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MAY 31, 2001

Will Newey really go to Jaguar Racing?

THIS week there are a lot of stories about McLaren technical director Adrian Newey moving to Jaguar Racing. It is a move which has been rumored for over a year. Newey has a contract with McLaren until August 1 2002 but it is already very clear that Jaguar Racing will not be fully competitive until the team has a good windtunnel. The Jaguar Research and Development Centre in Brackley (complete with a windtunnel) will be finished by the end of this year. It will be too late for the 2002 car. Jaguar's plans to relocate to Gaydon may be completed by the middle of 2002 (with a second windtunnel being part of this program). This is about the time that work will begin on the design of the 2003 car. This is the important car for Jaguar because once the team's industrial elements are in place it will need to deliver.

In order to lead the design team of the 2003 car Newey must be with the team by August 2002 - which is when his contract with McLaren expires. Thus it would be fair to say that there is no reason for Newey to break his current McLaren contract. However, once McLaren knows that he is leaving for a rival team there is not much point in him staying on at McLaren and he would probably be let go by McLaren after development work on the current car is finished. Thus, if a deal is happening with Jaguar, one would expect Adrian to leave McLaren at the end of this year.

In other words a deal is possible and makes sense for Jaguar and for Newey. Jaguar would also be in a position to have completely different drivers in 2003 as all current contracts would be over and better drivers could be hired if it was known that Newey was coming on board. Some of the current big names would be available and would fit the bill, notably David Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher.

Newey has been very good at moving to the right teams at the right times. He is a brilliant engineer but also very astute from a political point of view. He is in part responsible for the success of the teams he joins but he makes sure than before he jumps the right elements are in place to make sure that the job he does is a successful one.

It is not simply a question of money. McLaren would probably match any deal offered elsewhere but Jaguar Racing may have added attractions to Newey. He would be working with Bobby Rahal, a longtime friend with whom Adrian worked in CART in the mid-1980s.

Newey is a big Jaguar fan. One of the stars cars in his private collection is a 1935 SS100, the model which launched the Jaguar company. He comes from Stratford-upon-Avon which is just a few miles from Gaydon.

The deal may not yet be done but there is no doubt that negotiations are taking place and logic suggests that it is a deal which makes sense to all concerned. McLaren can try to keep hold of him but Newey has sometimes seems stifled by the McLaren philosophy and may find working with Rahal to be a better idea.