The Aston Martin Valkyrie was almost a Ferrari. The most extreme road car ever only happened as an effort to keep star Red Bull designer Adrian Newey from going to Ferrari, according to a new interview between Dax Shepard and Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner.
Newey is one of the most successful engineers in Formula One history. Twelve of his cars have won the series' World Constructors' Championship, and he’s acted as a change agent at teams like Williams, McLaren, and Red Bull, pulling struggling teams to the front of the grid with innovative design solutions.
Red Bull won the constructors' championship consecutively from 2010 through 2013 with Sebastian Vettel at the wheel. However, when F1 changed regulations and entered the hybrid era, Mercedes became the dominant team from 2014 through 2021. Red Bull didn't top the standings again until 2022. It was during these unsuccessful years that Ferrari started courting Newey.
Gallery: Aston Martin Valkyrie
"Adrian came very close to leaving," Horner said. "He was within about half an hour of signing."
Ferrari made Newey a very enticing offer. He would have flown from Monaco to the Maranello factory daily, and the company would help with any taxes. Plus, he'd get to design a road car.
Horner countered by offering to let Newey create a road car at Red Bull. At the time, Aston Martin was the title sponsor of the F1 team, so Horner went to the automaker's CEO, Andy Palmer, and pitched him the idea.
"Look, we've got arguably the best designer of all time," Horner said in the interview. "You've got a great brand. We're not going to finance the car. But it would make sense to bring these two things together, and that's literally in a pub in England."
Gallery: 2019 Aston Martin Valkyrie
It worked, and Newey stayed at Red Bull. Aston Martin and Red Bull initially announced the Valkyrie in 2016 under the codename AM-RB 001. The companies announced the car’s official name in 2017. Production finally began in 2021.
The project roped in Cosworth to build the Valkyrie's 6.5-liter V12, and Rimac supplied the KERS hybrid system. The result is a total output of 1,140 horsepower. Newey created swoopy, highly aerodynamic bodywork for the machine. Horner previously called it "a diffuser on wheels."
The end result is, without a doubt, the wildest and possibly most complex road car the world has ever seen, an aero machine that can lap tracks as quickly as many race cars but can also, technically, go to the grocery store. At the same time, a new era of dominance for Red Bull in F1 was ushered in. And for all that, we have Ferrari to thank.