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Ford To Use F1 Return As Incubator For New Vehicle Technologies

In the early history of the auto revolution, racing was an incubator for all kinds of technology. From propulsion to engine tech to safety tech, the torture test of high-speed racing provided the basis for the auto industry to move ahead in leaps. Take one more recent example, tire tech. In the latter 20th-century radial tire tech still needed a proof of concept. Racing did it, and now all tires -- with a very few exceptions -- are safer for radial technology.

In a somewhat surprisingly unsurprising move, Ford has decided to return to F1 racing. The automaker will provide power units for the Oracle Red Bull Racing Team and the Scuderia Alpha Tauri team. The pact will run from 2026 to 2030.

Ford Forges Links To F1 Teams

Red Bull Ford will provide the power units for the Oracle Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri teams from 2026 to at least 2030.

The move announced earlier this week marks the automaker’s return to F1 racing after an absence of about 20 years. It is quite a practical move as the linkage will provide a long-term technical partnership for developing next-gen hybrid power units to be used beginning in 2026.

Strategically, it marks a return to using racing to spur vehicle development. Back in the early part of the last century, when vehicle propulsion was about as standard as the person developing a vehicle, racing was used as a way to prove various concepts. For example, was steam power better than internal combustion power? Did electric power have a place at this table? What type of brakes were the best, drums, disks, or something else (early racers used hand brakes)? What type of tire technology was best (something that is still worked on today as the torture testing on high-speed ovals and in major enduros or road racing still provides the worksheet for the basis of lots of tire tech --- radial tires came out of this)? And, now, Ford will be working on next-gen hybrid power for their F1 clients.

Indeed, a major Ford product is on sale today that uses hybrid technology, the Ford Maverick, the super-popular compact pickup. You can be assured that by 2030 much of the tech that filters out of this linkage will find its way into Ford’s next-generation products. Racing is one of the best ways to prove a concept. If it breaks on the track, Ford techs will take the technology apart and find out why so the automaker can use it.

Ford Racing Tradition Goes Back Generations

“This is the start of a thrilling new chapter in Ford’s motorsports story that began when my great-grandfather won a race that helped launch our company,” said Bill Ford, executive chair. “Ford, alongside world champions, Oracle Red Bull Racing, is returning to the pinnacle of the sport, bringing Ford’s long tradition of innovation, sustainability, and electrification to one of the world’s most visible stages.”

Starting from 2023, Ford and Red Bull Powertrains will work to develop the power unit that will be part of the new technical regulations, including a 350 kW electric motor and a new combustion engine able to accept fully sustainable fuels, ready for the 2026 season.

“Ford’s return to Formula 1 with Red Bull Racing is all about where we are going as a company– increasingly electric, software-defined, modern vehicles and experiences,” said Jim Farley, president, and CEO of Ford Motor Company. “F1 will be an incredibly cost-effective platform to innovate, share ideas and technologies, and engage with tens of millions of new customers.”

Ford will provide technical expertise in all areas where it can add value to the front-running World Championship team. Areas to be explored together are in the combustion engine development and key developments like battery cell and electric motor technology, power unit control software, and analytics.

“It’s fantastic to welcome Ford back into Formula 1 through this partnership,” said Christian Horner, Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal, and CEO. “As an independent engine manufacturer, to have the ability to benefit from an OEM’s experience like Ford puts us in good stead against the competition. They are a manufacturer rich in motoring history that spans generations. From Jim Clark to Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, the lineage speaks for itself. For us as Red Bull Powertrains, to open the next chapter of that dynasty as Red Bull Ford is tremendously exciting. 2026 is still a while away, but for us, the work already starts as we look to a new future and a continued evolution of Oracle Red Bull Racing.”

Ford Invest Billions In EV Revolution

Ford is investing $50 billion to lead the EV revolution around the world. It is the No. 2 U.S. EV automaker in the U.S., driven by the success of the F-150 Lightning and Mustang Mach-E, and the market leader in many global markets with the E-Transit. Ford is working to meet increased consumer demand and deliver an annual run rate of 600,000 electric vehicles globally by the end of this year and 2 million globally by the end of 2026 as part of its FordPlus plan.

In 2026, Ford will be the only manufacturer to be competing in racing disciplines from grassroots motorsports to Formula 1 comprising WEC and IMSA, including Le Mans 24 Hours with Mustang GT3, WRC with the M-Sport Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1, Baja 1000 with Ranger Raptor and Bronco, and NASCAR, NHRA, and Supercars with Mustang. Ford continues to leverage its racing efforts to speed innovations, the latest technologies, and software to consumers and will continue to do so through this new partnership at the pinnacle of Motorsports for future Ford electric vehicles.

“We are entering an exciting new age for Ford Performance,” said Farley. “We will be competing to win in F1, the pinnacle for motorsport, with Red Bull Racing. You will see the world’s most popular sports coupe, the Mustang, race from the grassroots to Australian Supercars to NASCAR to Le Mans. And will build our off-road leadership in the World Rally Championship, King of Hammers and to, the Baja 1000, and more. All the while, we’ll continue to excite the world with cool demonstrators like SuperVan 4 and Mustang Mach-E 1400.”

"Ford Motor Photo

Marc Stern has been an automotive writer since 1971 when an otherwise normal news editor said, "You're our new car editor," and dumped about 27 pounds of auto stuff on my desk. I was in heaven as I have been a gearhead from my early days. As a teen, I spent many misspent hours hanging out at gas stations (a big thing in my youth) and working on cars. From there on, it was a straight line to my first column for the paper "You Auto Know," an enterprise I handled faithfully for 32 years. Not many people know that I also handled computer documentation for a good part of my earnings while writing YAN. My best writing, though, was always in cars. My work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, AutoWeek, SuperStock, Trailer Life, Old Cars Weekly, Special Interest Autos, etc. You can follow me on: Twitter or Facebook.