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today is May 31, 2023

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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