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The 'high-end' talent that McLaren has poached from Red Bull

Rob Marshall has been a key member of the Red Bull 'inner circle' during their rise to becoming one of Formula 1's big three teams. His departure to McLaren speaks volumes about their technical restructure, and the impact that the cost cap is having on senior staff members at teams.

Rob Marshall 2022
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

If you can't tempt Adrian Newey away from Red Bull, then why not poach one of his disciples?

Although Rob Marshall has been working in Formula 1 for the last 32 years, since joining Red Bull in 2006 he has been a key member of the 'inner circle' during their rise to becoming one of the big three teams.

The news that he would be leaving the squad as they enjoy their latest peak in success to join McLaren comes after Dan Fallows left in 2022 to join Aston Martin. It was clear from Red Bull how much of an influence Marshall had on the team in the last 15 years.

Team Principal Christian Horner spoke about his "truly outstanding" contributions to the team, which led to their back-to-back championships between 2010 and 2013, adding that his "influence will be missed" around the factory.

Marshall's immediate departure comes at an awkward point for Red Bull, as his role in the Chief Engineering Officer position meant he was heavily involved in various projects including their 2026 car and Red Bull Powertrains.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown also spoke about Marshall being a "winning calibre talent" in a post on social media, while Team Principal Andrea Stella branded him a "high-end and skilled individual".

How important is Rob Marshall?

Marshall's experience in F1 goes beyond Red Bull, having first joined Benetton at the height of their success with Michael Schumacher in 1994 and 1995.

He remained at the Enstone-based team through Renault's acquisition, working his way up to Head of Mechanical Design. From there he worked on the R23, which brought in Fernando Alonso's first victory at Hungary in 2003, then latterly the R24 which triumphed at the hands of Jarno Trulli during the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix.

The R25 was the first masterstroke in his design portfolio, as he is credited as being part of the technical team that evolved the innovative 'mass damper' system which ultimately became the secret weapon to Alonso's title success in 2005 and 2006.

He made the switch to Red Bull at the end of 2006 and became an important member of their technical team, as they focused resources on the big regulation change for 2009. This yielded the team's first victories and set them on a path to success in the next decade with Sebastian Vettel, winning the 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 Drivers' and Constructors' titles.

			© xpb.cc
	© xpb.cc

What does this mean for Red Bull and McLaren?

It is a proper coup for McLaren as they endure a complete overhaul of their technical leadership following a disappointing start to 2023.

Andreas Seidl was the first to leave in the off-season to join the Audi project and was replaced by Stella. Technical Director James Key, who was responsible for the team missing their targets at the start of the season, later exited.

Stella said earlier this year that McLaren planned to replace Key with a three-person technical team, which is where ex-Red Bull engineer Peter Prodromou along with David Sanchez from Ferrari fit into the puzzle.

With Marshall seemingly leaving Red Bull during what will be a period of total dominance in F1, it speaks volumes about the direction of the McLaren project.

It also helps retain top drivers like Lando Norris, who has grown frustrated with their 2023 start after they failed to maintain their momentum from the pre-2022 regulations.

Why leave Red Bull?

F1 journalist Dieter Rencken explains the staff turnover in Formula 1

Formula 1 has always had a migratory work force; people moving around between teams. If we look at someone like Adrian Newey, he started off at March/Leyton House and then worked for Williams, McLaren and Red Bull. Over the years he's had all sorts of offers, including Ferrari and Mercedes, so it's no surprise that staff are changing teams.

Formula 1 is a tight-knit community and your products are visible immediately on the track. Some teams try to keep secret which staff member came up with each idea; I know that McLaren and Williams were always very reluctant to tell because they were scared that people would then be poached.

Another factor that plays a role is the budget cap. Teams are restricted in terms of numbers because of the cap, and this affects salaries. So people are now trying to find the best, most cost-effective engineers that they can attract. Because of this, they are sort of talking to people across the grid.

The other factor is the new rules coming into F1 for 2026 means that it's a completely new book. The regulations are not yet cast in stone, but for some people it's very attractive to move on to another team and take charge of a future project.

The issue that Ferrari, AlphaTauri and Sauber face is that to attract people to move, not only companies but countries, and their families, and the kids' schools and their partner's jobs, it makes it a lot more difficult for them to attract people because you've got to move the whole lot from one house to another country.

In the past, the way that teams overcame this was by offering premium salaries. Under the budget cap that's not possible, or is difficult to do because every additional money you spend on somebody means that it's less to spend elsewhere

I think that what is clear is that we are going to have a lot more movement of staff. Particularly people who are working their way up the ladder, they will become attractive to other teams. As a result, salaries are increased, and of course all that is counterproductive when it comes to the cost cap.

In the end, I think the teams will start talking to each other so that they can slow down that process, in order to save costs.

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