Ford muscles its way to 2026 F1 return

By Justin Malone, Staff Writer

After driving away from the sport more than 20 years ago, Ford Motorsports announced last Friday that it will return to Formula One (F1) racing in 2026, joining forces with team Red Bull.

The deal entails the automotive giant teaming up with Red Bull’s newly-formed engine company, Red Bull Powertrains, to provide technical input and work on a modernized power unit that will meet the new engine requirements outlined by Formula One for the 2026 season. The Red Bull Ford engines will be provided to Red Bull Racing and its sister team AlphaTauri from that point onward.

New power unit regulations for 2026 indicate that F1 cars will continue to be powered by V6 turbo-hybrid engines but with an increased electrical power of 350 kilowatts  from the kinetic motor generator unit and 100% sustainable synthetic fuels in the internal combustion engine.

The push from F1 to place a greater emphasis on electrical power and sustainable fuels — along with the booming popularity of the sport in the U.S. — proved extremely influential in Ford’s decision to return to Formula One.

Bill Ford, the car manufacturer’s executive chair, detailed, “This is the start of a thrilling new chapter in Ford’s motorsports story that began when my great-grandfather (Henry Ford) won a race that helped launch our company.”

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Ford looks to rejoin Formula One in 2026, marking the first time the company has participated in the league since 2004. Ford first joined F1 in 1967.

“Ford is returning to the pinnacle of the sport, bringing Ford’s long tradition of innovation, sustainability and electrification to one of the world’s most visible stages,” he added.

Ford officials labeled the collaboration with Red Bull as a strategic partnership, releasing a press release stating Ford “will provide expertise in areas including battery cell and electric motor technology as well as power unit control software and analytics” in developing the new combustion engine.

Until the end of the regulation cycle in 2025, Red Bull and AlphaTauri will continue using Honda engines provided by Red Bull Powertrains. Honda and Red Bull had extended their power unit support deal until the end of the 2025 season after Honda showed uncertainty in its lasting involvement with Formula One.

The decision by Ford to re-enter Grand Prix racing has been enthusiastically welcomed by President and CEO of Formula One Stefano Domenicali. 

“The news today that Ford is coming to Formula One from 2026 is great for the sport, and we are excited to see them join the incredible automotive partners already in Formula One,” Domenicali said.

“Our commitment to be Net Zero Carbon by 2030 and to introduce sustainable fuels in the F1 cars from 2026 is also an important reason for their decision to enter F1. We believe that our sport provides the opportunity and reach unlike any other and we cannot wait for the Ford logo to be racing round F1’s iconic circuits from 2026,” he added.

The Ford deal will mark the first time since 2004 that the manufacturer is involved in Formula One since it sold its Jaguar team to Red Bull for a nominal fee at the time and adds another chapter to its decorated history in the sport.

Ford first ventured into Formula One in 1967 when they developed the legendary Cosworth DFV, or “double for valve,” engine. The DFV, the most successful engine in Formula One history, powered 155 winning cars to a checkered flag finish between 1967 and 1985.

Ford has also been involved in 10 constructors’ championships and 13 drivers’ championships, which makes them the third-most successful engine manufacturer in Formula One history.

“There are few manufacturers who have such a celebrated motorsport history as Ford, so to see them coming back to the FIA Formula 1 World Championship is excellent news,” FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the head of the Formula One governing body, mentioned.

“It further underlines the success of the 2026 power unit regulations that have at their heart a commitment to both sustainability and spectacle, and of course having more interest from the United States is important for the continued growth of the world’s top motorsport category,” he noted.