six consecutive years between 1999 and 2004 and five consecutive drivers’ championships.

Distilled down to its essence, F1 is about money and people and where people are concerned the key is quality and continuity. Like Ferrari before them, Red Bull has managed to build and sustain a team of high quality engineers, to play to the strengths of their star designer Adrian Newey.

Ferrari managed to keep that group together. For Red Bull, losing a key member of the team, not to mention his deputy, destabilises things. The others in the inner sanctum will feel betrayed to some degree. How long a notice period do they hold him to? They might not want McLaren to have him early, but they will also not want him getting sight of their plans too far ahead, into 2015 for example.

With a major rule change like 2014, a huge amount of evolution and development goes on in the first season. A team does not want a man at the helm through that period, who is jumping ship at the end of the year.

F1 is such a sensitive business when it comes to ideas and Prodromou is already an outsider now as far as Newey’s team is concerned.

Newey told us in the recent feature interview on BBC Radio 5 Live that he does not have many associates he takes with him wherever he goes, but he was with Prodromou at McLaren in the early 2000s and he was one of Newey’s first hires at Red Bull in 2006.

For Prodromou to want to leave, there must be more than simply money at stake. McLaren is working to build up its capabilities now that Honda is coming back in 2015 and Prodromou is a key signing. But Prodromou must be looking further down the road than next year or the year after. Perhaps he feels that Newey is coming to the end of the road and it’s time for him to stake his own claim.

Newey said in the BBC 5 Live special that he does not know how much longer he will carry on in F1, but that he still enjoys it. He did acknowledge that the pressure is very intense. Like all the great engineers in F1 he no doubt wants to see how the new F1 technology coming in next season evolves, but how far into the future does he see himself at the coal face?

“It’s a good question, one I sometimes ask myself,” he told us for the BBC 5 LIve special last month. “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.”

He has always expressed interest in the America’s Cup and with Sir Ben Ainslie seeking to put together a British team to challenge for it, there is inevitable speculation that Newey may be thinking of that. But equally, he is in the form of his life in F1 at the moment in a team he likes.

As for how Prodromou will fit in at McLaren, he clearly knows the team well from his 15 years there (1991-2006) and he will work alongside chief aerodynamicist Doug McKiernan and head of aero Marcin Budkowski.

McKiernan drives aero development and despite the poor car McLaren has had this year, is very highly rated in F1 circles, while Budkowski joined the team from Ferrari, where he worked from 2002 to 2007.

Prodromou and his right hand man will have to fit into this structure.

It’s a very aggressive move by McLaren and shows that they mean business with Honda. There will no doubt be more aggressive signings soon.

The market for senior engineers is quite fluid at the moment, which is understandable as teams look to learn more about the new 2014 technology. They want to know what work is going on elsewhere and what better way to do that than hire in people from a variety of teams? Meanwhile a major rule change like this offers senior engineers a chance to cash in on their expertise and knowledge.

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1

If some one wishes expert view about blogging after that i advise him/her to go

to see this weblog, Keep up the nice work.

2

Dear James, dear all, I love this blog, it’s by far the funniest of the F1 sites I know of! 🙂

I just want to add this comment. Newey said earlier this season that for 2014 the aerodynamics have been limited so sharply that if it turns to become an engine formula he might not want to continue.

With this in mind I don’t think he will change employer anytime soon. After 2 or 3 years at McLaren he already said once or maybe twice that even back then he didn’t know for how long we would continue to continue his job.

So maybe he has a little problem with long term motivation.

3

As always anything to do with Red Bull ends up on the Vettel controversy.I do not like Red Bull dominance in Formula 1 as in others sports they are backing because I think RB money comes from selling a product I find at the least questionable.It is a mixture of chemicals that produce the effect of accelerating peoples heart and metabolism and I think is forbiden in some countries already.Also they have ties with a “doctor” who worked for the Democratic German Republic in the cold war years and apparently was responsible for flooding their female athletes with male hormones.WINNING AT ALL COSTS SEEMS TO BE RB MOTO.That might explain why some people want to leave.

