Honda has confirmed that it will return to Formula 1 as a power unit manufacturer in 2026 with Aston Martin. The Japanese company’s previous management decided not to renew its Red Bull deal that expired at the end of 2021. Honda, which did not pull out for financial reasons, cited a shift of focus to developing alternative energy forms to become carbon neutral by 2050. The 2026 engine regulations will do away with the current focus on the innovative MGU-H system and instead emphasise energy harvested under braking by the MGU-K, which has attracted several manufacturers to F1, including Audi and Sauber, who have joined forces with Alfa Romeo.
Honda believes that the new engine formula, with a larger percentage of electrification and a move towards carbon neutrality, has made F1 compatible again with its mass electric vehicle plans. CEO Toshihiro Mibe said, “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.”
Honda recently announced its target to double its global EV and hydrogen sales by 2024 and is planning to produce more than two million EVs annually by 2030. In 2026, F1 will also use 100% renewable biofuel, which the head of Honda Racing Corporation, Koji Watanabe, described as a perfect match for Honda‘s strategy. “The 2026 regulations would obligate us to go 100% towards carbon-neutral fuel and that would require us to really think about how to integrate the new fuel with the internal combustion engine,” he explained. “We also would have to think about how to make the efficiency optimised in order to speed up, and I think that direction matches with Honda‘s direction.”
Red Bull secured Ford as its 2026 works backer, leaving Honda Racing Corporation to partner with Aston Martin for its F1 comeback. Nevertheless, Honda is still supporting Red Bull with its current power unit. The change in the engine regulations will see the MGU-H system removed, which many believe has deterred OEMs from entering F1. It is believed that the new regulations will enable F1 to attract a wider variety of engine manufacturers to the sport.