Formula 1 crash without Adrian Newey? That’s how it went for the star designer’s former teams

After a combined 117 race victories, six constructors’ and seven drivers’ titles, Red Bull will have to do without star designer Adrian Newey from 2025. According to Max Verstappen, there is no reason to panic. The team has sufficient qualities even without Newey. But can the loss of the ‘Einstein of Formula 1’ really be dealt with so easily? A look into the past shows how Newey’s former teams fared after his departure.

Leyton House: total crash after Newey-Aus

Newey made his start in Formula 1 at March F1, later renamed Leyton House. He joined the team in the summer of 1987 and designed the car for the following season. With the March-Judd 881, Newey immediately managed to make a name for himself in the premier class. The car was aggressive, with completely new design elements. Newey set his first trend. As early as 1989, numerous teams had copied his aerodynamic idea and the ultra-narrow monocoque.

Leyton House 1989, photo: LAT Images
Leyton House 1989, photo: LAT Images

However, Newey was unable to continue the success to this extent in 1989 and 1990. After disappointing results and arguments with the team’s new finance director, the designer, who had already had an offer from Williams, was fired in 1990. Before that, however, he made changes to the car that led to a remarkable improvement and the best result for Leyton House (P2 in the 1990 French GP).

Without Newey, the reliability problems at Leyton House continued in the 1991 season and there were no significant successes. What could have developed into a dominant team in Formula 1 quickly came to an end. Team owner Akira Akagi was involved in a financial scandal and was arrested in September 1991. Money was tight, although the racing team was sold to new owners in 1992. The team finally disbanded in early 1993.

Williams: Never found his way back to his glory days

Newey’s arrival at Williams in 1990 marked the beginning of a legendary partnership. In 1992 the team won both the constructors’ and drivers’ championships with Nigel Mansell at the wheel of the legendary FW14B. Teammate Riccardo Patrese followed behind in second place and Williams cemented its dominance with an impressive 10 wins from 16 races.

The team repeated the feat in 1993, winning the constructors’ championship for the second year in a row, with Alain Prost winning his fourth and final drivers’ title. Although Damon Hill lost the 1994 title to Michael Schumacher by just one point, the FW16 gave the team another constructors’ title.

After a brief slump, the team got back on track in 1996, winning another constructors’ title and scoring twice as many points as runner-up Ferrari. Hill also won the Drivers’ World Championship with Williams, closely followed by teammate Jacques Villeneuve.

Damon Hill won the world title in 1996, but his contract was not renewed afterwards, photo: Sutton
Damon Hill won the world title in 1996, but his contract was not renewed afterwards, photo: Sutton

The dominance continued in 1997 with the FW19. It was the last Williams car with Newey’s influence and once again won both world titles. However, that was the end of the star designer’s incredible run at Williams. Newey was contractually guaranteed more and more say in the team. Something that has been disregarded several times. The Briton was then successfully poached by McLaren.

After 1997, Williams was unable to maintain his dominance. No wonder. Engine supplier Renault ended its full-time involvement in Formula 1 and Newey had moved to rival McLaren. Williams has not yet been able to repeat the success of Newey’s time. The traditional racing team has remained without a title for almost 30 years. Race victories also became rare.

Williams had its most successful period after Newey from 2001 to 2004. At that time, the team purchased the engine from BMW. Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya achieved a total of ten race victories during these years. Then came another series of years without being on the top podium. In 2012, Pastor Maldonado won the last victory for Williams.

Engine swaps, changes of ownership and a fall to the bottom of the premier class followed. To this day, Williams has not found his way back to his heyday with Newey in the 1990s. However, team boss James Vowles sensed an opportunity to return to the old recipe for success. In the tug-of-war over the star designer, he will do his best if Newey decides against retirement.

McLaren: No constructors’ title since Newey

Newey finally came to McLaren at the end of 1997. The very next year the partnership proved to be a success. The team won both World Cup titles in 1998. In 1999, the racing team narrowly missed out on the constructors’ title and came second. However, Mika Häkkinen once again took first place in the drivers’ championship.

In the early 2000s, Newey provided competitive machinery for Häkkinen, David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen, but Ferrari was too dominant. McLaren fell from second place in 2000 and 2001 to third place in 2002 and 2003. In 2004 it was only enough for fifth place in the constructors’ championship before the team climbed back to second place in 2005. Newey, no longer happy at McLaren, was courted by Red Bull. It was a risk that the design genius was willing to take and so a historic collaboration began in 2006.

McLaren initially failed to win a single race in 2006, but by 2007 the team was competitive again. However, the espionage scandal in the same year overshadowed the racing team’s achievements. Despite Newey’s departure, McLaren still held up well in the F1 field – unlike Leyton House and Williams.

As is well known, Lewis Hamilton won his first drivers’ title in the 2008 season. At that time, McLaren took second place in the constructors’ championship. Since then it has often been P2 or P3. However, without Newey it was no longer enough for the title in the constructors’ championship. Race victories were easier to achieve until 2012, but after that they became a rarity.

Could McLaren soon be a title contender again? You can find the MSM assessment in our video:

F1 interim results 2024: Will McLaren & Ferrari beat Red Bull? (34:24 mins)

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