Ford’s new focus: how the carmaker buckled up with Red Bull for its return to the grid


In some methods, it was Jim Farley’s alternative of hat that did it.

The Ford chief government had satisfied Christian Horner, the top of the Red Bull racing group, to drop into Detroit on the best way to the Brazilian Grand Prix. His ambition was to forge a partnership that might enable the US carmaker again into prime flight racing.

Yet there was excessive demand for the world champions, who had been looking for a brand new companion from 2026. Talks with Volkswagen’s Porsche had already lasted for months.

“When Jim walked in, in a [Red Bull driver] Sergio Pérez cap to the first meeting, I felt like it was going to get off to a good start,” recollects Horner. After that, “everything happened very quickly”, he instructed the FT’s Future of the Car summit earlier this month. “Sometimes, you can tell just from the get go if the feeling is right.”

Since the deal was introduced in February, work has begun shortly. On Red Bull’s campus, simply outdoors Milton Keynes, decorators have already changed the gold and crimson charging bull emblems outdoors its engine constructing with a brand new, blue moniker: Red Bull Ford Powertrains.

From 2026, Ford and Red Bull will collaborate on energy items for F1 vehicles for each Red Bull groups, together with the Scuderia AlphaTauri.

Ford will cope with the battery cell know-how and, in return, will get Adrian Newey, Red Bull’s chief technical officer, to assist with the aerodynamics on its future automobiles, one thing that might save the carmaker 1000’s of {dollars} on every mannequin. “The battery’s so expensive that aerodynamics turns out to be a primary capability in this new world of electric vehicles,” notes Farley.

Ford was as soon as among the many most profitable racing groups within the sport, with 10 constructors’ championships and 13 drivers’ titles underneath its belt when it give up in 2004.

And it already has vital racing programmes with different fashions, from Mustang observe racing to the off-road “King of the Hammers” collection within the US and its World Rally Championship group with Puma.

But the model, underneath Farley’s management, has been eyeing some type of return to Formula driving for the previous two and a half years.

“With a focus on full electric vehicles, we wanted to make sure our racing was aligned to that,” says Mark Rushbrook, head of Ford’s motorsport unit. Yet the choices for full electrical racing, reminiscent of Formula E, had been “too limited” when it comes to what Ford may find out about batteries and energy items, he explains.

Red Bull Ford Powertrains launched in February 2023 © Ford

However, new F1 guidelines from 2026 would require half the ability for the automobile to return from a battery inside a hybrid system. “Making a bespoke combustion engine under Formula One regulations with fully sustainable fuel” is one thing that Red Bull can deal with, says Horner, “but the cell technology which is going to represent 50 per cent of the power of these cars going forward, is something that we have very little knowledge of”.

These, together with different modifications, open the door to Ford, and others, to make actual world technological developments on the racetrack — akin to the event of disc brakes for racing within the Nineteen Fifties that ultimately fed into vehicles on the highway.

“There is as much, or more, opportunity for innovation and technology transfer in F1 than there is in any electric racing series,” says Rushbrook. “There is real technology and innovation as we’re learning about electrics on road vehicles, to test it [on racing cars], try it out, and bring that improved knowledge on to our road cars.”

Unlike different carmakers, reminiscent of Audi, Ford has not been pushed again to the game by the rising US viewers for the Netflix TV collection, Drive to Survive. “We are not entering for brand awareness, we are entering to tell people about the electric products that we can do,” stresses Rushbrook.

The 2026 rule modifications have additionally seen a flurry of different producers re-enter. And Ford’s arch-rival General Motors is taking a look at wrestling its means again on to the grid. A deal between GM’s Cadillac model and Andretti Autosport was introduced in January, aimed partly at serving to the latter with its, to this point, unsuccessful bid to hitch F1 as an eleventh group. Rushbrook insists that Ford’s strikes had been “well in advance” of that by its historic nemesis.

Ford had thought-about proudly owning a group outright, because it had up to now, however the prices of doing so meant partnering was way more enticing. The collaboration on the initiatives will not be but clear reduce, extra like a sausage machine method, than a conventional division of labour.

While the “high level” form of the settlement is about out, the groups are arising with “new projects every day”, says Rushbrook. “We even found some more yesterday”.

So, as race followers sit up for the return of Ford to the observe, the companions could discover the potential for collaborations that apply to public roads.

Red Bull’s Newey has lengthy harboured ambitions of constructing a hypercar for the highway, one thing Ford dabbled in with the GT40, within the Sixties.

The Aston Martin Valkyrie was designed by Newey as a part of a Red Bull partnership with the UK sports-car maker. But, in 2020, Red Bull left the partnership and, though Newey has since designed a Red Bull observe automobile, the RB17, it’s broadly believed he needs to revisit a highway automobile.

Horner diplomatically calls the Aston Martin episode “a learning experience”.

“It was an interesting insight and one that the advanced technology side of our business learned a huge amount from and I think will stand us in good stead for the future,” he says.

Rushbrook signifies that plans past racing could develop into full initiatives. “It’s still early days of the relationship,” he says. “Every time we talk, we identify new projects to work on, even opportunities beyond that.”