Adrian Newey on the champions he has worked with: “Very different characters, but all phenomenal”

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Red Bull’s Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey has worked with many extremely talented drivers since his first job on the Formula 1 grid in 1981 with Fittipaldi, going on to become the only F1 designer to win Constructors’ championships with three different teams.

The last champion he has worked with is Max Verstappen, two times winner in 2021 and 2022, who is comfortably on track for his third title in a row with a comfortable lead of 53 points to his teammate. Newey believes him to be the “perfect” driver, praising his conscious but always on-the-edge driving in an interview for Sky Sports Italia:

“I think he is. He’s got tremendous car control and natural ability. He came in, maybe made some mistakes early on because he was pushing so hard, but now he’s really smooth and drives absolutely to the limit of the car, but within that he’s very thoughtful.

“He has a very good feeling from the tyres, we have seen that in several races over the last two years. He really has a good feel with how to use the tyres. With the tyre behaviour, that’s such an important factor now.”

Photo credits: Red Bull Racing

At the opposite end of his motorsport-winning career, Nigel Mansell in 1992 was the first driver to win a Formula 1 championship on a car designed by Newey, at the time working for Williams.

The CTO highlighted the positive traits in his character which aided the British driver in his fight for the title, as he went on to recall all the most famous championship winner and contenders he has had so far the pleasure to work with:

“Those drivers are all so different to each other. Nigel had huge self-confidence, a lot of upper-body strength, which in those days with no power steering and lots of downforce, was important. A fierce competitor out on track.”

In the following year, Williams and Newey scored another title, this time with four-time champion Alain Prost, who appears to have been less collaborative than his predecessor Mansell:

“Alain much more methodical, very articulate and testing was very frustrating because often he wouldn’t push himself. So you never quite knew where you were. But when he wanted to, he could turn it on.”

The British engineer moved to McLaren in 1997 to take up the role of Technical Director, where he immediately managed to win the championship twice in 1998 and 1999 with Mika Hakkinen. The Finn only narrowly missed out on the third title in a row in 2000. He also worked with Kimi Räikkönen, coming close to championships in 2003 and 2005.

“Mika and Kimi were very different. They didn’t say very much but what they did say, you had to take a lot of notice of and interpret what they were saying because they had different ways of putting things.”

The most significant team change of his career is definitely his move to Red Bull in 2006. Under Newey’s technical leadership the British team went from P7 in the Constructors’ standings, to reaching its goal of a P5 overall finish with the first car designed by him, to scoring four titles in a row with Sebastian Vettel in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

“Sebastian was a big thinker, long debriefs and spent a huge amount of time going through everything. Max is more in the middle. So very different characters, but all phenomenal in their own right,” he concluded.