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Red Bull : Independent, Power Unit Control Retained, Valuable Ford Sponsorship



Red Bull Ford Sponsorship

Red Bull remains autonomous, retaining control of its power unit, and benefits from a valuable sponsorship from Ford.

Red Bull partners with Ford, marking the automaker’s return to F1 after 20+ years. The partnership solidifies Red Bull’s position as a standalone F1 constructor.

Red Bull and Ford’s 2026 collaboration demonstrates the commercial appeal of F1 in the era of Netflix. The partnership, which includes a sponsorship component and potential involvement in ERS technology, resembles Andretti Global’s proposal to join F1 with Cadillac branding.

The Red Bull-Ford partnership is one of several models of automotive collaborations in F1. The spectrum ranges from Renault’s complete ownership of the Alpine team, to Audi’s future majority stake in Sauber, to Daimler Benz’s partial ownership (one-third) of the Mercedes F1 team, to Honda’s engineering-focused role as a power unit partner without team ownership, to Alfa-Romeo’s simple sponsorship of Sauber (soon to be replaced by Audi).

The early entry and growth with the sport advantage is highlighted by the cost comparison between Mercedes and Audi in F1. Mercedes’ net annual cost for F1 is about one-tenth of Audi’s reported purchase cost of Sauber ($600 million). In 2009, Mercedes bought Brawn for $175 million and later sold one-third shares for more than that price. They have since made substantial investments.

The Red Bull partnership is a noteworthy development. Red Bull’s success in F1 was previously tied to its engine partner Renault. This was advantageous when Renault Sport led the software development of exhaust blowing and provided a powerful and efficient V8 engine. However, the partnership was less successful when Renault struggled to match the hybrid power units. Red Bull’s relationship with Honda has improved but still requires reliance on an external entity without a long-term F1 commitment.

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The creation of Red Bull Powertrains in 2020 marked Red Bull’s move towards self-sufficiency, similar to its peers Mercedes and Ferrari who have their own power units. Initially, Powertrains was set to take over Honda’s PU production and development for the rest of this formula to 2025. However, Honda’s decision to continue the project has allowed Powertrains to start preparations for 2026 (pending finalization of PU regulations).

Ford is endorsing the power units designed and built at Red Bull Powertrains, with the possibility of cooperation in ERS development, which will become crucial under the new ’26 regulations with electrical power accounting for up to 50% of total power. However, the Ford agreement does not compromise Red Bull’s newfound independence, unlike the failed Porsche deal. Porsche was content with branding the Powertrains PU but requested a 50% stake in the team, which Red Bull did not accept.

Red Bull retains its independence and control over its power unit, along with a valuable sponsorship from Ford. In exchange, Ford receives high-profile exposure on a top team for a relatively low cost of approximately $30 million per year, which is about half of the cost for Mercedes F1 to run its own team.

As of 2026, the current factory teams consist of Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, Alpine, and Audi, all of which manufacture their own engines. This outlines the competitive structure for the future.

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