McLaren has begun discussions with Red Bull Powertrains for 2026 engine supply. The McLaren team (currently powered by Mercedes) has begun discussions with Red Bull about a possible engine deal for the 2026 Formula One season. Could this mean a return of McLaren Ford in Formula 1 (albeit in name)?
Christian Horner has confirmed that McLaren CEO Zak Brown has visited Red Bull Powertrains about a possible engine deal in the coming years.
A few days ago, rumours suggested that McLaren CEO Zak Brown had visited Red Bull Powertrains in Milton Keynes to discuss a new engine supply deal from the 20226 season when the new power unit regulations come into force in F1.
Ford returns to Formula 1
Red Bull – which will be partnered with carmaker Ford from 2026 – will also manufacture its own engines through its company Red Bull Powertrains and could therefore supply power units to other teams on the grid.
When asked in Bahrain on Friday if he could confirm the rumours about Zak Brown’s possible visit to Milton Keynes, Christian Horner replied: “Zak? I thought he was just coming for lunch!”
“As a powertrain manufacturer for 2026, it is inevitable that discussions will take place regarding potential powertrain supply. So it’s only natural that we talk to potential customers,” explained Horner.
History of McLaren Ford
Although if a deal were struck, it wouldn’t be quite the same as those halcyon days of a Yardly or Malbroro sponsored McLaren powered by a Ford DFV V8 engine from the 60’s and 70’s. But no doubt Zak Brown sees a big marketing opportunity for McLaren to once again hark back to those nostalgic days. Much like the Bruce McLaren ‘MCL’ car designation currently used (before it was MP4 by Ron Dennis), the return of orange in the livery and chasing historic sponsors like Gulf.
Perhaps though, such a policy is hurting McLaren long term. In this period of the dominating engine formula, being a ‘works team’ with an engine manufacturer is really the only means of being successful in F1. Customer teams never get priority from the engine maker.
McLaren confirm talks with Red Bull Ford
For his part, new McLaren team boss Andrea Stella believes it should come as no surprise that a team is evaluating different options for the future, even though McLaren is still under a supply contract with Mercedes for its engines.
“We have a strong partnership with HPP [Mercedes’ engine department]. At the same time, you always have to look at what’s available,” said Stella.
“So ultimately I think it’s natural [that McLaren has visited Red Bull] and it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.”
The FIA confirmed on the eve of the 2023 F1 season that there will be six manufacturers for the 2026-2030 regulatory cycle – Alpine, Audi, Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull Ford and Honda.
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