With the new engine specifications coming into force in 2026 for Formula 1, manufacturers have been slow to sign up to the ever pushed along deadline that originally was set for November the 15th this year. Thus far Audi, Mercedes, Honda and Red Bull Powertrains have been the only signatories to the 2026 engine formula. For Red Bull, however, their choice may not be to stick to Honda but rather look at Ford who appears ready to sign a deal with the Milton Keynes team.
If such a deal was struck, long term followers of Formula 1 would be quick to see the irony. Red Bull Racing can trace its origins back to the Stewart Grand Prix outfit (powered by Ford) that made its debut in 1997. Jackie Stewart sold his team to the Ford Motor Company late in 1999, and Ford made the decision to rebrand the team Jaguar Racing with little subsequent success over the next five years.
After significant investment from Ford failed to deliver results on track, the Jaguar Racing Formula One constructor and racing team was put up for sale in September 2004 when Ford decided it could “no longer make a compelling business case for any of its brands to compete in Formula One”.
Red Bull agreed its purchase of Jaguar Racing on the final day of the sale, 15 November 2004 for just $1, and the rest is history.
Red Bull Honda
There were difficult years for Honda when they first returned to the sport as a power unit provider for McLaren in 2015. Which were followed by more successful times with Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri.
Despite the success of Red Bull Racing and Honda, the Japanese manufacturer decided to announce its departure from the sport, allowing Red Bull to continue on with the Honda engine (albeit rebadged), soon after the team won the drivers and constructors titles in 2021.
Now, it appears that Honda is about to make another comeback to Formula One.
Although the Japanese company announced that they would continue their technical support programme with Red Bull until 2025, Honda will have increased involvement in the sport following the 2026 season.
With this in mind, revised engine rules in 2026 along with eco friendly synthetic fuels, Honda had a reversal of plans, instead stating its intention to reenter the sport. Many first imagined this would be with Red Bull, but rather both parties are seeking separate destinies, with Honda likely looking for a new team to either partner with, or own outright.
Red Bull, having already made huge investments in their powertrains company after Honda decided to leave F1, has the preference to continue on as an independent, this is evidenced by the failed Porsche deal this year.
Porsche wanted to buy into Red Bull and acquire a large stake in the business as a significant owner of Red Bull Racing. But the team looked at Porsche as a named partner with a view to selling a badge for it’s inhouse Red Bull engine.
Red Bull Ford
During this F1 season, it was already announced that Hyundai is interested in putting their badge on the Red Bull engine for 2026 but the real significant development is now Ford entering the scene.
Ford recognises Formula 1’s growing role in motorsport as a marketing weapon, just as the VW Group has realised with Audi. The growing popularity of the sport in America would also plays a role in this move toward Red Bull.
For Ford, it is only a financial and not a technical collaboration. For Red Bull, this set-up would be an additional financial boost for the Powertrains project, for the company committing to the engine there is something to gain PR-wise if the powerplant (in combination with the car) proves competitive.