Ford's F1 return with Red Bull — how it will work


Ford has confirmed that it is coming back to Formula 1, and is expected to partner with Red Bull. Here's what we know so far

Red Bull Ford powertrains logo

Ford is coming back to Formula 1, in a partnership with Red Bull Racing, which will see it collaborate on next-generation engine development.

Its return in 2026, will be more than 20 years after Ford last powered a grand prix car — the 2004 Jordan-Ford.

The news was much anticipated and confirmed during the launch of Red Bull’s 2023 livery in New York.

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Ford will be a partner to Red Bull’s new powertrain division, without taking control, and will share its expertise to develop the electrical elements of the hybrid power unit.

It follows the pattern set by the Cosworth DFV, Ford’s first grand prix engine developed in the 1960s. Its engineers were backed by Ford to the tune of £100,000, and the engine went on to dominate F1 for more than a decade, powering every drivers’ champion for seven seasons between 1968 and 1974.

A more hands-on approach failed to pay off with the Ford-backed Stewart F1 team in the late 1990s or — when the company took complete control and rebranded the outfit — with Jaguar.

However, a renewed partnership with Cosworth brought further success in the 1990s with Benetton and Michael Schumacher. In total, Ford-badged engined have powered 10 constructors’ championships and 13 drivers’ championships.

Will those figures grow larger this decade? Scroll down for more information on what we understand of Ford’s F1 return


Will Ford build its own F1 engine?

Ford won’t be building its own engine, but instead supplying its resources and knowhow to assist Red Bull in developing a next-generation F1 power unit for 2026. At the moment power unit regulations are frozen, but a new set of rules will be introduced in 2026, requiring a new specification of engine. This will include a more powerful electric motor and the ability to use sustainable fuel.

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“F1 will be an incredibly cost-effective platform to innovate, share ideas and technologies, and engage with tens of millions of new customers,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s president and CEO.

How involved Ford will be in the engineering is not known. The announcement mentions contributing its expertise in battery cell and electric motor technology as well as power unit control software and analytics.

It makes sense for the company to amplify its involvement for marketing purposes — and Red Bull is unlikely to mind — but the actual crossover between F1 power units and those in road cars is always a grey area.


Will the Honda engine be badged a Ford?

It is thought unlikely that Honda would have allowed its power unit to carry the badge of another car manufacturer. It already has an agreement with Red Bull to support the existing engine until the end of the 2025 season.

Ford’s technical partnership with the team starts in 2026, when the Honda unit will be defunct, so there won’t be any crossover. For now, the Red Bull car is continuing to carry Honda branding.


What happens to Red Bull Powertrains?

Red Bull’s engine division was set up in the wake of Honda’s departure from Formula 1, initially to take over the maintenance and preparation of the Honda F1 engines — which is now being supported by Honda — and then to develop the next-generation power unit which will be used from 2026.

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Red Bull has been looking for a partner for some time, which would provide technical expertise, but enable Red Bull to maintain control of its power unit. The later was a sticking point with Porsche after reports that the carmaker wanted more control than the team was willing to cede.

The deal with Ford means that Red Bull Powertrains remains independent, continuing the model that has brought the carmaker success over decades. The partnership will run until at least 2030. If it ends then, Ford would simply walk away, leaving Red Bull with all the rights to the technology.


Why is Ford returning to F1?

Despite having a combustion engine at their heart, Formula 1 cars’ hybrid units enable manufacturers to promote their electric credentials. The marketing opportunity, as well as the chance of refining the technology in F1 is behind the move, according to Bill Ford, executive chair of the company.

“This is the start of a thrilling new chapter in Ford’s motor sport story that began when my great- grandfather won a race that helped launch our company,” he said. “Ford is returning to the pinnacle of the sport, bringing Ford’s long tradition of innovation, sustainability and electrification to one of the world’s most visible stages.”