How the collaboration behind the “Red Bull-Ford” engine will work

2023 F1 season

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Red Bull’s tie-up with Ford for the 2026 season was rumoured long before it was announced. Early speculative reports gave differing accounts of what the nature of their relationship might be.

Would Ford would opt for the less expensive option of branding an engine developed by Red Bull? Or bear the heavier financial burden of contributing to the research and development of the complicated new power units for 2026?

Plus, what would be the role of the Red Bull Powertrains division, which was constructed by the team at its Milton Keynes base following the departure of its last manufacturer partner, Honda, at the end of 2021?

Friday’s announcement has shed more light on how the reigning world champion Formula 1 team and car-making giant will collaborate on a new power unit for 2026. Ford will not develop an entire 2026 F1 motor single-handedly, but will “provide technical expertise in all areas where it can add value,” the manufacturer said in a statement as the arrangement was made public yesterday.

Ford Performance Motorsport global director Mark Rushbrook explained more in a later briefing to media including RaceFans. The engine will be built to F1’s new power unit regulations for 2026, which will require the use of sustainable fuel and increase the power of the MGU-K, while removing the MGU-H.

Red Bull has already started work on the new engine but there are still three years left during which Ford will contribute development effort before it races. Together they form one of the six manufacturers which have committed to the new engine regulations, which will be in place at least from 2026 to 2030, and their power units will be used by both Red Bull and its junior team, AlphaTauri.

“It is an eight-year agreement,” Ford Performance Motorsport global director Mark Rushbrook explained. “We’ll co-develop, together as Red Bull Ford Powertrains, the new power unit across these three years. And we’ll obviously keep developing as we race in ’26 to 2030 with the Red Bull-Ford powering the Red Bull Racing cars and the AlphaTauri cars.”

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Having teamed up with the reigning champions, Ford are under no illusions that the engine they co-produce is expected to be a race-winning proposition from the start.

Ford will partner with Red Bull’s power unit wing
“In terms of the technical collaboration, we’re full partners on that. So whatever we can do with Red Bull resources and Ford Motor Company [and] Ford Performance resources to get the maximum performance out of the new hybrid power unit, we’ll take advantage of those resources to be fully competitive and capable of winning races and championships starting in ’26.”

The engine development will take place at Red Bull’s Powertrains facility, alongside the team’s chassis production, to maximise the efficiency of the integration between the two.

“There’s a great foundation in Milton Keynes with their Red Bull campus,” says Rushbrook, “there were already plans underway to have a building for Powertrains there, with the dynos to house the team to build the power units. And that is still the plan, to have that as the cornerstone of the power unit program.

“It’s important to be embedded there with the racing team and the racing car so that you can optimise the total package as it goes onto the track.”

Ford staff will work directly on power unit development, though this will not begin immediately. “There certainly will be Ford Performance employees that are part of the team,” said Rushbrook. “We have already a global team with people in the United States and people in the UK and in Europe that work on our global motorsports programmes. And that team is is growing and will be part of this program as well.

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“Certainly I expect that we will have employees located full-time in Milton Keynes, but not yet at this point. We’re still working through exactly who and when and how, but definitely some strong areas there where we’re committed to work together.”

Ford aims to learn from Red Bull’s expertise
The contribution from the substantial resources of Ford will be focused on the electrical side of the power unit. “Everything’s on the table in terms of resources from Ford Motor Company to contribute to this, where it’s going to add value and benefit,” Rushbrook explains.

“The initial areas that have been identified where we’re working are certainly in the battery cell technology, in the electric motor itself, the controls, software both in the fundamental software as well as the calibration of that to optimise the performance analytics within the power unit itself.”

The collaboration between the two won’t be one-way, and won’t stop at the engine. Ford also aims to learn from Red Bull’s aerodynamics expertise which has underpinned so much of its success. “We’re also hoping to learn more about aerodynamics to bring that back to our road car, some of the processes and tools that they have,” said Rushbrook.

But the engine remains the heart of the operation, and it will be fascinating to learn in three years’ time how the Red Bull-Ford measures up against Mercedes, Ferrari and the rest.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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13 comments on “How the collaboration behind the “Red Bull-Ford” engine will work”

  1. The marketing boys can always give a nice spin.

    When there are a few 100 engineers working there, u can always swap around a few between Ford and RBPT. Don’t expect it to make any difference, but it sounds nice for the brand image of Ford.

  2. ”UK and in Europe” Was separately mentioning these two really necessary, given UK is in Europe?

    1. In 2016 a lot of people felt that shouldn’t be the case.

    2. Geographically true. Corporately there’s Ford UK and Ford EU.

    3. A guy like Rushbrook, who is a ‘global director’ for Ford, is probably thinking in terms of Europe being a synonym for the European Union. Since the UK is now the “Singapore of the Atlantic” (don’t laugh) it no longer belongs to that group.

      The island on which the English live is of course still very much a part of the European (or rather Eurasian) continent.

      1. I was raised on an Island in the Mediterranean and I have to say there is something special in living on the island. People from the continent don’t understand you as much as you don’t understand them. The problem arises when the Continentals try to change your way of thinking, living and humor – because they’re to stupid to get it. It’s no geographical issue, it’s cultural issue. Consequently British people living in England, Wales and Scotland don’t like when Ze Germans and French try to tell them how to live their lives. That’s all. To prevent the utter diversion I must say that Ford did great in the past and I have no doubt they will do the same in the future. They just recognized, as Ze Germans did, that engine has to be built in Great Britain to increase the success probability.

      2. Itsmeagain (@)
        4th February 2023, 15:52

        With an economy that is doing worse than that of russia (even with all the sanctions) GB will not be the singapore of Europe. …. But looking at London and all the money that is spent there by oligarchs you are probably right

  3. That Ford ceo is bigging up their electric vehicle nonsense so much they would have been far better joining Formula E.

    ….Unless he knows something we don’t about Formula 1s future engine plans?

    1. The Electric component of the engine is going be much bigger in 2026!

      1. But without the MGU-H and no front axle brake generator, it will have less electrical energy available to it…

  4. But is this Ford or Ford Cosworth?

    1. Ford don’t own Cosworth any more.
      This is just Ford (or their marketing department, anyway).

  5. Ford, the company with such great EV expertise it’s licensing the MEB platform from Volkswagen…

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