Honda has created plenty of speculation by registering as a manufacturer for the 2026 F1 season, with the Japanese manufacturer yet to reach a deal with anyone on the grid.
After achieving Championship success with Red Bull – who will compete with Honda RBPT power units this season – there is uncertainty about their long-term future in the sport.
Honda decided at the end of 2020 to depart from Formula 1, a move that baffled observers given their success with Red Bull after so many years of difficulty at McLaren.
Primarily, Honda company’s objective to achieve carbon neutrality was a driving force in the decision to end their partnership with Red Bull – although this choice has been contested.
Masashi Yamamoto – Honda’s former F1 boss – admitted that he hoped to continue supplying the Austrian team. Unfortunately, he was unable to prevent more senior officials in the company from choosing to leave the grid.
Red Bull still benefits from Honda’s contributions with their current power units. Still, after agreeing to collaborate with Ford for 2026 (and investing significantly in RBPT), Red Bull’s days with Honda are numbered.
However, Honda’s continued involvement in F1 allows them to evaluate whether they want to continue for the 2026 season.
They have the necessary infrastructure and technical expertise to compete at the highest level in F1, and plenty of teams will be eager to capitalise on this – especially those in the midfield looking to push to the front.
Customer teams like McLaren will surely realise the benefits of working exclusively with an engine supplier, a dynamic which has played an instrumental role in Red Bull’s recent success.
As quoted by racingnews365, Honda’s President Koji Watanabe has revealed teams have already expressed interest for 2026:
“Formula 1 is greatly shifting towards electrification. So, given that carbon neutrality is our corporate-wide target at Honda, we think that Formula 1’s direction is in line with our target.
“That is why we have decided to register as a power unit manufacturer…
“After we made the registration, we have been contacted by multiple Formula 1 teams. For the time being, we would like to keep a close eye on where F1 is going and see how things go.
“But for now, we don’t have any concrete decisions on whether or now we will go back to joining Formula 1.”
Ironically, Honda’s aim to attain carbon neutrality (which motivated the initial decision to leave F1) is now tempting them to return.
Formula 1’s 2026 regulations facilitate a shift towards electric technology playing a more prominent role in power unit development, congruent with the sport’s push to reach net zero carbon in 2030.
This will keep Honda interested in a potential return to F1, and with rumours circulating about McLaren entering talks with the Japanese manufacturer, some surprises could lie ahead.