Posted on June 13, 2014
By David Coulthard
It has been clear for some time that Adrian needed a break from F1. This way Red Bull get to keep his experience on tap, and keep him out of the clutches of their rivals.
The big talking point to emerge from the Canadian Grand Prix - or at least the incident that caused the most chatter - was Mercedes' failure to land another one-two. By allowing their two drivers to fight each other so hard, despite overheating issues, did the Brackley team cost themselves serious points?
It's a debate I went into in some length in my BBC column. But essentially, yes, I think they did, and it will be interesting now to see whether Mercedes' approach changes if a similar situation arises later in the season.
In truth, however, the more significant development, the one with potentially longer term consequences for the F1 paddock, slipped out in the hours before the lights went out in Montreal. It was the news that Adrian Newey had signed a new deal with Red Bull, albeit one which will see him step back from the F1 side of things and pursue other interests as part of Red Bull Technology.
I've known Adrian for a long long time, first at Williams, then at McLaren and finally at Red Bull where I like to think I was pretty instrumental in his agreeing to join. It has been obvious for a while now that he has been wanting a break. Even as far back as McLaren he was talking about the America's Cup and the possibility of getting involved somehow; of testing his genius in other spheres.
People often say that that Williams and McLaren should have given him shareholdings in their teams in an effort to tie him down but I don't think it would have made any difference. Adrian does not like to be tied down.
The Red Bull project gave him a new lease of life, the opportunity to build a team from scratch. And the 2009 regulations were the blank sheet of paper he needed to prove himself once again the pre-eminent designer of this age.
But the fact is Formula One's design rules are becoming ever more restrictive and Adrian has always hankered after creative freedom in which to express himself.
Naturally, his restlessness alerted the big players up and down the pitlane. Ferrari, in particular, would have paid the earth to sign him.
But in the end I think it's a win-win for Adrian and Red Bull. Adrian gets to pursue new projects, to rediscover his mental mojo, to test himself in the America's Cup arena if that's what floats his boat. Red Bull get to keep his experience and wisdom on tap. And, just as importantly, get to keep him out of the clutches of their F1 competition.
It is going to be fascinating to see what effect this has on Christian Horner's troops. Their rivals will be hoping it has a substantial one but I'm not so sure that it will. Adrian was only working four days a week in the factory anyway.
Part of his brilliance at Red Bull has been the way he has built up his technical department around him. And as ever with a team, it is about more than one man. This is an opportunity for the rest of them to step up and prove themselves, albeit with the security blanket of having Adrian still on site to bounce ideas off.