Ford will return to the F1 grid from the 2026 season after announcing a new long-term technical partnership with Red Bull, meaning their storied Grand Prix history will get another chapter. To mark the occasion, we look back at some of the American manufacturer’s standout achievements, from their first steps in the 1960s to their most recent title success in the 1990s…
Ford Cosworth DFV kicks off a period of F1 domination
F1 has witnessed an array of major developments over the years, from ground effect aerodynamics to active suspension, and double diffusers to F-Ducts, but the revolutionary Ford Cosworth DFV (Double Four Valve) engine is up there with the most influential in the sport’s history.
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Funded by American-led Ford and produced by British engineering group Cosworth, the V8 DFV was a hit from its debut with the Lotus 49 at the 1967 Dutch Grand Prix, powering Graham Hill to pole position by half a second, before team mate Jim Clark took victory by almost half a minute.
From there, the Lotus/Ford relationship would go from strength to strength, while a host of other teams were quick to join the DFV party – only dedicated manufacturers such as Ferrari and Renault continuing to design, build and race their own engines.
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Hill and Lotus do the title double with the DFV
Following their debut victory, it did not take long for Lotus to mount a title challenge with the DFV – Clark winning three more races in 1967 to place third in the drivers’ standings, while the team finished runner-up to reigning double champions Brabham.
Tragically, aged just 32, and after winning the 1968 F1 opener in South Africa, Clark was killed in an F2 crash at the Hockenheimring. That meant it fell to Hill to take on the mantle and overcome Jackie Stewart’s Matra (also powered by the Ford DFV unit).
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After a season-long scrap, Hill grabbed the crown with three victories and three further podiums, while Lotus doubled up by beating McLaren and Matra to the constructors’ title – adding to the championships they initially achieved with Clark in 1963 and 1965.
A breakthrough win for McLaren with help from Ford
Continuing to cement itself in the F1 record books, the DFV was fitted in the winning car of every championship F1 race in 1969 and 1973, and would ultimately take 155 wins from 262 races between 1967 and 1985 (taking into account several engine variants).
This included a famous victory for Bruce McLaren and his eponymous team at the 1968 Belgian Grand Prix, the outfit’s first in F1 during the early days of a journey that led to a host of titles – from Emerson Fittipaldi in 1974 to Lewis Hamilton in 2008.
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Sadly, the New Zealander would not experience that success, with his Spa-Francorchamps win the last of four he took in F1 before being killed aged 32 in a Can-Am testing crash at Goodwood. But his legacy, and the roots that stretch back to that DFV-powered result, live on to this day.
Schumacher’s first world title also marks Ford’s last
After their hugely successful era with the DFV, and enjoying further victories with several variant designs, Ford’s next landmark F1 moment came in the mid-1990s, when a spell powering Benetton – and Michael Schumacher – yielded another title.
With the Ford EC Zetec-R 3.5 V8 engine behind him, Schumacher racked up eight race wins to edge out Williams rival Damon Hill for the championship by a point – their fraught battle settled via a dramatic collision at the season finale in Adelaide.
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The triumph, which came despite Schumacher being disqualified from two races and banned from two others, was the first of seven titles the German would achieve across his glittering F1 career, at the same time marking Ford’s last in the top echelon – for now, at least…
Powering Stewart to a famous win and double podium
While Ford’s most recent title win remains the one they achieved with Schumacher, the company had another spell of relative success as the engine supplier to Stewart Grand Prix – equipping the team run by Jackie Stewart and son Paul from 1997 to 1999.
Highlights included a P2 finish for Rubens Barrichello in only the squad’s fifth race in Monaco, the Brazilian splashing his way to pole position at Magny-Cours in 1999, and Johnny Herbert leading a spectacular P1/P3 finish at a wet-dry Nurburgring during the same season.
ORAL HISTORY: The inside story of Stewart GP’s fairytale ‘99 European Grand Prix victory
Stewart sold the team to Ford for 2000, signalling a full works effort and a Jaguar rebranding, but they would exit after five challenging campaigns. Some 19 years on, the Red Bull team who bought Jaguar will join forces with Ford and pick up the story…