Honda have reavealed that their 2026 full-time return to Formula 1 will see them partner up as works power unit supplier to the Aston Martin team.
While Honda officially left the sport at the end of the 2021 season, bowing out in style as they powered Red Bull on to become the first manufacturer to beat Mercedes in the turbo-hybrid era, which started in 2014. However they still have a presence on the grid as they continue to provide powertrains to Red Bull and AlphaTauri, though they are rebadged as Red Bull Powertrains, and will continue to do so up to the end of 2025.
In February, Red Bull announced that they would be partnering with Ford for when the new power unit regulations come into play from 2026. At the same time the FIA released a list of manufacturers who had registered to supply power units for that season onwards and Honda was on the list alongside Red Bull Ford, Alpine, Audi, Ferrari and Mercedes-AMG.
There has been much speculation over the past few months about which team or teams Honda could work with but we now know who it’ll be, and the Japanese manufacturer believes that they and Aston Martin “share the same sincere attitude and determination to win”.
“One of the key reasons for our decision to take up the new challenge in F1,” Toshihiro Mibe, Honda’s CEO, said, “is that the world’s pinnacle form of racing is striving to become a sustainable racing series, which is in line with the direction Honda is aiming toward carbon neutrality, and it will become a platform which will facilitate the development of our electrification technologies.”
The quick turnaround between the end of Honda’s fourth stint in F1 and the start of its fifth is down to the 2026 power unit regulation changes, which hadn’t been set out when the decision to leave was made, will see the MGU-H (motor generator unit – heat) removed and a much greater emphasis on electrical energy generation with the MGU-K (motor generator unit – kinetic).
“With the new 2026 regulations, the key for winning will be a compact, lightweight, and high-power electric motor with a high-performance battery capable of handling high and swift power output, as well as the energy management technology,” Mibe continued.
“We believe that the technologies and know-how gained from this new challenge can potentially be applied directly to our future mass production electric vehicles, such as an electric flagship sports model, and electrification technologies in various areas, including eVTOL which is currently under research and development.
“Honda has the utmost respect for the FIA, which made a bold decision to introduce these new and challenging regulations to ensure the sustainability of both racing activities and the global environment, and for the Formula 1 Group, which has been enhancing the brand value of F1 and ensuring F1’s evolvement as the most prestigious automobile racing in the world.”
Aston Martin and the Silverstone based team’s previous guises of Racing Point and Force India have been a Mercedes customer since 2009 and while getting engines supplied to you from a front-running and winning team is ideal for a midfield competitor it’s less so when you’re fighting with your supplier for positions. With Aston’s jump to the sharp end this season it’s not overly surprising that they would be looking to find a manufacturer of their own to partner up with.
“Mercedes have been great partners and they remain that,” Martin Whitmarsh, Group CEO of Aston Martin Performance Technologies, said. “They are in it to win and clearly we are here to win as well. Ultimately, there is some incompatibility in those two missions and that’s why we have taken the decision.
“The first and obvious example was, we currently share a wind tunnel with them. We’re having to spend a huge amount of money to build our own wind tunnel which is only four or five miles from [their] wind tunnel; it’s quite an adequate one that we use.
“The nature of F1 is,” Whitmarsh continued, “if you want to win, it means beating Mercedes and it’s extremely difficult to beat an organisation as good as Mercedes if you’re reliant on them for intellectual property, facilities and components.
“We are here to win. Therefore, you have got to have the complete integration of facilities and approach. In my view, it’s very difficult to win consistently championships without a full works relationship, which is why we have made this decision and why we are delighted to have a fantastic partner like Honda.”