4

Red Bull is just an energy drink. If you don’t overdose on like, 20 of them at once, it’d be fine.

5

I can’t imagine Newey making next year’s RB and then leave the baby to someone else’s care.

With all due respect to Prodromou and Marshall, if it’s really him, I just can’t figure out how (let’s call them) “second echelon people” (as opposed to chief designers) contribute to making a winning car.

Last year Ferrari also hired lots of different people but Tombazis remained there and this year’s car is still a lame duck.

The point I am trying to make is this: The little world of the “specialised” F1 fans is making too much out of these personnel changes.

The WOW effect McLaren was talking about is not really forthcoming. Not for Peter Prodromou anyway.

A huge WWOOWWW would be if Adrian goes to Ferrari. But we know for sure that he has repeatedly turned them down.

6

Here’s hoping Honda actually deliver with the powertrain.

They’ve not set the benchmark for automobile racing engines in a long, long time, and surely whatever connection they have with the glory days of the 80s/early 90s is all but gone.

7

Yes, but then you underestimate how much we’re living in the past 😉

8

Surely Newey’s leaving would encourage Prodromou to stay at Red Bull rather than leave himself? He could reasonably expect to step into Newey’s shoes on his departure.

On the other hand if Newey was staying at RB indefinitely, THAT might encourage Prodromou to look around elsewhere for a job with more upward mobility.

On the other other hand, this may have nothing at all to do with Newey. Mclaren may have offered Prodromou so much money he could not refuse.

9

More money than Red Bull can give him? Not likely.

I tend to think the general consensus is right; he wants to step out of Newey’s shadow.

10

I have no idea why so many people imagine that Red Bull is the richest company in the world.

11

They’re not, but they do have one of the biggest F1 budgets.

If money was the only issue for Prodromou and if Red Bull was that keen to keep him it probably wouldn’t be an issue.

12

Hi James

Is it at all possible that Vettel may be driving a McLaren-Honda in 2015? He seems to be a fan of F1 history and said he felt like Senna in Brazil 91 during a race before. It would certainly make for fascinating viewing…

13

I have been thinking about this for a while. There could be another explanation.

In my opinion, at Red Bull not everyone gets the credit they deserve. The media has not helped in this matter too. All credit goes to Newey all the time. But there are other people who do a lot but don’t even get mentioned.

I think there are lot of disgruntled employees in Red Bull. People don’t get promoted (they don’t have ‘director’ roles). But people want to move on in their carriers.

After JA’s interview with Newey, I strongly felt that he enjoys the attention he is getting. Of course he mentioned some other people including Vettel but I felt, he has not given enough credit to others. It is all about himself.

Before coming to Red Bull his success was very limited. But now he has become arguably the most successful designer in F1. This is very much helped especially by people and media who say it is not the driver but the car to discredit Vettel’s achievement. Could this be the unravelling of Red Bull?

14

It seems to me that he’s enjoying the attention, to a larger extent of course, that Patrick Head was enjoying when Newey was at Williams. I definitely don’t know a lot about that period, since I was still in diapers, but I am sure that Newey didn’t get the recognition he deserved then because he wasn’t chief engineer.

I am pretty sure that’s the way Rob Marshall and Peter Prodromou also feel. Neither of them can get promoted because Newey has the top job so it’s completely normal if you ask me, that they may want to leave and get the recognition they probably deserve.

I completely respect Newey and admire what he’s achieved, but I think it wouldn’t hurt anyone if once in a while, he publicly acknowledged and named the people that are certainly contributing massively to the success of Red Bull, other than the drivers, Horner, Dr (Evil) Marko, and himself! 🙂

15

Well Peter Prodromou and Rob Marshall? The man who converts all Newey’s hand drawings into CAD for design, yes Newey still draws by hand, and Rob Marshall (if true he is going) the man in charge of all the technical design of the chassis. These are both huge losses and proof of two things… Not everybody likes Newey getting £6M per year while they get pittance in comparison and secondly, there truly are no friends in motorsport as the saying goes. Loyalty has no place, money talks. Welcome to F1. Both huge losses to RB but the team has massive strength and depth in reserve if it can be managed in transition.

