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How Honda got Red Bull's top designer Adrian Newey sharp again

Red Bull's switch to engine maker Honda in 2019 marked a new era for the team, which has so far successfully proven to bring them championships. It also reignited designer Adrian Newey's motivation.

After winning both the Formula 1 Drivers' and Constructors' Championships between 2010 and 2013 with Sebastian Vettel, it would take Red Bull another nine years before they repeated the same feat. At that time, the team's Chief Technical Officer, Adrian Newey, was the lead designer of the cars that propelled Vettel to success. Despite the regulation change to hybrid engines that followed in 2014, Newey – speaking to Red Bull – admits that he was contemplating whether to stop after 2013. "We can count ourselves lucky that we had a really good run from 2009 to 2013," Newey says. "But to be honest, at the end of '13, I was quite tired." When the switch to hybrids came, it was clear that Renault were unable to keep up with Mercedes or Ferrari, which led to Red Bull unceremoniously dropping Renault as their supplier at the end of 2018. That period, Newey admits, was not productive for his motivation. "After the switch from V8 to V6 turbo engines, our engine partner [Renault] was never really able to build a competitive engine," explains Newey. "In fact, [I] think we might have had two or three times the best chassis between 2014 and 2020, but we lacked an overall competitive car with which to win a championship. "If you realise you can't go for the title, no matter how good your chassis is, it's quite demotivating."

Honda switch marked the start of another golden era

When the switch to Honda came in 2019, it was a shock to the F1 world given how the difficult relationship between the Japanese engine maker and McLaren had recently unfolded. But, for Red Bull, it marked the start of another golden era for the team, which has so far resulted in two Drivers' Championships and ended Mercedes' eight-year dominance. "That collaboration changed everything," says Newey. "It suddenly gave us an engine that could compete with the standard. "That meant that if we came up with a competitive chassis, we could actually take a shot at a title. And with that realisation came the motivation all the way back." After Honda pulled out as their main power unit supplier in 2021, the team started to run their engine partner under the guise of Red Bull Powertrains in 2022 – even though they effectively took over the Honda project. However, at the Japanese Grand Prix, Red Bull announced a strengthening of the partnership between the two entities , with the return of the official Honda company logos on the side of their cars.

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