Red Bull could be on the starting grid of next year's Formula One Grand Prix season, according to press reports. The Austrian energy drinks group is in the final stages of negotiations to buy Ford's UK-based Formula One team Jaguar Racing, the Financial Times said. The newspaper cites sources close to the deal in its report.

Jaguar Racing must register for the 2005 world championship by 15 November or face paying up to US$450m in closure costs, the FT said. While Red Bull is interested in buying the team, Ford has indicated that another bidder is interested in buying both Jaguar Racing and Cosworth Racing, Ford's competition engines subsidiary.

The paper said that Red Bull's founder and chairman, Dietrich Mateschitz, is understood to be ready to call what Red Bull regards as Ford's bluff. People close to the sale said the other potential buyer may not have financial backing for a deal.

Red Bull's aggressive marketing strategies - including a long relationship with the Swiss Sauber F1 team - have resulted in it capturing 70% of the world energy drinks market despite being founded only in 1987. While Red Bull has been reluctant to comment on the negotiations, the main sticking point is understood to be its determination to get Ford to pay some of the team's running costs next year.

Under US corporate legislation, if Jaguar Racing were to collapse within three years after the sale, Ford would remain liable for employee and other costs.