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JULY 13, 2004

A time to negotiate

McLaren technical director Adrian Newey will be free to leave McLaren at the end of July 2005 and that means that we are likely to see a battle for his services. At the moment Newey says that he isn't even thinking about contracts because he is busy working on next year's car. The current MP4-19B is understood to have rather more Newey influence than the original MP4-19 and that is evidence enough that Newey has not lost his touch. There have however been times when he has suffered motivational problems because of a series of poor engines from Mercedes-Benz and internal politicking at McLaren. Adrian came very close to quitting McLaren for Jaguar Racing in the summer of 2001 when a deal was struck with Jaguar Racing for him to begin working in August 2002. Two days later Newey decided against the deal after considerable lobbying from McLaren boss Ron Dennis. The two teams went to court and Jaguar Racing won a ruling in its favour but the case was stopped when Newey made it clear that he had no intention of working for Jaguar, despite his earlier decision.

There is talk that Adrian may want to take a sabbatical away from the sport but it is rare indeed when engineers do that, unless they are forced into "gardening leave" when ending contracts early. It is hard to imagine that McLaren is going to let Newey go because of his obvious talent which resulted in Adrian leading the design teams on cars which won virtually all the World Championship between 1991 and 1999.

The big question for McLaren is whether or not another team is going to enter the bidding to sign up Newey. There are one or two who might benefit from such a move.