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Watanabe: We are initially focusing on electrical side of 2026 engine

Aston

Koji Watanabe, President of Honda Racing Corporation, gave some insights on the development of their 2026 Formula 1 power unit, revealing their priority was the electric part.

Honda will be powering Aston Martin in 2026 and Watanabe has set high goals for the partnership even in its first year, declaring a Title charge is the target.

And while the Japanese company have suffered a disastrous start to the turbo-hybrid upon their return to F1 with McLaren in 2015, they bounced back in style with Red Bull enjoying Title glory since starting from 2021 when Max Verstappen won his first Drivers’ Crown and followed that up with a dominant run since 2022, Red Bull securing two Title doubles and now fighting for a third.

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As for 2026, Watanabe shed some light on Honda’s preparations for the new power unit that will deliver power with a ratio of 50/50 between internal combustion and electric, the latter an area they initially struggled with.

Speaking to Motorsport.com, he said: “We are initially focusing on the electrical side of the engine, so our focus now is mainly on the electric engine parts and on the battery.

“This work is completely in line with our own objectives. In parallel, we are of course developing the internal combustion engine, but at this stage, it is not yet a V6. It is now a single cylinder.

“So far everything is going according to plan. Of course, we cannot go into too much detail, but everything is in line with our own expectations,” he insisted.

New staff needed for 2026

Honda pulled out of F1 at the end of 2021, but then decided to come back and are still supplying power units to Red Bull and VCARB, and also registered as a power unit supplier from 2026 onwards, but their initial decision to quit the sport meant a lot of F1 stuff were transferred to other projects, meaning they had to recruit replacements in preparation for 2026.

Watanabe explained: “When we announced that we would stop our F1 activities, most of the engineers left the F1 department. All important engineers have moved to other projects, including Honda Mobility.

“As a result, we have had to fill all these positions again, although it is not entirely the same people. Some people are still the same, but it was a little more difficult for other positions and needs at least a little time,” he added.

And with Aston Martin being their works partner from 2026, Honda have decided to found a company in the United Kingdom to cater to their partners’ needs.

Watanabe revealed: “We have registered the [HRC UK] company, but have not decided on the exact location yet. We registered mainly because we want to hire staff in the United Kingdom.

“Those things take time because you sometimes have to deal with a period of gardening leave. That is why we want to start hiring staff in England this summer and have already registered ourselves,” he concluded.