Why Red Bull-Ford? Why not Porsche? And what about Honda? Horner explains all

2023 F1 season

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Red Bull’s newly-announced deal to co-develop Formula 1 power units with Ford draws a line under months of speculation over its future plans involving three different manufacturers.

For a while it seemed a tie-up between Red Bull and Porsche was on the cards. But that deal was called off publicly in September. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said at the time the manufacturer wanted a deeper integration with them than they were prepared to offer.

Speaking to media including RaceFans last week, Horner said the appeal of a deal with Ford was that they were not seeking any such involvement in Red Bull.

“It’s a very different relationship to what was discussed with Porsche,” he said. “This is a purely commercial and technical deal so there’s no exchange of any any shares or participation within the business.

“It’s a very straightforward agreement where we will have the ability to share access to [research and development], particularly on the [electric vehicles] side and cell technology, software development and so on. And then on the commercial side, obviously with Ford being so prevalent in the US, as a commercial partner, it enables us to help achieve even more penetration in that market.”

Red Bull enjoyed an extremely successful first season following the departure of power unit supplier Honda last year. It won 17 races, claimed the constructors’ title for the first time since 2013 and took Max Verstappen to another driver’ championship.

Honda retained ties to Red Bull and last year extended its servicing agreement up until the end of 2025, following which new power unit regulations will arrive. Initially the RB18s and AlphaTauri’s AT03s carried the logos of HRC – Honda Racing Corporation. But as Red Bull were poised to clinch the titles, the Honda logos reappeared.

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Horner said Honda were also “making noises about 2026” last year. The manufacturer has registered with the FIA as a power unit manufacturer for the next set of regulations.

But the announcement of the Ford deal with Ford inevitably means Red Bull’s association with Honda will end in three seasons’ time. “We’ve had an incredible partnership with Honda,” said Horner. “When they initially announced their withdrawal from Formula in 2020 then it was with great sadness that prompted the creation of Red Bull Powertrains to take control of our own future.

Honda branding, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2022
Full Honda branding returned to Red Bull’s cars last year
“As we set off on that journey, obviously there was a change of of plan with Honda, thankfully to agree to continue to supply engines to the end of 2025 whilst in turn we were building up our resource for 2026. That contract we have to the end of ’25. We have a great working relationship, they’re an incredible company and under the current regulations we will be pushing with Honda all the way to the last race of the 2025 season.”

While Honda continues to take care of Red Bull’s current power units, the newly-formed Red Bull Powertrains division has already begun preparations for 2026. Ford engineers will be integrated into the development process, and the resulting power units will be known as Red Bull-Fords. Horner pointed out that project will operate “in tandem, but obviously in a completely separate entity” to its current power unit programme.

“There is no transfer of IP or knowledge or even exchange,” he stressed. “The Red Bull Powertrains business will be focussed – and has been, even for the last 18 months – totally focussed on the 2026 regulations. Of course now with an [original equipment manufacturer] partner like Ford for the 2026 projects, our paths are different for the 2026 season.

“We wish Honda the very best of luck for 2026 as their plans look to crystallise. But between now and then we’ll be working very closely and pushing as hard as we can to build on the success that we’ve achieved so far.”

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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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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17 comments on “Why Red Bull-Ford? Why not Porsche? And what about Honda? Horner explains all”

  1. So which team is going to use Honda engines? Or will they distract from the F1 after 2025?

    1. It’s possible Honda will reconnect with someone like McLaren now that they have proven their capabilities. Or a deal with Williams or Haas too.

      We will have a lot of teams connected to an engine in 2026:
      Ferrari – Ferrari
      Mercedes – Mercedes
      Alpine – Renault
      Red Bull – Ford
      Sauber – Audi
      Potential – Honda

      6 works teams, did we ever reach that even with Toyota, Honda, etc. back in the 00s?

      1. Yes we did, to answer myself. The 00s saw Ferrari, Mercedes, and Renault. They also saw Honda, Toyota, and BMW. And Cosworth, so 2006 had 7 engine manufacturers.

      2. @chrischrill Though unlikely, it is possible that Honda could end up with an engine and no team to carry it around in. That situation was unthinkable not so long ago.

        1. It’s also possible that Honda may not build engines to 2026, as the agreement to participate at this point is non-binding with no penalty for dropping out.

    2. Andretti runs Honda in Indycar, so maybe…

      1. But don’t they have a deal with Renault?

    3. I feel the current Aston Martin will become the Honda factory team. It is a neat little cost-efficient operation that has always punched above its weight in F1. Think of the 2009 shock pole in Spa, 2012 almost win in Brazil, best of the rest during several years of the hybrid era, and finally the upset win in 2020.

      In 2-3 years, Papa Stroll will finally put head above heart and stop bankrolling his son’s team. Once that is done, this team is ripe for a manufacturer to put its full weight behind it. Honda by then will most likely be a well-proven race & championship winner. It is an easy match. Swipe Right!!

      1. I don’t know if Honda would go all in again with a buy out. But Stroll has definitely been building that team and facilities. A partnership could be on the cards as I’m sure the next step for that team would be to have their own engine.

      2. @sumedh Aston Martin is effectively stuck with Mercedes PU in any case.

        1. You make it sound like its worst thing ever. Is that such a bad thing?

          1. Alan S Thomson
            8th February 2023, 8:39

            Actually, Yes. There is no way Mercedes will allow a customer team to beat them.

      3. Most, maybe all?, Aston Martin cars use German-built Mercedes engines. It’s a pretty wide ranging partnership.

        It’d be pretty surprising to see them race with anything else.

  2. I think Red Bull has helped the Honda engine achieve success. The Honda engine was good, but not great.i believe when Honda announced they were leaving Red Bull, Red Bull hired some consultants that made suggestions to Honda, and the latest Honda was born. This leads me to conclude Ford is looking to get away from the all-electric push and get back into a ICE-hybrid type of design for their road cars, which is exactly what the new F1 engine rules are. So I think this tie up signals more that pure electric is not a viable future for road cars, And Ford wants to learn without having to admit it by using F1 to train their engineers.

    1. You go ask a Tesla owner to go back to the ice age hahaha, they’ll laugh you out and Ford knows that. They are not about to pull a GM on the EV. By the way if they need F1 to train their engineers on old tech who has been designing all their Hybrid vehicles so far? The Ford engineers are not going to Redbull school, if you pay attention to what Horner and the Ford boss are saying, it’s just the opposite. I can sense a “little” anti-EV sentiments in your post. The thing that made me laugh though is seeing those guy pushing the Ford thing all decked up in Honda branded gear. :)

  3. i just hope honda and mclaren team up. thats the only way for both of them to reach the WDC or WCC title.

  4. Food for thought, Honda and GM have partnered on EVs in the US and Andretti has partnered with Honda for Indycar. Perhaps a 3 way tie up is in the cards?

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