2024 Miami Grand Prix: F1 paddock watches to see if Verstappen leaves Red Bull with car builder or if Hamilton lands Newey

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Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates after he became the world champion after winning the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The jostling for superstar technical director Adrian Newey was rampant through the Formula 1 paddock on Thursday, a day after the champion car builder announced he will leave Red Bull early next year.

Among those undisturbed by the speculation was Max Verstappen, the three-time reigning world champion who is signed with Red Bull through 2028 and not ready to reveal if he is interested in following Newey out the door.

“My future is within Red Bull at the moment,” he said.

He is one of the few not openly courting Newey.

Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton, who has already said he will leave Mercedes to join Ferrari next year, was asked at the Miami Grand Prix “how much would you like to see Adrian Newey at Ferrari next year?”

The British driver gave a coy smile and stated simply: “very much.”

Newey, who is 65, is regarded as the greatest designer in series history. In total, he has won 13 drivers’ championships and 12 constructors’ titles with Williams, McLaren and Red Bull, where he has been since 2006.

The designer is a pivotal figure in Red Bull’s dominance of the motorsports series. He has helped the team win seven of those drivers’ titles — including the last three seasons for Verstappen — and six constructors’ titles.

As Newey awaits his approved time to move on — Red Bull is not forcing him to stay on the sidelines for any extended period of time in 2025 — he will step back from F1 design. With new regulations set to hit F1 ahead of the 2026 season, Newey is expected to begin work on a new hypercar build with whatever team he chooses.

Verstappen said Newey’s departure doesn’t have him looking for exit clauses “at this time.”

“I think people in the press, they are making up a lot of things at the moment because they don’t understand how the roles were in the team,” Verstappen said. “I cannot deny that I would have preferred him to stay, just for how he is as person, his knowledge and of course what he would bring to potentially another team if he wants to join.

“Besides that, I trust that the people that we have, they are incredibly good at what they do.”

The three-time reigning world champion denied a report that he had been offered a contract in excess of $161 million to replace Hamilton at Mercedes, and said it wouldn’t matter to him if Meredes boss Toto Wolff added an additional 100 million euros.

“Money is not going to be the differentiator for me to go somewhere,” Verstappen said. “I’m happy with what I’m earning already. It’s about performance. Because I know myself that if I was driving for P5 or P6, you get quite grumpy with yourself, so it’s always about performance at the end of the day. And everyone knows that, Toto also knows that.’’

There was speculation that Verstappen and his father are scheduled to meet with Mercedes on Monday, the day after the Miami Grand Prix that Verstappen has so far won in both its runnings. While the driver downplayed the effect Newey’s departure could have on Red Bull, his father, Jos, has been outspoken and indicated it is the beginning of a team implosion.

Jos Verstappen is both a former F1 driver and his son’s manager, but the younger driver said his father does not speak for him.

“I think I learned to not always say everything in the media,” Max Verstappen said. “It doesn’t benefit anyone. It doesn’t benefit myself. It doesn’t benefit the team. And at the end of the day, it will also not benefit anyone around in the paddock. I don’t always need to say everything I have in my mind.’’

Max Verstappen said he sent Newey a note but did not ask him to reconsider his decision. Newey on Thursday traveled from England to Miami with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

“I don’t need to convince anyone because at the end of the day, if someone really wants to leave, they should leave. That’s also what I wrote to him,” Verstappen said. “I mean, we talk, it’s not like suddenly you don’t talk anymore. If you think that is the right decision for yourself, your family or you seek a different challenge, you have to do it. At the end of the day, F1 is a shark tank and everyone thinks about themselves..”

Hamilton is certainly thinking about himself and the possibility of driving a Newey-built car for Ferrari.

“If I was to do a list of people I would love to work with, he would absolutely be at the top of it,” Hamilton said. “Any team would be fortunate to have the opportunity to work with him.”

Hamilton declined to answer when asked if recruiting Newey was ever part of his Ferrari negotiations.

“Racing against a team he has been so heavily a part of over the years has been a massive challenge,” Hamilton said. “But we have to remember there is a lot of people in the background — it is not one person, it is a whole team of people who do the job.”

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