Ford, as an engine provider, has a long and storied history of Formula 1. From 1967 to 2004, the U.S company provided 67 teams with their engines, winning 10 constructor titles in the process. Only Ferrari and Renault have a better record as an engine provider, making Ford one of the most successful car manufacturers to enter F1, on account of their wildly successful Cosworth engine.
And yet, for all they have achieved in the sport under the hood, whenever the company has attempted to take a more hands-on approach, victories have been harder to come by. Ventures with Stewart and Jaguar only delivered a handful of podiums, hardly the returns Ford would have wished for, given the amount of money they poured into the sport.
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So, with that in mind, why on earth would Ford dare to venture back into the sport, when costs are at an all-time high?
2022 Regulation Changes Will Wipe The Slate Clean
The main reason that Ford should consider a move back into F1 is chiefly down to a series of regulations set to be introduced in 2022. In a bid to improve the chassis aesthetic, and to increase overtakes, cars will be radically reshaped. Bigger front and rear wings will make for a space-age design, while improved aerodynamics should allow cars to follow each other more closely without shredding their tires.
Therefore, with every team and engine provider set to start from scratch, Ford wouldn’t be at too much of an immediate disadvantage. The domination of Mercedes will no longer be relevant, as, in theory, a new team such as Ford would have exactly the same starting point as the German automaker.
While it would certainly be an expensive project alone, Ford could instead provide a durable engine for the Haas team – the only American constructor on the 2020 grid. This would be cheaper, and hugely beneficial for the Haas team, who are currently struggling with an inferior Ferrari engine.
They’ve Produced Championship Winning Engines
In terms of engine manufacturing, Ford has an excellent track record. As makers of the legendary Cosworth V12 and V1o monsters, the company has already cemented its place in the motor-racing history books. The last F1 driver to win a World Championship with a Ford Cosworth engine was seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher, in 1994. The Cosworth was powering a Benetton chassis, one of the most technologically advanced F1 car designs the sport has ever seen.
If the cost of becoming a full-scale team is too much of a burden for Ford, the opportunity to re-emerge as a serious engine manufacturer could still be a very attractive proposition. Ford is within touching distance of Ferrari in terms of the winningest engine maker in F1 history – another potentially fascinating sub-plot in the two companies long and bitter rivalry. But more on that later.
Learned Valuable Lessons After Jaguar Failure
Ford’s reticence when it comes to re-entering F1 is understandable when you consider what happened the last time they were in the series. In 2000, Ford brought a majority stake in the Stewart F1 team, a struggling midfield constructor up until that point. However, unlike other manufacturers, they decided to race under the banner of one of the car companies they owned – Jaguar.
The brand had been absent from the sport for a number of decades by this point, and so, the decision was made by Ford to bring back the very popular Jaguar F1 team. Despite goodwill from the fans, what should have been a dream collaboration soon turned into a nightmare when the racing finally got underway. Costs ballooned, but a lack of focus from the parent company, alongside a dearth of technical expertise, gave Jaguar the kiss of death after only four years in the sport.
The sorry fate of Jaguar Racing is summarised best by one rumored tale, where the Ford CEO at the time reportedly said: “Who the hell is this Edmund Irvine”. ‘Eddie’ Irvine just so happened to be Jaguar’s number one driver, whom the company was paying millions to. If they decide to try their luck again, they will surely need to keep their eye on the ball time around.
The Chance To Beat Ferrari… Again
Who doesn’t love a friendly rivalry? Few motorsport rivalries were as intense, or as notorious as the Ford v Ferrari duel throughout the mid-1960s. The fight to win the coveted 24 Hours of Le Mans race was recently depicted in Ford V Ferrari, but what the Hollywood blockbuster fails to mention, is that the competition between the companies rolled on for many years to follow.
In F1, Ferrari was regularly bested by other teams using the powerful Ford Cosworth engine, the Mercedes V6 hybrid of its day. The 1970s was a particularly strong decade for Ford, who provided a Championship winning engine seven times to Ferrari’s three. Towards the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Italians would firmly reestablish control, dominating the sport as Ford was reduced to powering backmarkers like Minardi and Jordan.
Nevertheless, with Ferrari’s current struggles, and the new regulations set to come, perhaps now could be the perfect time for the American giants to exact some revenge.
They Can Emulate The Mercedes Blueprint
Without a shadow of a doubt, Mercedes are the current kings of the F1 grid. The German manufacturer aced the last set of regulation changes thanks to brilliant foresight and an engine of their own to develop – keeping everything in house, and on target. The company made F1 a core focus in the early 2010s, and it shows, with Mercedes having won every constructors title since 2014.
This may sound daunting to Ford, a company that was handsomely outspent by another large European carmaker last time out. But, like Ferrari and Mercedes, they’re in a unique position to possibly go on and dominate F1 ahead of the new regulations. As an automotive behemoth, they have deep enough pockets to compete with the big boys, whilst also having the facilities and brainpower needed to develop an engine of their own. Unlike independents, they have the ability to tailor everything towards their car, and their car alone.
It’s a tough ask, one that would require a huge amount of effort and capital, but the fact remains that Ford is one of the very few companies in the world capable of competing dollar for dollar with Mercedes.
Sources: Motorsport-total.com, Drivetribe, YouTube – Aidan Milward, Essentiallysports.com.
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