Malcolm Wilson has not given up on re-signing Ott Tanak from Toyota, but says Ford's involvement will be key to bringing the World Rally Championship leader back to M-Sport.
Tanak has recently looked likely to re-sign with Toyota following the end of his current contract with the team in 2019.
But Wilson met with Tanak and his advisor Markko Martin - another former M-Sport driver - over the Rally Germany weekend.
Tanak confirmed before the start of the event that no contract had yet been signed with Toyota, saying his representatives were still in talks with other teams and that he expected a deal to take "some time".
Wilson has targeted Tanak for his engineering nous as well as his driving ability, given that preparations for the new WRC rules cycle including hybrid technology in 2022 will take place over the coming years.
When asked by Autosport how he planned to fund a Tanak deal, Wilson replied: "That's what we are looking at at the minute.
"We're looking at all aspects, obviously we can't do the new car for 2022 without Ford as well, as you're aware there's a big Ford presence here [at Rally Germany].
"Hopefully we can find a way to keep Ford involved at the highest level."
Ford is currently in the team name - M-Sport Ford World Rally Team - and its performance division provides technical support to the squad. It has not had a full manufacturer involvement in the WRC since 2012.
Tanak drove for M-Sport and its affiliated teams from 2011-17 (pictured below).
Toyota is still favourite to sign Ott Tanak, and its team boss Tommi Makinen drew parallels between Tanak's decision and his Mitsubishi career - where Makinen won four world titles and stayed for six seasons, despite receiving offers from other teams.
Makinen said he accepted that Tanak would test the water elsewhere.
"Of course, I totally understand," Makinen told Autosport. "I don't care about that.
"If he wants to do something else, it is his decision and I understand that.
- WRC coverage on Autosport Plus
- The fight to sign Tanak for 2020
- Why Citroen's WRC future looks shaky after Ogier
- How Tanak's team-mates shot Toyota in the foot
"If he wants to continue, we can do that and it would be perfect.
"I had a similar situation [at Mitsubishi], many times I remember there were other possibilities.
"I was looking at my own position. It's such an important decision when you decide your next two years, for example. It's such a special time which doesn't last forever.
"If I'm thinking from a driver's point of view, it would be easy to continue where he is now..."