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Ford CEO: Red Bull F1 partnership will highlight our EV technology

It was a huge day in the world of Formula 1 racing with the return of an iconic brand.

On the day the world champion Red Bull F1 team debuted its new “livery,” or car design, in New York City, came the surprise announcement that Ford (F) would join the team as a powertrain partner.

The new partnership will see Ford officially joining the team in 2026, when new engine regulations go into effect. The new hybrid engine “formula,” or rules, allow new electric motors and battery technology along with the use of e-fuels.

For Ford, a brand which is still the 3rd-winningest engine maker in F1 despite leaving the sport in 2004 (when its sold the Jaguar F1 team to Red Bull coincidentally), a return to top flight motorsports with a focus on hybrid tech makes a lot of sense.

Red Bull Racing unveils the team's new Formula One car during a launch event in New York City on February 3, 2023. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP) (Photo by ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images)
Red Bull Racing unveils the team's new Formula One car during a launch event in New York City on February 3, 2023. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP) (Photo by ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images) (ED JONES via Getty Images)

“This is a technology transfer that's very specific. We will help them with their software for the battery control and the battery chemistry. We're investing a lot in EVs and we're gonna have 2 million EVs on the road in ‘26 - so we know a lot about EV batteries,” Ford CEO Jim Farley said in an interview with Yahoo Finance on the Red Bull partnership.

“On the other hand, we can learn a lot from them about telemetry, but especially about aero; aero is becoming the most important thing in vehicle design now and ... the best aerodynamics of the world are at Red Bull. So it's a great exchange technology.”

Formula 1 is a huge, global phenomenon with weekly audiences ranging in the hundred of millions across the globe. But it's not just the marketing and exposure Ford desires. It’s also the technology transfer and insights gained at the highest end of motorsports that trickles down to road cars.

Farley said improving aerodynamics on EVs is critically important, where a more slippery design could add 75 miles of range to a vehicle like the F-150 Lightning. And Red Bull chief aerodynamicist Adrian Newey is known as the best in the business when it comes to car design.

And with F1’s new rules targeting higher hybrid performance in the future, it made sense for Ford to take the leap.

The transformation to EVs for Ford, which has been quicker than some of its rivals like GM and Toyota, hasn’t come without its hiccups. A weak Q4 earnings report highlights some of the difficulties Ford is facing at the moment, mainly with costs and parts supply, but Farley says give the automaker some time to set things right.

“Be patient with Ford; we are under double transformation,” Farley said. “Some things are going really fast, we're now number two in EVs, the Lightning is sold out for like another year.”

On the other hand, while Farley is surprised at the speed of the transformation, there have been issues in the purchasing supply chain, and higher costs associated with manufacturing and engineering. Farley says they need to bring their costs down, and do better to execute. “We just have to get a lot of costs out,” he says.

Which brings us back to F1. Ford didn’t want to buy a team like other manufacturers have done (and GM might do in the future). A partnership with an existing, winning team like Red Bull made sense both strategically and financially, for a company like Ford that wants to maximize every dollar.

“We didn't want to spend, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars a year going back to Formula One,” Farley, who is an experienced racer himself, said regarding Ford’s motorsports gameplan. “Formula One, Nascar, these are really important circuit [formats] for us, but Formula One is something new, and we really want to tie it to our EV technology.”

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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