Honda looks increasingly likely to have a new Formula 1 engine project in 2026 in partnership with the Aston Martin team.
The Japanese manufacturer officially quit F1 at the end of 2021 but it is still a partner of Red Bull’s two F1 teams and is supplying engines to them until the end of 2025.
Honda has effectively taken steps to partially reverse its withdrawal and has been eyeing a full ‘return’ to F1 in 2026 as part of the new engine regulations.
It registered its interest in the new rules late last year with the FIA and had approaches from multiple teams about a works deal.
Any fresh Honda project was guaranteed to need a new partner when it emerged Red Bull would work with Ford on a new in-house F1 engine for 2026.
Multiple sources have indicated to The Race that Honda will commit to the new regulations after all, with Aston Martin – currently a Mercedes engine customer – tipped to be its partner.
HONDA’S U-TURN ALMOST COMPLETE
Honda needed a new partner because the events it set in motion by deciding to quit F1 in the first place led to Red Bull going down a very different path.
Back in 2020 Honda’s then-CEO Takahiro Hachigo announced it would leave F1 officially at the end of 2021 to prioritise zero-emissions technology for its automotive division, which had fallen behind rivals.
But this coincided with the Red Bull-Honda partnership gathering pace and they won the drivers’ world championship together in 2021.
At the same time, Red Bull and Honda struck a deal for Honda to keep supplying engines until the end of 2025 but in a less engaged capacity.
It became clear that Honda, which had a change of CEO in April 2021 to Toshihiro Mibe, was rethinking its decision to quit F1 – and its success with Red Bull continued in 2022, winning both world championships.
Honda continued to be represented at technical committee meetings about the 2026 engine rules and kept a small group working on these regulations as well.
F1’s rules around sustainable fuels and an increased electrical output – with a more potent MGU-K more than compensating for the dropped MGU-H – seemed to give Honda an argument for such a project being compatible with its wider company goals.
Though there is conflicting information over whether Honda’s board has made its final decision, it is now increasingly likely that a 2026 project will be rubber-stamped soon.
Red Bull and Honda did hold talks about continuing their partnership for 2026 once it became clear Honda was interested in its formal return.
But despite their excellent and existing relationship, the creation of Red Bull Powertrains fundamentally changed the terms any deal would be subject to.
It was set up in anticipation of Honda’s complete withdrawal, to finally give Red Bull control over its engine supply after being dependent on manufacturers for its entire existence.
Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri will now use Red Bull Ford branded engines from 2026 as the American manufacturer has been tempted into a mostly commercial partnership, with some technical input mooted.
This deal gathered pace in late-2022, leaving Honda to discuss with alternative parties. McLaren and Williams were both linked and McLaren reached out over the winter.
However, the expectation is that it will be Aston Martin that Honda works with.
Aston Martin has made its interest in a works engine supply clear, having even tentatively explored its own power unit in the style of Red Bull Powertrains.
When that was determined to be unviable, Aston Martin considered its alternatives. And Honda was the only route to a works engine deal.
2026 ENGINE MANUFACTURERS (AND WORKS TEAMS)
Red Bull Ford (Red Bull)
Honda (Aston Martin – TBD)
Every other manufacturer signed up for 2026 has its own team in mind, and though General Motors is sniffing around as a potential future participant that would be with a works entry as well.
A Honda deal would reunite ‘Team Silverstone’ with the manufacturer it was last affiliated with in the early 2000s, having also enjoyed Jordan’s peak years in 1998 and 1999 with Mugen-Honda power.
There is a link to Honda at the very top of the team’s modern incarnation too, in the form of Aston Martin Performance Technologies CEO Martin Whitmarsh.
He brokered the deal for McLaren and Honda to partner each other beginning in 2015, and left McLaren before that partnership fell apart, so his relationship is almost certainly still intact.
Whether that is the case for current Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso, who was at McLaren for the entirety of that ill-fated three-year spell, is unclear.
Alonso upset Honda significantly with his constant criticism, most notably calling its product a “GP2 engine” at Honda’s home race in Japan in 2015.
But Alonso, who is 41 years old, may not still be racing for Aston Martin by 2026 anyway.