Ford teams up with Red Bull for Formula 1 return

Rumors of a merger between Ford and Red Bull have been around for months, an intriguing story in a competition that knows the value of drama.

The dance went on for months: Ford hinted that its interest in returning to the series was real, and Red Bull opened discussions with several manufacturers.

On Friday, the companies confirmed that the loudest rumors were true: Ford is returning to Formula 1 to partner with Red Bull, currently the series’ top team and the employer of reigning champion Max Verstappen. In the new deal, the American automaker and the Austrian beverage company will join forces to design a new power unit ahead of the 2026 season and seek to extend Red Bull’s dominance of the world’s most popular motorsports series. .

A flashy launch in New York confirmed the partnership, a collaboration in which Red Bull will harness Ford’s expertise in electric vehicles ahead of a fundamental change to engine rules for the 2026 season, when teams are to become 100% fuel dependent. durable and, crucially for Ford unless, greater electrical power.

The impending change has already drawn German automaker Audi to Formula 1. Porsche, which has had talks with Red Bull, is considering joining the fray, as is General Motors. Ford, who left Formula 1 almost two decades ago, was also looking for a way to return.

“We’ve talked to a lot of people, we’ve met a lot of people,” Ford chief executive Jim Farley said. “And as soon as we landed on Red Bull, we knew it was the right opportunity.”

Formula 1 racing cars are powered by what is called a power unit, a complex piece of machinery that consists of several components, including an internal combustion engine, electric motors and a turbocharger. Red Bull had previously been supplied with power units by Honda. But he faced a crisis – and needed a new partner – when Honda announced in 2020 that he would be leaving Formula 1 within a year.

A deal has since been reached for the team to continue sourcing Honda engines until 2025, but the shock of losing its supplier has focused minds at Red Bull and ended with the resolution of build its own version rather than buying one produced by, or shared with, a rival like Mercedes.

“The Ford discussion felt right from the start,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said in an interview. He and Farley declined to provide financial details about their new partnership.

Red Bull, which already employs hundreds of people for its Formula 1 team, had decided to start building engines in 2021, poach the best engineers from its rivals, in particular Mercedes, and create a new division in its factory in outside London. . This operation, Red Bull Powertrains, will become the location of the partnership with Ford.

For Ford, the new rules, particularly the emphasis on electricity and sustainable fuels, have caused him to reconsider his stance on Formula 1, a sport he quit after deciding he couldn’t. not justify maintaining the business case. Ford sold its Jaguar racing team to Red Bull in 2004.

Ford’s new involvement – ​​and, Farley made clear, its potential costs – would not be as intensive as those borne by typical teams backed by automakers like Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault. “We wanted something more strategic,” Farley said.

He called it “a very hands-on approach to getting into Formula 1”, adding: “I can look my shareholders, the Ford family, in the eye and say we are very sensible and thoughtful.”

Mark Rushbrook, the head of Ford’s motorsports division, said Ford spoke to 10 Formula 1 teams, as well as some aspiring teams, before agreeing a deal with Red Bull, a decision that , according to the executives, was finally taken at the end of last year.

In an interview before the deal was announced, Farley and Horner both spoke of a division of labor and responsibility, with Red Bull’s expertise in aerodynamics seen as complementary to Ford’s research and investment from billions of dollars in the development of batteries and electric vehicles.

Farley described the partnership as “a technology exchange,” but Ford may be just as keen on tapping into a new audience. Formula 1, powered by new races and a popular Netflix series, is booming in the United States. Three races, including a first Las Vegas Grand Prix, will take place in America during the new season, more than in any other country on the globetrotting circuit, and Netflix’s hit series, “Drive to Survive”, made stars out of its drivers and even team leaders like Horner.

“I think, you know, this series has opened America’s eyes to Formula 1,” Horner said. “It brought in a whole new fan base, a young fan base, a much broader demographic, and it had an incredible impact.”

This is exactly the cohort that Farley and Ford are trying to reach as the company seeks to grow its electric vehicle business. “We wanted to connect with a new group of consumers,” he said.

Ford remains the third most successful engine manufacturer in Formula 1 history, but its last championship-winning car was driven by Michael Schumacher nearly three decades ago. He knows as well as anyone how Formula 1 can be a temperamental sport and how rule changes can upset the fortunes of once-dominant teams, a fact recently confirmed by the decline of Mercedes, which until it was usurped by Red Bull in the last two seasons was the undisputed powerhouse of the grid.

By the time the Ford-Red Bull collaboration reaches the starting line in 2026, the changes will be even deeper and the potential for unpredictability even greater. Rushbrook described the changes as akin to “a clean slate” for the sport.

Red Bull’s ability to successfully manage rule changes over its 16 years has helped shape Ford’s thinking, he added. “They can really have the DNA or the culture within their team to be the best and be up front,” he said.

Farley said he’s confident Ford has found a formula that works, one that won’t require Ford to invest bottomless dollars to keep pace with traditional factory teams.

“It’s a different kind of wiring to the traditional relationships of the past,” he said, “and one of the best value for money in motorsport.”

nytimes sport

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button