The Red Bull – McLaren axis has become hotter and hotter over the last few weeks. A few days ago the two teams announced the move of engineer Rob Marshall from Milton Keynes to Woking, which will become effective from 1 January next year. But there seems to be much more to the discussions between the parties.
With Honda which for 2026 has chosen to link up with Aston Martin Racing, choosing a very ambitious project which has already given the first encouraging signs this year, with Fernando Alonso on the podium in 5 of the 7 races held to date and an AMR23 which is a distant relative of the car that struggled in the last World Championship.
So McLaren is still left without an engine partner for 2026, the year in which the technical revolution that will introduce the new generation of single-seaters and power units will take place.
At the beginning of this year, Red Bull Racing announced the partnership with Ford which will start in 2026. On paper, it will be a collaboration to create the power units. In all respects it will be a commercial union that will see Ford give its name to the power units that will be manufactured by the new engine department built in Milton Keynes.
Christian Horner and Zak Brown met recently to reach an agreement and allow Rob Marshall to join the Woking team on timescales that could satisfy both parties. But the future was probably also discussed in the meetings between the two team principals.
McLaren logo on team equipment
Photo by: Andrew Hone / Motorsport Images
“Rob Marshall has been with the team in Australia because he has several of his family who live there. So he took a bit of a vacation waiting for the grand prix,” Horner said at the end of last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix. at Montmelo.
“He is currently working in Red Bull Powertrains (the engine division of Red Bull, ed), but he is working specifically on some projects. So with McLaren we thought about how to reach a commercial agreement that was reasonable for both. McLaren in January”.
Although Horner denied that the Marshall deal would include a tie-in for 2026 power units, the parties are talking to work out a deal. McLaren is interested in the engines of Milton Keynes and Horner himself has admitted that two teams have shown up to understand the feasibility of a future partnership.
“Marshall doesn’t walk away carrying an engine deal for McLaren, but clearly we’ve had two teams approach us regarding the 2026 engines. Our plan at the moment is to supply engines to two teams, as we want to stress too much department at least in the first year. And, clearly, those two teams will be the ones owned by Red Bull”.
So Horner preferred not to say too much, but that McLaren is looking for a partner for the 2026 engines is a fact, just as it is that the Red Bull – Ford V6s could be a plausible solution. As for the second team interested in the Milton Keynes power units, finding out who might be asking for information is easy to say.
Considering some realities already in possession of an agreement, therefore Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull (with their own Ford branded engines), Aston Martin (with Honda), Alpine, Sauber-Audi, AlphaTauri (with Red Bull – Ford), remain precisely out McLaren, Haas and Williams. The American team’s situation is still in flux, so it could have been Williams who attempted the approach of having a new engine supplier in 3 years time.