Christian Horner is acutely aware of the “massive challenge” awaiting Red Bull in 2026, the deadline for the World Champions’ powertrain project.
Powered by Renault, Ferrari and Honda engines, Red Bull went toe-to-toe with F1’s established works teams as a customer for almost two decades. That changed for 2022, when the brand new Red Bull Powertrains division got to work at the team’s Milton Keynes factory.
After Max Verstappen won the 2021 title with Honda horsepower, the RB18 and AlphaTauri’s AT03 were the first cars fitted with Red Bull-branded engines.
Behind the branding though, Honda’s influence remained. The Japanese manufacturer assembled and developed the 2022 Championship-winning power units and will continue to do so until the end of 2025.
The team’s engines will be badged Red Bull-Ford from 2026, in a partnership with the American manufacturer announced by Horner and Co at the team’s New York livery launch this month.
It’s another massive investment into Formula 1 by Red Bull, who are again trusting Horner to make a success of this latest scheme. The Brit is the paddock’s longest-serving team principal and is showing no signs of stepping away
“I think [what’s next is] to keep delivering, to keep developing the team and the business here,” Horner told Motorsport Magazine.
“And I think the next massive challenge for us is the powertrains. I mean, we’ve got a start-up engine company taking on Ferrari, Mercedes, Alpine, VW Group, so that is a massive challenge.
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“We’ve got 150 weeks left before we have an engine driving out of a pit lane for the first time in the back of a Red Bull car. So that focuses the mind, it’s a big challenge. It’s a ballsy undertaking, to think that an independent team can take on those type of manufacturers.
“But again, it comes down to the same culture, the same approach that we’ve had to going racing on the chassis side, and ultimately having everything under one roof and the benefits that brings long-term is significant. So that’s taking quite a bit of my time and attention just to make sure that we’re hitting our targets in that area.”
While Verstappen and Sergio Perez will pilot the RB19 with the Honda-built, Red Bull-badged engines, the 2026 season will be looming large on Horner’s psyche.
After 2022’s aerodynamics overhaul, the 2026 campaign will mark a new era for power unit regulations; introducing fully sustainable fuel, placing a greater emphasis on electrical power and outlawing MGU-H units.
The sustainability-minded updates were a key factor in enticing Ford back to Formula 1, following Audi onto the grid.