Red Bull presented the RB19 for the 2023 Formula 1 season in New York on Friday, at least if you look at the banner on the show stage.

    In fact, a 2022 car was shown with a 2023 livery, so it so happened that the big topic of the day wasn’t the car launch, but the official announcement of the partnership with Ford from 2026.

    Many fans are now asking themselves: Why is Red Bull (including sister team AlphaTauri) suddenly entering into a “strategic partnership”, as it is officially called, with an automobile manufacturer, when only a few months ago negotiations about a Formula 1 entry from Porsche failed at Red Bull in the last meter of the marathon?

    The Ford deal, explains team boss Christian Horner, is “completely different” structured than the one with Porsche. He specifies: “What we have now with Ford is a fairly straight-forward deal. There is no change of ownership and there is no change of control in the business. It is a purely commercial and technical agreement.”

    And this despite the fact that the Formula 1 engines will be called Red Bull Ford from 2026 and the company behind it has already presented a common logo, “Red Bull Ford Powertrains”, which initially very well suggested that Ford would join Red Bull Powertrains might have shopped.

    Horner: That’s where Ford differs from Porsche

    But Horner put the brakes on the Porsche deal precisely because he didn’t want an additional shareholder to interfere. He emphasizes that Ford “doesn’t intend to interfere in our business. They just want to come to support and complement us with what they can bring to the table.”

    It was already clear at the end of 2022 that Red Bull would develop and build the power unit for Formula 1 entirely itself from 2026. Around 400 people are now working on this project at Red Bull Powertrains. A mammoth project that has progressed far too far to be stopped.

    Why does Red Bull Ford actually need it?

    But if Red Bull Powertrains really pulls through, why does Red Bull need a major manufacturer as a partner at all?

    Mainly for two reasons. First: money. Ford pays millions to put the blue oval on cars. Second: technology. Especially in the complex hybrid area, the know-how of a large corporation can be an advantage.

    Provocatively asked: So is the Red Bull-Ford partnership primarily a marketing exercise that allows Ford to give the impression of being a big player in Formula 1 for little money? Because while Porsche had set up a budget in the billions to really take part in the project itself, Ford’s active participation will be quite marginal.

    “For Ford,” says Horner, “it was a good way to get into Formula 1 without building a whole department from scratch. And we benefit from being able to draw on their knowledge and resources in the field of research and development because they have invested heavily in hybrid technology for their own electric fleet.”

    Why the technical component is so important to Ford

    Ford attaches great importance to this technological component when communicating the deal: “That was important to us, 100 percent,” says Mark Rushbrook, Global Director of Ford Performance Motorsports. He emphasizes: “We don’t do motorsport anywhere in the world as a pure marketing exercise.”

    The Red Bull-Ford deal, reveals Rushbrook, is set to last eight years. He doesn’t see the need to set up his own technology department at great expense, which might end up not producing a winning engine.

    You have to know: For many manufacturers, Honda’s outrageously expensive failure to re-enter with McLaren in 2015 is a cautionary tale that deters the board members, who ultimately give the thumbs up or down.

    Ford: Red Bull has the best prerequisites

    “With the Red Bull campus, there is an excellent foundation in Milton Keynes,” says the Ford motorsport boss. It is “important for the success” of the project that everything is developed under one roof. Sooner or later, however, Ford will send its own employees to Milton Keynes who can contribute the know-how of the group to Red Bull Ford Powertrains.

    Ford has already identified areas where this could be the case. According to Rushbrook, it is “the battery cell technology, the electric motor itself, the control software and the optimization of software and analysis tools for the power unit, but also for the entire vehicle”.

    “And then there is an area from which we also hope to transfer knowledge in both directions, namely the area of ​​aerodynamics,” he says. The know-how of Adrian Newey and his engineers is very relevant for Ford’s production cars. Less air resistance means less energy consumption.

    And what will become of Red Bull and Honda now?

    The question remains: If Red Bull has already decided to work with Ford from 2026, what will happen to Honda, who is still the engine supplier? The Japanese have already signaled they want to continue doing Formula 1 and are one of six manufacturers registered with the FIA ​​for 2026.

    “The collaboration runs until the end of 2025,” explains Horner. “We also talked about an extension beyond that, but in the end it was too complicated.” Red Bull Powertrains as an independent manufacturer and Honda as an independent manufacturer are interests that could not be brought together, says the Red Bull team boss.

    The construction of Red Bull Powertrains is progressing “at a fast pace”: “We are currently in the second phase of the construction work. They are on schedule, even if it is an aggressive schedule for 2026. There are only 150 weeks until It’s the first time we’re driving out of the pits with an engine designed and produced in Milton Keynes.”

    “We have an enormous challenge ahead of us,” says Horner. But he emphasizes: “Having a partner like Ford only reassures us that it was the right path to take.”