16

I have a friend who is quite high up in RBR.

He walked past Newey’s office a few years ago to see Adrian staring at a blank sheet of paper on his drawing board. Said friend went for a quick sit down using the ‘facilities’. On his way back to his office, my friend noticed that Adrian had drawn a large circle on his board.

My friend did a quick calculation and worked out that whilst he’d done a No.2 and Adrian had drawn a circle, Adrian had earned my friends yearly wage. The sum mentioned to me was twice the figure you mentioned. I would suspect that P.P. & R.M. are also quite good at maths. 😉

17

Your friend isn’t Mark Webber is it? He of “not bad for a No 2” fame….

18

Doug,

I suspect that you are absolutely correct and the connections that I have within F1 also tell me that people there have become very tired of the Newey / Horner show where they rub an extremely high class lifestyle (That Redbull pay for but they gladly take) in other employees faces while salaries remain static for the vast majority and they work ever harder.

They are quite simply no longer held in high enough regard and respect by their employees to retain ultimate loyalty.

19

“With a major rule change like 2014, a huge amount of evolution and development goes on in the first season.”

– Actually, a huge amount of development for a car under new regulations has already begun this season; and with the championships secure, it is undoubtedly the main engineering focus at RBR right now. But of course, there is never a good time to see a senior engineer move to a different team.

Kudos for picking up Newey’s America’s Cup interest! He has mentioned it more than a few times, and it is clear that he sees it as the only sport that interests him outside of F1. I very much doubt that he will ever join another established F1 team, but if there is a British AC challenge, he will think very hard about it. He obviously lacks some specific skills, but he could certainly contribute with his experience of running a team of man & machine at the highest level. With the nationality rules for AC boats, it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

20

There just jumping ship before webber spills the beans!

21
Clarks4WheelDrift

With Webbo’s bad luck the beans will probably spill from his gearbox after they mix up his oil and catering supplies.

22

Lol 🙂

You should drop them your resume – after all, it must be difficult for them to find new and interesting things to go wrong with his car 😉

23

Adrian Newey is left-handed. So I guess losing his “right-hand man” isn’t the problem for him. Lol.

24

Lol nicely done, but please don’t lol your own jokes – I’ve heard it’s bad form 😉

25

James, where do you see RBR 5 or 10 years down the line from here ? Yes, they’ve had enormous success of late, and at some point that curve will peak and key resources will leave. RedBull is not a car manufacturer. Heck ! They dont have anything remotely automotive when it comes to financials. What happens when success starts to elude them? Would they even care to be in F1 then? Or would they go back to being just the sponsors and sell off the team ?

Secondly, are Ferrari on a hiring spree as well ? Their aero is obviously the weakest link, and Rory Byrne coming back may help them a bit. But Rory is almost 70 yrs old, and is probably already the oldest working member in the entire F1. Given the firing and rehiring of Kimi, continuing to stay with Domenicalli despite his failures, a dissapointing Pat Fry, and starting 2014 with the weakest engine ( maybe something to do with Gilles Simons and Paolo Martenelli leaving ?), does Ferrari have a plan at all ?

26

Rumour has it that Toro Rosso might be sold, so that’s one step on the way to an F1 exit.

As James says Red Bull do drinks, not cars. RBR is just basically one of the most – if not the most – expensive advertising machines on the planet. If they stop winning, what’s the point?

Red Bull: Gives you mid to lower field finishes.

Doesn’t work nearly as well 😉

27

You could make that argument about the car companies too. If they’re not winning, what’s the point of being in F1? “Ferrari/Mclaren/Mercedes make second rate cars”? I believe Mercedes is already thinking this way and eying the exit.

