Will Honda officially return to F1 in 2026?

At the start of February, Honda were announced as one of six power unit manufacturers to participate in Formula 1 from 2026, but that doesn't mean there are any guarantees they will be in the championship

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Red Bull and Ford‘s announcement as engine partners on Friday from the 2026 Formula 1 season will leave Honda on the sidelines as it stands.

As was the case in 2022, Honda will still build Red Bull and AlphaTauri‘s power units for the next three seasons from their base in Sakura, Japan.

This is despite the Japanese manufacturer officially leaving the sport at the end of 2021, citing the need to focus on their road car projects and carbon neutrality.

Honda logos are set to feature on the new RB19, as was the case in the final five events last season from the Japanese Grand Prix onwards.

“Honda has invested significantly in hybrid technology over the course of our partnership,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner in October 2022. “This has ensured the supply of competitive power units to both teams, for which we are very grateful.

“Our combined goal is to continue to deliver dominant engines and achieve the most success possible in the following three years. To mark this, we look forward to welcoming the Honda logo back on to the car from Suzuka onwards.”

There was speculation that Honda could rekindle their official partnership with Red Bull and AlphaTauri from 2026, instead Ford and Red Bull powertrains will combine when F1‘s new power unit regulations are introduced. So where does that leave Honda?

Williams the most realistic option

Well, look at it this way, there is absolutely no chance Honda will be supplying Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes or AlphaTauri. Alpine and Audi you would think no which leaves five teams.

Aston Martin seem to be aligned with Mercedes in the automobile world at the moment so they can be ruled out too.

We come to Williams which would probably be the best fit as Honda would surely have most of the say about the technical direction.

They would provide investment to Williams too and should Honda get the new regulations right, only one team would reap the benefits.

Williams’ Alexander Albon during Bahrain GP qualifying REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

The pair parties have history of course, with Nelson Piquet winning the 1987 championship which was their last season together.

During their five seasons together from 1983 to 1997, Williams-Honda had 23 wins and 19 pole positions.

McLaren

Surely not. Given how frosty things were during 2015 to 2017, a third attempt of the McLaren-Honda partnership would be a big surprise.

Nothing official was actually said from Honda regarding whether they had a problem with McLaren themselves or Fernando Alonso, or both, but time is a heeler and Zak Brown seems like a person who is willing to do what’s best now rather than hold onto any past grudges. After all, it was Ron Dennis who put together the turbo-hybrid McLaren-Honda deal, not Brown.

The reason McLaren-Honda part two happened in 2015 was because McLaren thought they couldn’t win championships with a Mercedes engine, since the German manufacturer would make a power unit that suited the characteristics of their own car.

Perhaps Brown thinks going solo with Honda is the only chance McLaren have to get back to winning ways, even if the risk is high.

Fernando Alonso at the wheel of 2015 McLaren-Honda

Andretti

Many many factors will have to come together to even consider the possibility of Andretti turning to Honda. First, Andretti have to get an entry on the grid, which is proving very tough, then you have to ask why would they choose Honda?

Well the answer is they probably won’t, they will go with Renault power. Given Honda are rivals with Chevrolet in IndyCar, and the latter is part of the General Motors group, Andretti-Honda just isn’t realistic.

Andretti will partner Cadillac, who are a General Motors brand, it would be a huge shock to see a Honda power unit in the back of an Andretti.

Return of Honda F1 works team

Even supplying a team with a power unit would require Honda to pump a lot of money and resources into its factory in Sakura.

Considering the state of affairs in F1 and the sport’s apparent position to have manufacturers take over a current team, rather than adding a new team to the grid, a fully fledged Honda outfit seems unlikely. Honda haven’t done this since 2008 but it would be brilliant if it did happen.

In fact, it’s more likely Honda won’t be involved in F1 at all when looking at their possible options which would be a massive shame.

The Power of Dreams can throw up some wonderful things, so let’s hope Honda won’t be resting away from F1 in 2026.

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