Formula 1 Racing

Fourth time lucky? Why Ferrari’s first attempts to hire Newey failed · RaceFans

Adrian Newey, March, IndyCar, 1986

Ferrari are widely considered by many as the favourites to hire Formula 1’s most respected designer, Adrian Newey, when he leaves Red Bull early next year.

The team first tried to hire Newey when its founder, Enzo Ferrari, was still alive. Had he joined them then the sport’s history might look very different.

Instead Newey produced a succession of championship-winning cars for British-based teams: Williams, McLaren and Red Bull.

Will F1’s most famous, historic and successful team finally lure the sport’s most respected designer to Maranello? Their three previous efforts to sign him show how early they recognised his potential and how keen they became to hire him.


Ferrari wanted Newey for its planned IndyCar entry

Ferrari first tried to hire Newey when he was forging a reputation in the American racing scene, and the F1 team was considering a move into IndyCar racing. Ferrari eventually shelved that project, but not before Newey was invited to their headquarters to discuss it.

The 26-year-old had already been introduced to F1 car design at Fittipaldi, then joined March where he enjoyed a successful stint in F2 before shifting his focus to their American racing activities. His sports car designs delivered championship success in the IMSA category, then in 1984 he engineered Bobby Rahal’s Truesports-run March.

The followed year, March gave Newey the chance to produce his first clean-sheet design: the 85C. The car proved a success, continuing March’s run of Indianapolis 500 victories courtesy of Danny Sullivan, and winning the championship in Al Unser’s hands.

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As Ferrari balked against the FISA’s plans for future F1 engine rules, it unveiled plans to build its own car to tackle the CART IndyCar series. The championship was enjoying an upswing in interest at the time, thanks in part to the arrival of F1 champions such as Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi.

Ferrari brought Newey to Maranello to evaluate his interest in serving as chief designer on its IndyCar project. However serious it might have been, the plan never came to fruition, and Newey remained at March, eventually returning to F1 with the team in 1988.


Adrian Newey, Williams Interlagos, 1995
Newey left Williams for McLaren

By 1995 Newey’s reputation as one of F1’s foremost designers had been established. His March designs proved highly influential, though he only began to enjoy success after he moved to Williams in 1990. His FW14B and FW15C designs harnessed active…

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