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Fernando Alonso climbs from his McLaren Honda in the garage.

Honda: We can overcome painful [McLaren] experience together with Alonso

Fernando Alonso climbs from his McLaren Honda in the garage.

Honda racing boss Koji Watanabe said there was no problem working with Fernando Alonso again, insisting they can overcome their painful McLaren experience.

Alonso, after extending his Aston Martin contract, will be racing with Honda power in 2026, when Formula 1 enters a new power unit and car regulation era.

It will not be the first time the Spaniard was powered by the Japanese company, however all parties involved will be hoping it would be better than the first encounter.

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Alonso was driving for McLaren when Honda returned to F1 in the turbo-hybrid era to power the Woking squad’s cars between 2015 and 2017, but that relationship was a disaster.

Honda were unprepared, their return brought forwards under pressure from McLaren and the power units were unreliable and underpowered and while the team, still led by Ron Dennis at the time, claimed their chassis were top notch, that was not the case, as the truth about their subpar chassis was revealed when they switched to Renault power in 2018 after the divorce with Honda.

Alonso, during those times, was vocal about his criticism of Honda and that reached a peak during the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix, Honda’s home race, where he labeled their power unit a “GP2 Engine”.

However with Honda becoming Aston Martin’s power unit supplier from 2026 onwards and Alonso extending his contract, many thought that would be an issue.

But Honda Racing Corporation president Koji Watanabe insists that is water under the bridge when asked about his company’s relationship with the double F1 Champion.

He told Motorsport.com: “When I worked with him from 2015 to 2017, it was a very difficult situation for both Honda and the team.

“It was a particularly frustrating period in our history, and there were times when our relationship was strained,” he added. “But, I think we have become stronger because we overcame that frustration. Alonso has also been very active since then.

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“I’m glad that we can overcome that painful experience together and fight together for victory once again. I hope that we can aim for the championship together and win together,” the Japanese engineer maintained.

Watanabe revealed that they had brief contact with Alonso since signing their power unit supply agreement with Aston Martin with whom they have also discussed driver options.

“I spoke with him in Las Vegas,” he said. “At the time, he hadn’t decided on his next contract yet, but Alonso came when we were talking with [team principal] Mike Krack. He said: ‘Good luck’ and ‘If we have a chance, let’s race together.’ We just spoke a few words.

“We had many conversations with Aston Martin regarding our partnership starting in 2026,” Watanabe went on. “During that time, we exchanged opinions about drivers too and we shared an understanding between us and Aston Martin that Alonso was definitely a top-class driver.

“Aston Martin asked us if there would be any problems from Honda if they extended Alonso’s contract. The situation was shared at various stages.

“But Honda did not make any requests regarding this matter. In any case, we should naturally discuss what kind of driver line-up we need to win, and it was in this context that the team decided to extend Alonso’s contract,” Watanabe concluded.

After its tough time with McLaren, Honda went on to power Toro Rosso (now RB) in 2018 and then Red Bull Racing in 2019. The new relationship yielded two F1 Constructors’ Championships (2022, 2023) and three Drivers’ Titles for Max Verstappen (2021, 2022, 2023).