A new partnership with Red Bull means that there will be a Ford F1 engine on the grid in 2026.

Today, Red Bull held the launch event for its new RB19 racecar, the vehicle that Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez will drive during the 2023 season. However, eagle-eyed analysts will have noticed that the show car looked suspiciously similar to last season’s title-winning machine. As per usual in the modern era of F1 launches, it seems as though Red Bull will wait until testing to reveal its true challenger. Instead, the biggest news to come from the event was that Red Bull will be teaming up with Ford in the coming years ahead of a new F1 engine programme in 2026.

So, no, before you get excited, there won’t be a new Ford F1 team fielding two extra cars. This is simply an engine supply deal. In fact, once you look more closely at the details, it’s barely even that…

A Red Bull F1 car during the 2022 season.

Red Bull’s Search for a New Partner

To understand why this deal has come about, let’s turn the clock back slightly. See, it’s no secret that Red Bull has been looking for a new engine partner following the withdrawal of Honda’s funding a couple of years ago. For a while, it looked as though Porsche might be the answer. At least, it did until the German marque announced that it wanted to have more control over the team than Red Bull’s decision-makers would allow.

Since then, there’s been plenty of question marks. A new in-house Red Bull Powertrains division has been set up, so would the Milton-Keynes-based team simply go it alone? Well, as it turns out, no.

Sergio Perez drove a modified Mustang Mach-E to promote the new Ford F1 engine deal with Red Bull.

Is it really a Ford F1 Engine?

F1’s pledge to upgrade to “100% sustainable fuels” and increased powertrain electrification caught the eye of Ford sometime last year. And, not wanting to build its own team, a partnership with an existing entrant was always going to be the most cost-effective way of securing a Ford F1 presence.

What’s more, Ford isn’t even going to have to do all of the heavy lifting when it comes to developing this new 2026 engine. Red Bull Powertrains is still going to be the driving force behind that project, though Ford “will provide expertise in areas including battery cell and electric motor technology as well as power unit control software and analytics” and “combustion engine development”. In return, the RBP engines will be branded as Fords by the time they reach the Red Bull and AlphaTauri cars of 2026.

Following the announcement of the deal, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner had this to say:

“To welcome the Ford brand back into Formula One, to have the Red Bull Ford powertrain is going to be very exciting.

“There was a natural synergy between the two companies, it was an easy deal. 2026 seems like a long way away but in [the] engine world it is tomorrow. We have recruited some incredible talent and have some great people in the team.

“We are really excited about what we can achieve.”