Ford on Friday confirmed it will return to the Formula 1 arena in 2026, as a technical partner to current champion Red Bull Racing. The announcement was made in New York City where Red Bull showed off its RB19 F1 car developed for the 2023 season.
The deal will see Ford work closely with Red Bull's power unit division, Red Bull Powertrains, to develop a power unit to meet the new regulations F1 will introduce in 2026. The regulations call for hybrid power units similar to today's design, but with 100% sustainable fuel and an increased reliance on electric power.
Its work on the new power unit will start this year, Ford said. The automaker also said it will be able to provide its expertise in the areas of battery cell and electric motor technology, as well as power unit control software and analytics, and internal-combustion engine development.
Red Bull is currently without a power unit supplier. The team builds its own power units, using the design of former supplier Honda. Red Bull also supplies power units to AlphaTauri, and the feeder team in the future will also use the new unit developed with Ford.
Ford said F1's focus on sustainability, coupled with the sport's increased exposure in the U.S. in recent years, helped it in its decision to pursue the return. Ford's production models, including electric vehicles, are also expected to benefit from the deal, particularly when it comes to aerodynamics, material technology, and efficient energy recovery.
Red Bull Racing at the 2022 Formula One Miami Grand Prix
“Ford’s return to Formula 1 with Red Bull Racing is all about where we are going as a company—increasingly electric, software-defined, modern vehicles and experiences,” Jim Farley, Ford's CEO, said in a statement. “F1 will be an incredibly cost-effective platform to innovate, share ideas and technologies, and engage with tens of millions of new customers.”
Similarly, General Motors through its Cadillac division is working on an F1 bid with Andretti Global, the parent company of Andretti Autosport. Audi is also committed to entering F1 in 2026 with existing team Sauber, and recently purchased a minority stake in Sauber.
Porsche is also keen to enter F1. It was in negotiations with Red Bull Racing, though the talks ended last September without a deal being brokered. Porsche has said that it remains open to an F1 entry should the right opportunity arise.
The more hands-off approach Ford is taking is is rumored to have awarded it the partnership with Red Bull.
Ford has an extensive history in F1, though mostly as a power unit supplier. The Blue Oval was a key backer of engine expert Cosworth, which supplied Ford-branded engines in multiple seasons. However, Ford became more active in the sport starting in 1999 when it purchased the Stewart Grand Prix team and later rebranded it as Jaguar in 2000. Ford, which owned Jaguar at the time, funded the team from 2000 to 2004. Ford eventually sold the team to Red Bull at the end of 2004.