Since their debut in Formula One nearly two decades ago, Red Bull has established a practice of generating a commotion. And they followed up to that billing in spectacular fashion on Friday, not only by announcing its 2023 launch in New York City, but also by announcing an agreement to bring American car Ford back to F1. Lawrence Barretto, F1 Correspondent, was at the Classic Car Club in Manhattan for the announcement and now goes into the facts…
The Classic Car Club, located on the banks of the magnificent Hudson River, houses an array of luxury automobiles that the public can view and its members can drive. However, on Friday, it cleared the way for a big announcement that will have far-reaching implications for reigning world champions Red Bull and Formula 1.
When Honda chose to exit F1, Red Bull was left without a works power unit deal. While they eventually reached a short-term agreement to receive technical help from the Japanese company, they desired to be in charge of their own fate.
As a result, the late diҽtrich Mateschitz, owner of the formidable energy drinks company, sanctioned a large check to develop their own in-house power train division.
It was a massive task, but in true Red Bull fashion, they put everything at it. They moved quickly to hire the best, including a slew of Mercedes engine personnel, and their team currently numbers approximately 500 people, all focused on developing a power unit for when the new regulations, which place a significant emphasis on the usage of electrical power, go into effect in 2026.
These new standards, which will also require power units to run on 100% renewable fuels, have proven appealing to global automakers.
Audi has decided to build a new power unit and make the Sauber-run Alfa Romeo team its works team starting in 2026. Porsche is also interested in building one and was on the verge of teaming with Red Bull.
But when that agreement fell through, Ford stepped in. Red Bull CEO Christian Horner told me that conversations began in Brazil because his team’s well-resourced power unit facilities made them an appealing investment possibility.
They moved rapidly, and he claimed it was simple to reach an agreement with the American automaker.
Changes to power unit standards for 2026 will result in more efficient units that run on sustainable fuels and include a 350kW electric motor – three times the electrical output supplied by existing hybrid engines.
Ford can assist here, as well as with battery technology. The American company is investing a whopping $50 billion in EV development and electrification. That Red Bull can tap into is considerable, and Horner also mentioned further synergies and information exchange throughout R&D. (research and development).
As Red Bull continues to promote their brand in the United States, partnering with Ford will allow them to achieve “even greater penetration” in that market, as Horner puts it, while also reaping the financial perks that come with such a large automotive company.
This transaction makes perfect sense for Ford as well. They’ve always discussed returning to F1, but it wasn’t until F1 announced new engine restrictions for 2026 that they truly considered it for the first time in over two decades.
During the announcement, Mark Rushbrook, Ford Performance Motorsports Global Director, stated that the company was not interested in returning as a full factory team, but rather as a power unit provider. Ford approached various F1 teams to discuss potential alliances – and took enquires from prospective new entrants, but “none of them seemed right”. Then Red Bull became a possibility, and everything fell into place.
Not only has Red Bull already invested heavily in a power unit setup, saving Ford from having to start from scratch and build an entirely new operation at great expense, but they are also the dominant team in F1 right now, with the resources and capability to fight at the front for years to come, which means Ford can achieve their goal of wanting to fight for wins right away.
Ford has a track record in Formula One. They are, in fact, the third most successful F1 engine maker in history. Their Ford-Cosworth DFV engine unit was the most successful in F1 history, providing victories to Lotus, Tyrrell, McLaren, and Williams, while Michael Schumacher won his first title in a Benetton powered by Ford.
While their last journey into F1 – with Jaguar Racing – was less successful, there’s something poetic about their return – nearly two decades later – with the team they sold to when they left.
They, like rival Audi, have three years to prepare for launch when the new laws take effect in 2026. Until then, Red Bull will continue to collaborate with Honda, with whom they have reclaimed the world championship, and will focus on defending both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles.
It will not be an easy task. They have the least amount of wind tunnel and CFD testing time of any team, thanks to their performance in 2022, but that allotment is further decreased due to a penalty for exceeding the budget cap.
Mercedes finished the season strongly – and are expected to pose a greater threat in 2023, whereas Ferrari were their closest rivals for the first half of last season and are optimistic about their chances this year, especially given that their power unit is widely expected to be the most powerful of all. It implies that Red Bull, who won 15 of the 22 races last year, are unlikely to repeat.
They do, however, have momentum and, in Max Verstappen, perhaps one of the greatest drivers of this generation, while confidence is sky high. With Ford’s impending arrival, they will remain a formidable package that will be very difficult to beat in the medium to long term.