28

Caterham also comes to mind, especially when you consider that they’re trying to launch an all new car that’s linked to F1…allegedly 😉

Mercedes have invested a lot and have just started to hit their stride a bit so barring disaster they should be around for a while, but it will depend a lot on how their new engine goes and the kind of results they get with it in the next few years.

29

Great question – I really don’t know. As automotive isn’t core business for Red Bull, it’s not got a direct link.

30
Clarks4WheelDrift

Don’t forget their soap box derby racers!

They’ve got so much cash they’ll probably come up with a car that runs on the stuff! 6 pack of Red Bull, 1 to keep me alert and 5 for mi car.

31

I always wondered if they might go down the licensing of Gordon Murray’s T25/T27 route. Distribution would require some set up, but there must be hoards of Peugeot/Citroen/Vauxhall/Renault and just about every other manufacturer out there who would happily give some showroom space over to a new brand.

32

“powerful influence behind the scenes with the governing body and the commercial rights holder.”

As manifested how? The rules have been changed every year (and sometimes illegally during the season) to try to prevent Red Bull from winning. The governing body has done them no favors.

“a clearly irked Red Bull team principal”

He may be irked for all I know, but it is simple common sense for RB to delay as long as possible Prodromou’s move to McLaren.

33

I have always admired Mclaren’s ability to get funding. How do they do it? Where all this money for top people come from? Will Honda put some serious pile of cash on top of engines. Maybe they decided that this time Honda is on top of time sheets after their own team failure. Seems that Mclaren never has funding problems. Not even after year like this. Williams went down with results but McL is immune. Any thoughts?

34

Last I heard no one has confirmed who their new title sponsor is after Vodafone.

2014 Honda McLaren Mercedes?

35
Clarks4WheelDrift

2014 Telmex To Keep Perez For Another Year Please McLaren Mercedes?

36

Do Telmex still make cheap watches?

37

Lol…sorry I meant sad but true 🙂

38

Well, we had the Ferrari powered “BWM Sauber” of course for a year, after BMW packed their bags and sold their shares back to Peter.

39

And for those of us old fogies with longer memories, we had the Leyland Williams-Ford thirty-odd years back.

More recently, there was the strange case of the Lotus Renault that became the Lotus-Renault.

40

Very good point 🙂

41
Valentino from montreal

Ross Brawn is heading to McLaren too !

42

And Alonso.

A dream team, for sure.

43

The german Wettbewerbsverbot (non compete clause) is up to 2 years if written in the contract. Mine is this way.

Wonder which law applies: international, european, UK, austrian, …

Wish we would have this at soccer. All these overpaid players who kinds refuse to play if they want to leave to another club. 2 years not being allowed to play professional soccer in another team, that would be something good.

44

Milton Keynes isn’t in Germany.

45

The higher they (RBR) are, the harder they fall…

46

Best current example: McLaren.

Till now no podest this season and I’m sure it will stay so.

For a team like McLaren a deep fall …

47

You have confused the car with the team – a great team can occasionally produce a poor car, especially with almost no testing and huge design changes. That doesn’t mean the team has disintegrated, that means they made a few (bad) miscalculations that are fundamental and were not caught in the computer simulations. But the team itself is solid, and with revised aero tuning data for this style car should be a force next year.

48

You’re right, but it’s only been one season and McLaren may bounce back quickly.

If you’re looking for a confirmed example of an extended hard fall think Williams. Just thinking about it probably the best (or maybe worst) part is they still haven’t hit the bottom.

49
Clarks4WheelDrift

Williams were close to the title with Montoya in 2003, before their previously alright Michelin’s were deemed illegal at Monza and we had a tyre change mid-season! Thank goodness that never happened again…

But still 10 years is a long time.

Which is why I personally challenge Mr Adrian Newey to return to Williams, to try and make them front running contenders again, heck to make them F1 champions again!

