Ford is getting back into Formula 1 racing to help sell EVs

February 5, 2023 3:00 pm

Red Bull Racing unveils the team's new Formula One car during a launch event in New York City on February 3, 2023.

America’s major automakers are getting back into Formula 1 racing. Following General Motors’ recent announcement that it’s applying, along with Andretti Global, to field a team in the prestigious racing series, Ford has now announced that it’s getting back into the sport to help build engines.

While GM’s plan requires approval by the sport’s governing body, something that is not guaranteed, Ford has an agreement to work with Red Bull Powertrains which supplies hybrid engines to both of Red Bull’s F1 teams.

“F1 will be an incredibly cost-effective platform to innovate, share ideas and technologies, and engage with tens of millions of new customers,” Ford chief executive Jim Farley said in a statement.

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Formula 1 race cars use V6 engines with hybrid electric technology. The cars can produce over 1,000 horsepower and reach speeds of more than 200 miles per hour on track. Ford (F) and Red Bull will work to create new hybrid power units, which include an internal combustion engine and electric motor, to comply with new requirements for the 2026 racing season. The new power units will rely much more on electric power and will burn renewable fuels in less powerful V6 engines.

If it enters Formula 1, GM (GM) has said its team will work with Alpine on the power unit for its cars. Alpine is a sports car brand owned by France’s Renault.

Formula 1 racing is very popular in Europe and has recently found increasing popularity in the United States. The Netflix documentary series “Drive to Survive” has been one factor that has increased the sport’s visibility in the US, and races in Miami and Las Vegas have been added to the race calendar in recent years. Before 2022, the only Formula One races in the US in the past decade were held in Austin, Texas, which is still the most popular event on the F1 calendar.

Besides the ability to research electric drive systems, the growing American audience is a key reason Ford decided to get back into the sport, Farley said in an interview with CNN. With the Ford F-150 Lightning and Mustang Mach-E, Ford currently ranks a distant second to Tesla (TSLA) in electric vehicle sales, and Farley said F1 could help close that gap.

“Both the tech transfer and the marketing,” he said. “It’s a great time to turn a whole new generation of Americans on to these Ford EVs.”

Despite leaving the sport in 2004 after selling Jaguar Racing to Red Bull — Ford owned the Jaguar brand at the time — Ford remains the third most successful engine manufacturer in Formula 1 after Mercedes and Ferrari. Ford first entered the sport in 1968 with Lotus. Ford currently competes in a variety of motorsports, including endurance sports car racing, drag racing and off-road races. Ford and Red Bull already work together in rally racing.