Harrison Newey: "I don't want to be known just as Adrian's son"

Harrison Newey, son of Formula 1 design guru Adrian Newey, spoke to Darshan Chokhani about his racing career and his relationship with his dad.

The 17-year-old is moving to European Formula 3 this year with Dutch team Van Amersfoort Racing, after finishing second last year in the BRDC F4 championship.

To prepare for the upcoming season, the British driver competed in the India-based MRF Challenge series, where he finished fifth overall, picking up three podiums.

In an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com, Harrison takes us through his childhood dreams to where he is now and talks about his dad, the F4 season, F3, his school life and his F1 dream.

How did racing begin for you?

"My dad brought me a quad bike when I was four, it was a little 50cc bike and I probably did more hours on that than I was inside my house. 

"I was always a motorsport enthusiast because, for one, of what was my dad was doing - I was really enthusiastic about what his cars were doing, always watching how they are performing.

"I think it is the case with any kid out there. If they watch football, they want to be footballer; I never watched football, I watched motor racing and I was always on the quad bike in the garden.

"And then when I was eight, at Christmas my dad bought me a kart, and I said to him that I want to be a racing driver. He was like, ‘are you sure you want to do this?’

"We went karting couple of times, and he obviously couldn’t commit to it that much because he was going to races and he had a lot of work.

"So he got a guy called Dave Boyce, and he’s been with me since I was eight-nine years when it all began, I have learnt a lot from him."

When you started karting, did it become your first choice?

"At first, it was just a casual thing. At eight years old, you don’t know that’s what you really want to do. I thought I wanted to do it but then you are not going to put loads of time and effort when you are a kid.

"I think if you start being a professional driver at eight, you miss a lot on your childhood and also you know you are going to be a F1 driver for a long time, you've got a lot of time to think about these things.

"So I did some karting races, I did some in Germany when I got a bit older but karting for me was just an apprenticeship, to learn the basics of being a driver."

How was managing school and racing?

"We always said, we are not going to [concentrate more on racing than school]. Some people out there, they are out in the karts three days a week, and you can’t compete with these people.

"School always came first because if you don’t make it to being a professional driver, you need to do something else. There’s no point having a lot of Ds and Es on your reports from your exams if you don’t make it as a racing driver.

"I mean, three days a week of karting when you are 13-years-old is just crazy. We always knew, you don’t become a F1 driver doing karting, you need to race cars. Once I came into BRDC F4, school was still the focus, but we did more testing, we put a bit more effort into it."

"I am doing my A-levels this year and the next. The school is all right with me racing, as long as I catch up, which is hard but not impossible. As for university, I probably won’t go but it depends really on the racing this year and the next."

Was that [BRDC] the point you started to believe that this is where you belong?

"BRDC F4 was the point that I thought I can take the step up. Of course in karting, I wanted to be a F1 driver, but we knew that if you are doing well in karting, it wouldn’t make a difference.

"The number of karting champions are at home doing nothing is huge, but the amount of British champions in F4 and Formula Renault, who made it to professional driving is big.

"We know at that point that to be in F1, you had to push, I had to be focused if I really want to do it, I had to do a good job."

How much has your dad Adrian helped you?

"Obviously, he has helped me, but in terms of car and anything, it just like any other driver. It is the teams that have set it up, he doesn’t get involved.

"But he has worked with a lot of great drivers like Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Mika Hakkinen, Sebastian Vettel, the list goes on. He knows what makes them so quick.

"All he can say to me is these are the similar traits that make them go quick - he can see those, he can relay that to me, and I can try and make that as strength of mine.

With Adrian being a designer and not a racer himself - is it an advantage or disadvantage for you?

"It has its advantages and disadvantages. Being a designer, my dad has seen all the drivers, how they go about their business, so in that sense, he can help a lot.

"The other thing is an understanding of the car. I think a lot of people don’t have a big understanding of how the car works, and if the car is doing something, it is nice for me to know what I think I should change, which I can then report to the engineer.

"I am not an engineer of the car myself, but it is nice to have an understanding of what I am doing - because you don’t have a lot of time in a race weekend, and sometimes an engineer, like any human being, would make a mistake."

When you are a son of a big name, all the eyes are on you. What do you feel?

"That can get a bit annoying. I think what I have to do is go out on the track and prove myself, and I will start with my own name - I don’t want to be known as 'Adrian Newey’s son'. I want my dad to be known as the father of Harrison Newey."

What attracted you to contest the MRF Challenge series?

"A lot of things attracted us. It is extremely good valuefor the championship in terms of money, incredible value. The other thing is it has some great tracks that come up on F1 calendar.

"To have raced on tracks used for GP2 and GP3 before getting to that stage with very limited testing is an invaluable experience. 

"Plus we wanted to do a winter championship to gain experience, and in Europe MRF is starting to get a good reputation. The only other choice was TRS in New Zealand - for us, it was a no-brainer."

How are things looking ahead of your F3 debut with Van Amersfoort Racing?

"To be honest, I don’t have any aims. I’ll do as much I possibly can. Testing has been quite promising, but you won’t really know where you are unless you get to qualifying in the first round.

"In 2015, it was hugely competitive, but then racing [in MRF Challenge] against drivers like [Pietro] Fittipaldi, [Tatiana] Calderon, [Jake] Dennis and GP2 driver [Nobuharu] Matsushita - all extremely good drivers. To beat them, I think that’s quite promising for this year.

"I think VAR should be good. Look at Charles Leclerc last year, he was a rookie, he’s done extremely well and I am really confident with the team so far in testing. They have done a really good job and made me comfortable with the car."

Too early to talk about future but do you have anything apart from F1 in mind?

"I will always be open to a switch to prototypes or DTM, it would be really good fun. But at the moment, I am only focused on F1."

Finally, your favourite car that your dad designed, and drivers?

"Probably, the 2010 Red Bull is my favourite, just because it was so dominant. I was too young to look at the early Williams and McLaren cars.

"I think Sebastian [Vettel] and Fernando [Alonso] really stick out for me, they have got extremely good discipline and they are both really fast, and also Lewis [Hamilton].

"So probably these three drivers I look at, but at the end of the day everyone’s got their own traits - you won’t be yourself if you try and copy them, you are not going to do as well as they do.

"The one driver I have always respected is Alonso. He’s done an amazing job, especially in 2012 to come close to winning the title with the Ferrari."

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About this article
Series F3 Europe
Drivers Harrison Newey
Teams Van Amersfoort Racing
Article type Interview