Go on, step out of Patrick Head’s shadow and prove it wasn’t all Head the last time, or just ermmmm Hakkinen at McLaren or ermm just Dietrichz’s cash 😉 Imagine the engineering kudos of a Maldonado-Williams drivers title!!

50

Webber found that out in Valencia. Never gets old 🙂

51
Clarks4WheelDrift

Nice.

You’d think he’d have learned his lesson from Le Mans ’99!

Maybe he’s going for a full house, fly a Le Mans Merc, fly an F1 Bull and perhaps fly an Indycar at the brickyard. An alternative triple crown of motorsport to Graham Hill’s.

52

I’d like to see Vettel try and break that record 😉

53

@Random 79 yep 😛 That never gets old 😛

54

>>With a major rule change like 2014, a huge amount of evolution and development goes on in the first season. A team does not want a man at the helm through that period, who is jumping ship at the end of the year.<<

So they put him on gardening leave, but that can extend no longer than 6 months, established UK law based on Newey from Williams to McLaren. Christian Horner really wants to keep him to the end of his contract he has to keep him in place, on the new car, until six months to go. UK Law give him no other options. Christian Horner is rattled about this whole process and it does not bode well. He try's to force people to stay he will trash any team spirit and make recruitment harder. He needs to set this aside and go recruit himself.

55

No need to put him on gardening leave he is contracted to end of 2014 with redbull all they need to do is move him to another spot in redbull and he still goes to work everyday till then!

56

Exactly, unless RB can persuade him to not to go, he’ll be clocking in at Woking in a few month’s time

57

I think this shows that technical talent may be more scarce than driving talent!

James, how many team principals would sign Red Bull’s technical team ahead of their drivers?

My guess is every single one!

58

Except for McLaren, maybe.

59
Clarks4WheelDrift

I bet McLaren would sign back Newey, Alonso and Hamilton in a minute.

60

@ James

I guess McLaren want to send a message, loud and clear, they are taking steps to stop the rot. They need to make sure the sponsors (and fans?) know they are still a force to be reckoned with.

61

Just because someone is winning the championship does not mean they are the best driver. While I support Hamilton as a British driver, I have come to respect Alonso immensely as he has demonstrated just how good a driver he is at pushing an underperforming car forward in the race. Hamilton has drawn his horns in compared to how was in 2007/2008 because of the tyres and underperforming cars. Whilst it has to be said that Ferrari’s are generally fast starting, McLaren are absolutely right in their pursuance of Alonso as the best driver on the grid currently. I think it would be amazing to give Alonso and Hamilton the chance to drive as team mates again if they can agree, but I hope we can get rid of these silly tyres and see some genuine racing again where drivers can push to the limit of the car for sustained periods.

62

Yes James.

Tim, have a look at the last few years standings (final ones, each season), and in all the points Alonso scores every year is the answer. Alo is a guaranty of a good car -even average- getting home every race, on top.

And he is a big resourse to attract big corporates´s interest arround him and to the team he is.

He, even now, is the best driver to be paid (not paid driver…), miles away from second one.

63

I can’t get over the way McLaren are openly pursuing Alonso. Just how highly do they rate him? To still want him in their car, after all the grief he gave the team, must mean he is very highly regarded indeed!

64

If you look they are being openly aggressive on hirings – eg signing Prodromou and then saying so during a race weekend.

65

Me too, hehe.

But that is not gonna happen. It would be a great year to see, anyway.

66

This seems like a smart move from McLaren – although they might not get to use Prodromou until 2015, presumably Red Bull will garden leave him and not be able to use him either, which will weaken their in-season development to some degree.

Plus, it has a destabilising effect on Red Bull – you can see how rattled Horner is. See also Whitmarsh’s comments about Alonso causing problems at Ferrari.

People are going on about McLaren/Honda for 2015 but they’ll be my left field bet for 2014 as well – they’ve been working on the car a long time, they have the Mercedes engine, they’ll have a learned a lot this year, and the car will be built around Button.

