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Ford-Red Bull F1 progress “on track”, as CEO offers 1970s era comparison

Ford has said Formula 1 preparations with Red Bull are “on track”, as it explained why its grand prix return harks back to the way it was involved in the 1970s.

Red Bull Powertrains HQ

The American car company has tied up with the Milton Keynes-based squad to work on the new 2026 engine that is being prepared by the Red Bull Powertrains division. 

Ford has been tapped up because it offers the exact battery expertise Red Bull needs for the new engine regulations that are coming into play – where electrical energy will account for around 50% of the overall power. 

Speaking at a 2024 season launch for the Ford Performance motorsport division on Wednesday night, its CEO Jim Farley offered an update on the progress as he said he was extremely bullish about progress. 

“I had a chance to spend a lot of time with the team in Milton Keynes, and with Adrian Newey, and I think we're on track,” he said on stage at the event in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

“2026, even though it sounds like a long way away, we have a lot of work to do on the powertrain, but I'm really happy with the progress. I wish I could tell you more, but I would say we're on track.”

While Ford’s tie-up with Red Bull marks a return to F1 for the first time since the early 2000s, having briefly supplied engines to Jordan and owning Jaguar before it was sold in 2004, Farley said its comeback is a completely different approach. 

He explained that with F1’s power units shifting more towards the electric technology being sold to consumers, the opportunities for direct technical transfer from track to road are something that has not been offered since the 1970s. 

A Ford DFV V8 engine in the back of a Brabham BT49

Photo by: Motorsport Images

A Ford DFV V8 engine in the back of a Brabham BT49

“We're going back to F1 in a way that we haven't in the past,” added Farley. “It turns out that the best aerodynamics in the world are in Formula 1, the best telemetry, the best digital diagnostics.  

“And, actually, we need all those things for electric cars. So it's actually going back to the 1970s with a pure tech transfer. 

“This is not like owning our team. We're going there to literally transfer technology. We can offer battery tech for them, because in ‘26, they're going to go to like 50% electric, and they need high discharge batteries. We do that in NHRA, for example.

“And, on the other hand, we can get telemetry, digital diagnosis, as well as aero, which we can put in our production, electric cars to make the battery smaller.”

Farley added that the level of knowledge and technology that Red Bull had was exactly what Ford needed if it was to become a market leader in electric cars.

“They are the best in the world in a lot of these technologies, and we need them desperately as the car business changes,” he said. “It's literally like going back to where we were all those years ago: tech transfer.”

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But Ford’s shift to F1 is not just about getting hold of technology. Farley said the ambitions were pretty clear about the success anticipated with Red Bull on track. 

“We have got the best frickin' team that's involved,” he said. “I mean, we’ve got the best drivers, we’ve got the best technical support.  

“We have the best of Ford around the globe to support them. But the team, the powertrain team that they're building in Milton Keynes, is like absolutely, top notch. We're going first class to the very top of the podium.”

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