Honda are back in Formula 1 as a full time power unit supplier from 2026, after announcing their partnership with Aston Martin, and are confident they can catch up with other manufacturers.
Honda announced they would leave Formula 1 at the end of the 2021 season after powering Max Verstappen to his maiden F1 Drivers’ Crown, but remained in close collaboration with Red Bull and AlphaTauri, providing them with power units through Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) through a supply agreement.
Red Bull on the other hand, started Red Bull Powertrains with the aim to produce their own power units from 2026 onwards and have joined forces with Ford, which meant, Honda who decided to come back to F1 in 2026, had to look for an alternative partner.
Enter Aston Martin, who announced a works agreement with Honda from 2026, as the British marquee continued to push towards their goal of becoming Championship contenders in F1.
When Honda came back to F1 with McLaren in 2015, one year into the turbo-hybrid engine regulations, they flopped big time and struggled to catch up with their rivals.
How the McLaren/Honda relations soured and ended in divorce, and then the switch to Red Bull is well documented, but Honda now insist, they will not suffer the same difficulties ahead of their return (again) to F1 in 2026.
Honda remained in touch with power unit developments
Quoted by Motorsport.com, HRC boss Koji Watanabe said: “I’d like to mention that we have been continuously supplying engines upon request from Red Bull even for the current F1, so therefore we are still in operation for the ongoing F1 races as well.
“As for the new regulations to be introduced from 2026, we have continuously engaged in studies of the important factors in terms of the power units. So therefore, we have not totally withdrawn from our R&D activities. Unlike the previous time where we were fully withdrawn, we have already been engaging in development,” he explained.
Honda decided to leave F1 in 2021 to focus on their carbon neutral projects, and Watanabe admitted some staff were shifted for that purpose.
“Until March 2022 we were fully engaged in gauging the development of the power units for up until 2022. So, we had the full headcount still remaining,” he said.
“However, then they were allocated to different carbon neutral projects. So, the headcount of the development member has started to decrease starting from April 2022.
“In April 2022, a new company called Honda Racing Corporation was established, this is the dedicated company for motorsport races. This company kept on engaging in studies and development of four-wheel technologies and we commenced studies regarding the new regulations.
“Therefore, we don’t think that we have lost so much regardless of our withdrawal from F1 racing at this point in time,” Watanabe concluded.