Red Bull creating smoke and mirrors

All is not necessarily what it seems in Formula One land and Red Bull and Ford are about ton prove this once again. Back in the 1960’s Colin Chapman wanted a works power unit for his Lotus F1 cars and so he approached Ford Uk’s head of motorsport Walter Hayes who delivered a cheque for £100,000 to fund the project.

However, Ford had nothing to do with the creation and production of the most successful F1 engine of all time. The work was outsourced to a specialist third party called Cosworth.



Ford gain F1 glory for a pittance in sponsorship

The result, the Ford DFV (double four valve) engine was born. It was to go on and win 155 grand prix between 1968 and 1983 and deliver world titles for Lotus-Ford, Matra-Ford, Tyrrell-Ford, McLaren-Ford, Williams-Ford and Brabham-Ford.

This was surely one of the best sports marketing deals ever struck by Ford who reaped the glory from a pittance of an investment for 15 years.

Despite relative failure with its turbo replacement engine for the DFV, Ford retained faith in Cosworth to develop the HBV8 naturally aspirated engine which debuted with Benetton in 1989 eventually powering Michael Schumacher to his maiden world title in 1994.



Red Bull’s New York reveal leaked

Red Bull Racing today are set to reveal in New York their 2023 livery and maybe something of the actual car that will compete over the coming season. However, due to a leak of a convoluted nature, it appears this will also be the platform for the Milton Keynes based team to announce their partnership with Ford ‘to build’ their new power unit design for 2026.

Last week F1 business reporter Vincenzo Landino from The Qualifier tweeted: “Red Bull’s livery launch date is 3 February in New York City. I have word from some of my contacts that Ford is sending some content creators and influencers to NYC on the same date. Coincidence?”

Italian media outlet Ansa reported it according to the BBC before later removing the news from its online content page.



Ford partnership is smoke and mirrors

If Red Bull announce a deal with Ford today, there will be some smoke and mirrors to navigate. Firstly, how much technical input will Ford actually provide to the new power unit development program?

Given Red Bull Racing have built the facility in Milton Keynes to design test and produce an F1 power unit, the answer is probably – not a lot.

Red Bull claimed last season that their F1 programme is almost entirely financed from sponsorship and a hefty cheque from Ford may complete that goal.



Ford will have little control

Further, the deal between Porsche and Red Bull Racing fell over because Porsche wanted too much control and as Christian Horner stated clearly, “We are a race team fundamentally and that enables us to make quick decisions and react very quickly. I think we’ve seen on so many occasions manufacturers have been less autonomous in their decision-making.

“That was a key aspect of protecting what we have and how we operate, which has proved to be reasonably successful.”

“Our strategy to have engine and chassis all under one roof in one campus remains absolutely unchanged,” said Horner. “At no point was this dependent on the involvement of an investor or a manufacturer or an OEM.”



Some publicity for Ford technology

So Ford will presumably provide a huge wad of finance and maybe some token input from its state of the art Ansible Motion simulator based in North Carolina.

Given that Ford remains one of the few OEM’s to publicly acknowledge the existence of such a facility which provides input for it’s NASCAR and sports car programmes, we may see some publicity shots of the Red Bull drivers visiting the facility in the not too distant future.

However, the reality is that Red Bull Racing have been recruiting engineers from Mercedes and other F1 power unit programmes for some time and they will have on site in Milton Keynes all the technology they require. Further, the team is not short of money and doesn’t need Ford’s finance.



Red Bull Powertrains will gain “new manufacturer” status

The smoke and mirrors created by today’s announcement will be mainly to gain Red Bull Racing’s power unit the valued “new manufacturer” status together with all the privileges it brings.

One reason F1 has struggled to entice new manufacturers for 20 odd years is twofold. Firstly, there is the high cost of designing, testing and building an F1 power unit with no previous experience and a little guarantee of success; and secondly the steep learning curve which existing manufacturers have is too large to climb given the same restrictions.

For this reason, the FIA is introducing a cost cap which will apply to the F1 power units. Further, “new manufacturers” will be exempt from certain restrictions the FIA will mandate for current power unit suppliers.



More F1 testing time allowed

There will be a greater allowance in testing time on the dyno bench and greater financial freedoms in R&D for the new manufacturers because they don’t have the data collected year in and year out about the circuits the cars race around.

Audi will be doing its own data collection programme beginning either this year or ext to ensure it can programme the simulators accordingly when testing their new power unit back at the factory.

Red Bull’s data collection is already underway in fact as Christian Horner revealed Red Bull Powertrains was setup to ensure, “At no point was this dependent on the involvement of an investor or a manufacturer or an OEM.”

With Ferrari already objecting to Red Bull Powertrains being afforded “new manufacturer” status, Ford has come to the rescue riding over the hill with a bundle of dollars but more importantly a competitive advantage that Red Bull Racing crave.

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