67

As Brawn said, the engine manufacturers can only supply one spec of engine to their team and all their customers. So any engine development through the year will be tailored to the works team.

McLaren know this, which is why they’re moving to be Honda’s works team.

68

According to Sam Michael (McL), 2014´s McL-Merc relationship could be very cold and, for that reason, not as prosper as before.

http://www.caranddriverthef1.com/formula1/noticias/2013/05/30/75231-mclaren-ve-inevitable-que-su-relacion-con-mercedes-vaya-disminuyendo

69

At a guess I would say that McLaren are going to be using the entirety of 2014 as in season testing to get ready for an full on assault with Honda in 2015.

That is of course unless in 2014 they happen to luck into a race winning design out of the box, much like they unlucked into a race losing design in 2013 😉

70

Yep 🙂 Honda can sit back and learn from the mistakes Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault are bound to make 😛

71

No relation of Tim Goss the McLaren technical director?

72

Nope, no relation, although that would be cool.

73

According to my Dad, we used to get excited calls at the house (when we were listed in the phone book) asking if we were related to Matt and Luke.

74

I assume you mean Matt Goss the singer and not Matt Goss the cyclist 😉

75
Clarks4WheelDrift

Certainly better than Matt Goss or Luke Goss…

The 2014 McLaren may have started work early, but that’s no guarantee of a great car. Remember BMW saying to the world they are concentrating on next years car, not pleasing Kubica, and it didn’t turn out too hot.

Also, will the Merc engine be exactly the same as the works team in their final year? Will they be able to work out the tyres for a full campaign attack? Surely they can sort the stiff car bouncing suspension though! Hope they do get back in the mix, not just top the speed trap times.

77

David Goss / Tim Goss

78

It could be that McLaren has tripled their salary. Or that the current cycle is coming to an end.

But then, so what? Prodromou is not known to have helped produce lots of title-winning cars in his previous stint at McLaren, which lasted 15 years.

I am certain that aerodynamicists alone do not make a title-winning car. Stable management certainly helps but what matters most, by far, is the chief designer.

And BTW, Newey said he was unsure if he would continue 10 years ago.

79

Red Bull could easily match and double any salary McLaren offered – if they wanted to. This isn’t just about money.

80

Yeah, thought that too. Do you have any knowledge of RBR offering to match-and-then-some PP’s offer from McLaren?

81

And what about Newey singing for Ferrari allready with Vettel?.

You mentioned it as a future posibility.

But if it is done already for 2015 or 2016?.

Alo´s moves to McL would fit with it, I see.

82

Is there anyone at work?

Or everyone at home, alone?.

Good on ya, Silvester!!!

83

He’s already been signed by Decca for a charity record to support the Errectile Disfunction Foundation.

He’ll be singing under his stage name…

Flacido Domingo

..I’ll get my coat! 😀

84

Newey singing for Ferrari allready with Vettel

“Newey sings Bocelli” … I imagine some gawdy album cover from the 60’s … something like this: http://bit.ly/1aBpgii

For Con te partiro, Vettel will do Brightman’s parts (or Celine’s if you’re North American). Magic!

85

I think the speculation on Newey’s future had already started when Vettel extended his contract by only a year. The thought back then was that Vettel aligns his remaining RBR career with that of Newey. Prodromou’s departure just reinforces this.

86

Either that or they were simply syncing contract timing at Red Bull recognizing that a certain core of the team exists and needs to be addressed at same time.

87

It begs the question how much is the work credited to Newey actually Prodromou’s, I suspect more than is visible. Therefore he wil of course be going for more money, but also greater visibility, and higher up the structure. It could be that some of the men at McLaren will be moved sideways or disposed of in the fullness of time. This is exactly the sort of thing that will attract Alonso, Hamilton or even Vettel in the long term if Red Bull take a dive as a consequence. One thing is for sure Horner is not happy at the loss, and there will be good reason for that.

88

Can the mysterious “Right hand man” not be named?

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