Stop what you’re doing: Ford is returning to F1 with Red Bull!
Well this is pretty seismic news: Ford will return to Formula 1 in 2026 as a technical partner of Red Bull, having last featured in the sport way back in 2004. Yowzers!
This is a huge moment for F1 as Ford remains its third-most successful engine maker in history (alongside former subsidiary Cosworth), with 176 wins, 10 constructors’ and 13 drivers’ titles to its name. And that’s despite missing the last 19 years and having not powered a team to the championship since Williams in 1981.
Explaining its decision, Ford says F1’s growing audience numbers - especially in the US (thank you Netflix) - as well as its commitment to hybrid power and sustainable fuels, are the main reasons behind its comeback.
“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,” said Ford president and CEO, Jim Farley. “F1 will be an incredibly cost-effective platform to innovate, share ideas and technologies, and engage with tens of millions of new customers.”
So is Ford building an engine for Red Bull? Er, not quite. Remember, the team established Red Bull Powertrains in 2021, which will give it the capacity to build its own engine without outside help, with work already underway on the new V6 turbo hybrid that’ll be introduced for the 2026 season.
As for Ford’s exact involvement, the devil is in the detail: the press release states that ‘Ford will provide technical expertise in all areas where it can add value’ to Red Bull’s operation, with areas ‘to be explored’ including development of the internal combustion element, battery cell and 350kW electric motor tech, the power unit control software and analytics.
Either way, Ford “will be competing to win in F1”, says Farley. So there you go.
“It’s fantastic to be welcoming Ford back into Formula 1 through this partnership,” added Red Bull team principal and CEO, Christian Horner. “As an independent engine manufacturer to have the ability to benefit from an OEM’s experience like Ford puts us in good stead against the competition.
“They are a manufacturer rich in motoring history that spans generations. From Jim Clark to Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, the lineage speaks for itself. For us as Red Bull Powertrains to open the next chapter of that dynasty, as Red Bull Ford, is tremendously exciting. 2026 is still a while away but for us the work already starts as we look to a new future and a continued evolution of Oracle Red Bull Racing.”
Anyway, this all goes to show just how much of an appetite there is for F1 in the US now: only last month Cadillac announced a tie-up with Andretti to form an all-new F1 team, although there’s no guarantee yet that the project will get off the ground.
And last year saw a second US race added to the F1 calendar in the shape of the Miami Grand Prix, with a third to come in Vegas later this season.
“This is the start of a thrilling new chapter in Ford’s motorsports story that began when my great- grandfather won a race that helped launch our company,” explains executive chair Bill Ford. “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.”
Meanwhile, F1 president and CEO Stefano Domenicali had this to say: “The news today that Ford is coming to Formula 1 from 2026 is great for the sport and we are excited to see them join the incredible automotive partners already in Formula 1.”
“Ford is a global brand with an incredible heritage in racing and the automotive world and they see the huge value that our platform provides with over half a billion fans around the world.
“Our commitment to be Net Zero Carbon by 2030 and to introduce sustainable fuels in the F1 cars from 2026 is also an important reason for their decision to enter F1. We believe that our sport provides the opportunity and reach unlike any other and we cannot wait for the Ford logo to be racing round F1’s iconic circuits from 2026.”
And finally, here’s FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem: “There are few manufacturers who have such a celebrated motor sport history as Ford, so to see them coming back to the FIA Formula One World Championship is excellent news.
“It further underlines the success of the 2026 Power Unit Regulations that have at their heart a commitment to both sustainability and spectacle, and of course having more interest from the United States is important for the continued growth of the world’s top motor sport category.”
This has got to be good news for F1, right?
TEXT Joe Holding