Ford is returning to Formula 1 after a two-decade absence in an effort to drive demand for its electric vehicles, just as the sport starts to shift from the traditional engines for which it is renowned.
The US carmaker has joined forces with Red Bull to return to the sport in 2026, when new rules requiring the use of sustainable fuels come into force.
As it invests $50bn into its electric vehicles business, Ford is betting that its return to F1 will allow it to showcase its technology while increasing awareness of its cars. Red Bull Ford Powertrains will provide engines to both of Red Bull’s F1 teams, which include the reigning world champions and Scuderia AlphaTauri.
Ford’s decision comes as F1, which is owned by US billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Media, has in recent years expanded the number of races in the US. The sport has also been boosted by the success of Formula 1: Drive to Survive, a Netflix series tracking the drama of a F1 season.
Liberty Media has sought to redraw the economics of the sport to entice manufacturers and investors. A spending cap for teams has been imposed and technical changes made to cars that are designed to make races more competitive.
Ford quit F1 in 2004 after several decades during which it racked up 10 constructors’ championships and 13 drivers’ championships before it left the sport. It remains the third most successful engine manufacturer in F1 history.
“Ford is a global brand with an incredible heritage in racing and the automotive world and they see the huge value that our platform provides with over half a billion fans around the world,” said Stefano Domenicali, chief executive of Formula 1.
Bill Ford, the carmaker’s chair, said: “This is the start of a thrilling new chapter in Ford’s motorsports story that began when my great-grandfather won a race that helped launch our company.”
The company is expected to set out further details of its F1 plans later on Friday.
The growing interest among carmakers shows how the sport’s expansion into the US and the Middle East is starting to pay off. Volkswagen and General Motors have both also explored a return to the sport.
VW’s Audi brand has acquired a minority stake in Sauber Group, which already owns an F1 racing team. The upcoming engine changes in 2026 have attracted Porsche, which is championing zero-carbon liquid fuels as a way of continuing to sell engine-based cars.
However, Porsche abandoned talks last year to partner with world champions Red Bull after failing to agree terms.
Ford’s announcement comes a day after the group’s latest results showed it slumped to a $2bn loss last year, as a writedown on its stake in electric vehicle group Rivian, the continued chip shortage and the shutting of its self-driving car business took their toll.
Jim Farley, Ford chief executive, said on Thursday that he was “frustrated” with the company’s progress, adding that strong sales of some models had masked wider “dysfunctionality” within the business.
Read the full article here