Honda will return to Formula One (F1) as a fully-fledged engine manufacturer by supplying works power units to Aston Martin from 2026, as F1 transitions to new engine regulations with a higher degree of electrification and sustainable fuels. Williams looks set to remain without a bespoke deal, alongside McLaren, Haas and AlphaTauri. AlphaTauri will benefit from its parent squad’s Ford tie-up, while Haas is inextricably linked with Ferrari through its technical partnership with Maranello. Vowles, Williams‘ new team boss, is exploring whether to remain with Mercedes or find a deal elsewhere but said that the new engine cycle’s first year “potentially becomes a little bit difficult” for customer teams to integrate the new power units into their chassis.
Vowles experienced both scenarios after coming over from Mercedes, which stole a march on the entire field in 2014 with its Brixworth-built engines the envy of the paddock in the turbo hybrid era’s early years. However, F1‘s stipulation to provide equal engines allowed teams such as Aston Martin to be competitive, with Aston and Williams currently taking Mercedes gearboxes to improve engine integration. “The closer you are linked with your engine manufacturer, the more you can do the layout of the back of the car the way you need it to be,” Vowles explained, admitting there are compromises for customer teams.
However, Vowles also believes that customers can still be competitive if the regulations remain stable. Ferrari‘s Laurent Mekies, who will become AlphaTauri‘s team principal next year, also doesn’t think a works deal will become any more important in 2026 than it is now, pointing at F1‘s efforts to drive the field closer together with a cost cap and less complex engine rules. “Some people are proving that it’s possible to do a very good job without that sort of deal, so I don’t think it’s going to be more important in the future than it is already today,” Mekies said.