Honda’s Sporting Director Koji Watanabe has not ruled out the possible return of the Japanese manufacturer to Formula 1, especially in 2026 when the sport introduces its new engine regulations.
Despite winning the 2021 Drivers’ Championship with Max Verstappen, the Honda Motor Company pulled out of Formula 1 as an official engine supplier, opting instead to help Red Bull develop their Red Bull Powertrains brand as a silent partner of sorts.
However, with several high-ranking officials visiting the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix, rumours have begun to swirl regarding a possible re-entry into the sport for the 2026 season with Honda’s Wantanabe not dismissing the possibility.
“Formula 1 is the premier class in motorsport. We therefore always keep an eye on what happens in Formula 1,” Watanabe told F1-Insider.
“Internally, we have not yet discussed anything regarding the 2026 season. There is no plan. But the door is not closed.”
2026 rule changes in line with Honda ethos
The biggest draw for Honda’s re-entry into Formula 1 are the upcoming engine rule changes in 2026. The sport is making a massive push to go carbon neutral by 2030 and this vision is in line with Honda’s.
“My understanding is F1 is discussing to decide the regulations for 2026 and definitely the direction is carbon neutrality,” Watanabe added.
“That is the same direction as us. So we don’t have to [diverge] from carbon neutrality through F1 now. It is probably also a good opportunity to study carbon-neutral F1.”
Several factors worth considering
Watanabe also added there are several factors worth noting before making a decision, though the priority remains Honda’s road car division.
“I think there are several factors we need to watch,” Watanabe continued.
“But once we decided to conclude F1 because of mass production and carbon neutrality, first we need to concentrate on this side. Then once we can realise we can achieve this, we can consider F1.”
Decision will be taken within a year and half
Watanabe also added that the final decision would be taken within the next year and a half, especially when considering the magnitude of the task at hand.
“I don’t know the exact timeframe,” Watanabe said.
“But if we want to return to F1 in 2026, probably we need to decide within one to one-and-a-half years.”