Max Verstappen: ‘Very important’ to start Red Bull-Ford partnership now

Toby Miles
Max Verstappen at a Red Bull photoshoot. London 2023.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen is photographed in new team gear ahead of the 2023 season.

Max Verstappen has ordered Red Bull and Ford to get down to business, with F1’s No.1 eager to be prepared for the 2026 season’s new era. 

Verstappen was present at the World Champions’ New York launch event on February 3, joining team-mate Sergio Perez and Christian Horner to unveil the RB19’s livery.

The 2023 Red Bull’s paint job, which underwhelmed fans with an identical design to the RB18, was overshadowed by the unveiling of a long-rumoured collaboration between the Austrian team and returning F1 engine giant Ford.

Starting in 2026, when the FIA will enforce an overhaul of F1’s engine regulations, Red Bull will produce power units from their brand new powertrain department in Milton Keynes, with Ford bringing expertise and stationing engineers at the factory.

The engines will be badged Red Bull-Ford, with the American motoring giant coming in to replace Honda.

Honda-branded engines powered Red Bull’s 2021 title success but the Japanese company will continue building and developing theirs and sister team Alpha Tauri’s engines until 2025.

This year, Verstappen hopes to become only the fourth driver to win three consecutive F1 titles, equalling Juan Manuel Fangio, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. However, the Dutchman still has one eye on 2026.

“It is very important that we start now,” the World Champion told Viaplay.

“2026 sounds far away, but a year goes by in no time and we want to be well prepared at the start.”

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Having secured two Formula 1 titles before his 26th birthday, Verstappen’s name could be an ever-present in the sport’s history books by the time he retires.

A third consecutive title could tee up a Schumacher or Hamilton-style era of dominance but after last season’s crushingly dominant Championship victory, you’d think Verstappen is feeling the pressure.

But the Dutchman insists he doesn’t feel the weight of expectation on his shoulders ahead of 2023 and speaking to the press following the RB19’s launch, Verstappen explained how he copes.

“Well, I think I just enjoy what I’m doing. After years in Formula 1, I think you know pretty well what you have to do to be on top of your game. So in that sense, nothing really can get to you anymore,” the Red Bull star said.

“And every year you just try to do the best you can but I also know in Formula One you’re dependent on the material around you, so it’s always a bit of a guess when you start the season.

“You can be as fit as you can be and well prepared but if you don’t have the car you’re not you’re not going to win the Championship. So yeah, that’s I think that’s also the special part about Formula One as well.”