Red Bull and Ford in F1 – why it might happen and why it might not | Daily News Byte

Red Bull and Ford in F1 – why it might happen and why it might not

 | Daily News Byte


The surest, quickest way for an entity – whether a country, a circuit, a commercial brand, a motor manufacturer (OEM), or a multi-millionaire – to hit world headlines is to propose some form of Formula 1 venture. In the same way, ‘name-dropping’ can be used to commercial advantage to throw fans and media off-scent or to provide leverage to make a deal. Plus, the ‘hot’ stories ultimately boosted Liberty Media’s F1 share price.

Consider the recent rumors that Adelaide is looking to return to the F1 calendar: are there genuine intentions or are these suggestions planted? Who knows – but the bottom line is that it’s hardly a coincidence that Melbourne then extended its deal; also, consider Porsche’s F1 ‘entry’ far from reality last year in January, but the connection is regularly referenced even after the entry date 2026 date closed.

So, it’s usually wise to look the other way when there’s a sudden claim or rumor, then sit back and assess the situation. So is Ford, which was linked this week by Italian media with a return to motorsport’s top echelon via Red Bull Racing. Can it happen? All aspects considered (see below) there is a potential ‘fit’ between the Blue Oval and F1. That alone doesn’t, though, make it a done deal. Far from.

First, some regulatory background: The FIA ​​is committed to imposing a budget limit on Formula 1 power unit suppliers, who are required to register by October 15th 2022, a date extended by one month after the entry into a brand (new Audi). Subsequently, Red Bull Powertrains, Renault, Mercedes, Ferrari and Honda all registered ‘deliberate’ entries. Note the absence of Porsche and Ford from the list.

The broad specifications for 2026 call for hybrid 90° V6 turbocharged power units based on existing architectures but without the costly, complex – and no longer relevant to the road – MGU-H exhaust-driven generators. To keep outputs at a headline 1000bhp, the mix between internal combustion engine and hybrid changes to 50/50, up from 80/20. Importantly, ‘drop-in’ fuels, which replace fossil derivatives with minimal modification, are defined.

At the time of writing the cap has not been formalized and therefore no specific regulations have been filed, but word is that it will be $100m per year. Consider that current PU suppliers spend between $220m and $300m on their F1 PU operations – with recoveries pegged at around $25m per customer team – and are clearly serious the sport about its cost-effectiveness drive. That attracts brands, especially in this day and age.

© Red Bull Contentpool

© Red Bull Contentpool

Honda returns to Red Bull

Now consider Red Bull: With its establishment in 2021 of the Red Bull Powertrains division, the team is self-sufficient on the PU front by 2026, having originally planned to enter into a joint venture with Porsche: RBPT is will build and supply powertrains branded as ‘Porsche’. These will also be supplied to sister outfit AlphaTauri – and, if declared by the FIA, to any number of customer teams.

Word then is that Honda’s current supplier is coming as a badging partner, possibly helping with hybrid technology. These odds fell after Big H confirmed earlier this week that it had submitted its own entry on a pro forma basis – thus keeping its options open. Which begs the question: Is it a coincidence that another OEM is suddenly linked to Red Bull; could it be just a tactic to advance the negotiations?

Although Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has stressed that no engine badging partner is needed, he does not deny that such a deal would be welcome if an arrangement would help defray costs while allowing Red Bull’s leadership to run the race team without hindrance. This aspect, more than any other, is said to have caused talks with Porsche to collapse.

Don’t forget that Red Bull holds all the aces: They filed a 2026 entry, the RBPT project is very advanced and led by experienced ex-Mercedes F1 personnel and Red Bull does NOT need funding but can sell badging rights to any entity that wants to enter F1, be it OEMs, oil companies, consumer labels or computer brands. Consider: Red Bull-Ford, Red Bull-Exxon, Red Bull-Rexona or Red Bull-Apple or similar.

It follows that Ford is not the only badging game in town, but the Blue Oval is a soft target for Red Bull: The energy drinks brand has long sponsored Ford’s WRC team – which- outsource to Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport operation – and has some historical F1 links: In 2004 Ford sold the then Jaguar F1 operation to Red Bull. In fact, the Milton Keynes campus was once decked out in green and the RB01 was designed as the Jaguar R6…

However, if there is no truth to such rumours, why don’t Red Bull and Ford issue denials and be done with them; consistent, if the opposite applies, why not confirm? In other words, the longer such stories talk about the more global exposure both brands gain – for free – while being able to distance themselves at a later stage without an overt U-turn on the basis that they did not originate the stories. PR works in a unique way.

The next question is: What part of this will be for Ford due to the transition of the global automotive industry to electric? There are two parts to the question, namely technical and marketing. The answer to the former lies in the 50/50 split outlined above: The company has recently been made into two divisions, namely Ford Blue (ICE vehicles) and Ford Model E (electric cars).

So, both divisions gain from an F1 PU deal: Blue pursues F1’s ICE and e-fuels technologies through “Racing improves the breed” – quoted from Ford’s F1 past – while the Model E has marketed the hybrid platform with another historic slogan: “Win Sunday, Sell Monday”. The electric cars are mainly plug-in hybrids without ICE, and if F1 goes to AWD for energy recovery purposes – as discussed – then even better.



The marketing angle for Ford

Then the marketing angle: There’s no doubt that F1 is up and especially in the USA, so Ford would be remiss if it didn’t at least investigate that platform after building a solid reputation through a 40- years of F1 presence starting in 1967. Indeed, at one stage global motorsport was about Ford vs Ferrari in both F1 and endurance racing. Add in Red Bull’s genius and marketing success and it points to a win-win.

Now the bottom line: If Ford covers all (or a large portion of) the costs of the RBPT, it has immediate access to F1 at a fraction of the entry costs in its own right, plus a partnership with a winning team. There is a precedent: In essence the deal is no different from Ford’s first F1 entry: bankrolling the Cosworth DFV in exchange for tappet cover badging. Likewise, refer to Ford’s WRC program with M-Sport (above).

None of this, of course, means that a deal will happen, only that one can be struck if all the stars align on all fronts. That said, even if CEO Jim Farley, who has driven both the Ford GT40 and Ford-powered Cobra to podium spots in international historic races, approves of such a venture it faces another obstacle: William Clay Ford Jr, executive chairman of a larger company just because his family’s name is hanging on the door.

Likewise, the matter of Wolfgang Porsche hangs on the door of an eponymous company, and it is he who is said to have finally broken the proposed venture of the Stuttgart company with Red Bull…


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