Following the departure of Toyota and Honda from Formula One in 2009, the sport has been on some kind of a mission to attract new manufacturers. The failure to do so has been indicative of a number of factors.
Barriers to entry in terms of cost and inherent knowledge have been a stumbling block and proven y Mercedes decision to spend over a $1bn in research and development for the new V6 hybrid power unit era.
Manufacturers flooding toward F1
However it appears the sport has turned a corner following the acquisition of the commercial rights from the Bernie Ecclestone led consortium.
Audi are committed to joining F1 in a deal that will see them take a majority stake in the Swiss based Sauber/Alfa Romeo team.
Porsche and Red Bull were involved in detailed discussions over how the German brand could partner with the Milton based squad, though eventually without success.
The Andretti racing bid to become the sport’s 11th team on the grid now claims to have the backing of General Motors whose Chevrolet brand competes in IndyCar.
Previous rumours of Ford joining F1
Over the past 12 months the name of ‘Ford’ has cropped up a number of times, though unlike Audi their alleged interest has not been strongly associated with a current team.
Well all that is about to change.
The US giant manufacturer is said to be in advanced talks with Red Bull Racing over a deal that would see the Ford name return to F1 in 2026.
Ford are still the third most successful F1 engine manufacturer in the history of the sport mostly due to the popular plug and play Cosworth built DFV engine.
Ford boss praises F1’s new owners
Ford Performance boss Mark Rushbrook in a recent interview with motorsport.com said, “Formula 1 is certainly strong and growing, both in the United States and globally.
“What they have done well is create great racing and great competition. It’s still the pinnacle, but they’ve been able to reach new audiences with things like Drive to Survive.
“As a company we go racing for innovation, tech transfer, the learning opportunity, but also for marketing reasons as well. It’s shifted for sure, and it definitely requires consideration.”
Ford were last involved with Formula One under the Jaguar brand from 2000-2004 which was fittingly sold to Dietrich Mateschitz and renamed Red Bull Racing.
Ford developing sustainability in rallying
When asked about the rumours regarding a potential 2026 entry, Rushbrook said: “We don’t comment on speculation, but it’s the same with all these series that are out there.
“It’s our responsibility to study them and understand them, and then make decisions on whether it makes sense or doesn’t make sense.”
Rushbrook’s subsequent comments make a lot of sense in terms of a Red Bull Racing F1 partnership. When asked about whether F1’s push toward sustainability would be a key driver for Fords, he replied:
“Sustainable fuel definitely is something we’re interested in, but we’re already doing that in other series,” he said.
Internal combustion engines of interest
“The vehicles we sell, some regions are shifting to full electric faster than others, some will stay ICE for longer.
“But we want to be sustainable in what we do as a company, not just producing electric cars but also being more sustainable with ICE. We support all series, whether we participate or not, switching to more sustainable fuel.”
The new 2026 F1 power units will derive around 50% of their power from electrical motors and power and 50% from the tradition internal combustion engine (ICE).
Red Bull Racing are rumoured to have a potential deal with Honda to supply the electrical components of the new power unit given the Japanese company’s focus on developing these technologies.
Red Bull gain ‘new manufacturer’ status
However, with no experience in manufacturing ICE’s Red Bull would be exposed were they to try and go it alone with Red Bull Powertrains.
Further, Ferrari at present are objecting to Red Bull Powertrains being treated as a ‘new manufacturer’ for 2026 given they are currently listed as supplying the 2022 Red Bull team.
‘New manufacturers’ in 2026 will receive extra dyno time and incremental R&D budget spend which of course Ferrari and Mercedes will not receive.
motorsport.com suggests the announcement of a Ford – Red Bull Racing partnership could be made even before the start of the 2023 season.