Could Off-Track Matters Affect Odds of Red Bull Victory in Future F1 Seasons?

  • Red Bull suffered disappointment in Australia with a DNF for Verstappen
  • A power struggles threatens to disrupt F1’s golden team and its future success
  • Adrian Newey, the engineer who makes Red Bull tick, may look for another team
Red Bull car
Red Bull could face difficulties going forward if internal struggles lead to the departure of their chief engineer. [Image:]

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Melbourne 2024 was a rare blip on what is almost certain to be another season of success for Red Bull Racing in Formula 1.

Despite Max Verstappen suffering the ignominy of a DNF due to mechanical problems and Sergio Perez finishing a disappointing fifth, it will still take a miracle for the Dutchman not to be crowned F1’s 2024 world champion later this year. The same applies to the constructors’ championship, where it will take a catastrophe of biblical proportions to stop Red Bull boss Christian Horner lifting the trophy in Abu Dhabi in December.

Verstappen is pitched as short as -2000 for the 2024 title

Since Verstappen’s 2021 win in Abu Dhabi, which controversially clinched the Dutchman’s first world championship, the only way has been up for Red Bull. Two more double-world championships followed – drivers’ and constructors’ – with another almost certain to follow this season. To offer some context around their ongoing dominance, even after a disastrous weekend, Verstappen is pitched as short as -2000 for the 2024 title and Red Bull at -2500, both with Paddy Power.

Yet, almost for the first time, all is not harmonious in the Austrian team, whose HQ is in Milton Keynes, UK. Despite their flying start to 2024, the talk surrounding Red Bull has not been all about the pace and astounding aerodynamics of RB20, but has instead focused on off-track matters.

Internal Struggles at Red Bull

First of all, rumors spread of a power struggle within the team, with its Austrian owners supposedly wanting the team to relocate back to its homeland. Then a huge storm erupted over alleged misconduct by CEO and Team Leader Horner toward a female team employee.

An internal investigation found that Horner did not act inappropriately and the female who made the complaint lost her job. Yet it cast a dark shadow over a team that’s built a reputation within the sport as being its most ruthless.

Still the rumors of unrest persist, with Helmut Marko – an industry veteran employed by Red Bull as its ‘motorsport advisor’ – rumored to now be at loggerheads with Horner, who has also had a public falling out with Max Verstappen’s father and advisor, Joss.     

even more important to the team than Verstappen, Horner, and Marko combined

In the background, and keeping his powder dry, is another Red Bull employee who is arguably even more important to the team than Verstappen, Horner, and Marko combined.

Adrian Newey joined Red Bull in 2006 as a car designer and has been instrumental in the team’s success over the last 18 seasons. His reputation as one of the sport’s great engineers was already well established but the specification changes that came into force at the start of the 2022 season elevated him to a whole new level.

The reason? An F1 phenomenon known as ground effects – the channeling of air under the car to create downforce.

The Newey Ground Effect

To understand why Newey and ground effects are a match made in heaven, we have to go back to 1980 when he graduated from the University of Southampton. In his final year, he studied ground effect as an aerodynamic phenomenon and its application to motorsport.      

When it became clear one of the new specifications for the 2022 F1 season was based around the ground effects on the redesigned cars, Red Bull were licking their lips. It fell perfectly into Newey’s sweet spot.

It put them at a significant advantage over the other nine teams. Despite them all employing brilliant engineers in their own fields, none could get close to Newey when it came to the aerodynamics of ground effects, and Red Bull made the most of it.

It was, and still is, to coin an F1 phrase, a ‘rocket ship’

While others, including Mercedes and Ferrari, struggled with the concept and a knock-on effect known as porpoising, the RB18 was imperious. It was smooth, it stuck to the track through the high-speed corners, and it responded perfectly to Verstappen’s and Perez’s wishes. It was, and still is, to coin an F1 phrase, a ‘rocket ship.’

Could he move on?

Newey, the architect of the RB18, RB19, and RB20 is, of course, not immune to all of the controversy surrounding the team and, while the man himself has said very little, the inevitable rumors of him moving to other teams have started.

Ferrari would be a possible destination, not least because over the years, Newey has openly talked of the regret he would feel if he ended his career having never worked for the Maranello-based team. Newey also said the same of Lewis Hamilton, who will be joining the Italian giants for the 2025 season.

Whether that ‘dream’ move will ever move beyond pure speculation remains to be seen, but some bookmakers are offering just +450 for Newey to move to Ferrari for the start of 2025.  

Either way, at 64-years-old, Newey remains one of the hottest properties in the sport.

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