Honda plot return to Formula 1 following 2026 engine shake-up

Honda's potential interest in building F1 engines for 2026 and beyond has been confirmed by Honda Racing president Koji Watanabe.

While Honda officially withdrew from F1 at the conclusion of the 2021 season, citing its increased focus on the electrification of its road car industry, Honda continue to power the Red Bull and AlphaTauri F1 teams as their power units are manufactured and shipped from Honda's base in Sakura, Japan.

With Honda are still, unofficially, supplying the two Red Bull teams, branding for 'HRC' (Honda Racing Corporation) was re-introduced on the RB18 late in the 2022 season after another season of success for the Japanese power units.

Due to the ongoing F1 engine freeze, with minimal development costs because of it, the arrangement with Red Bull is set to run until the end of 2025 - new power unit regulations are scheduled to be introduced for the 2026 season.

The potential for a continuation of this relationship on a more formal basis remains in place, particularly so following the breakdown in talks between Red Bull and Porsche regarding a works link-up for the new regulations.

Honda register interest for 2026 power units regulations

A soft deadline, in mid-November, was requested by the FIA in order for manufacturers to register interest in the 2026 power unit regulations, and Honda have confirmed they have put their names down on this list.

However, this deadline is not a binding contract that ensures their participation, but merely serves as an expression of interest and gets Honda a seat at the table for discussions regarding the introduction of the new regulations.

"As HRC, we have registered as a PU manufacturer after 2026," confirmed Watanabe during Honda's 2023 Motor Sports Activity Plan Presentation, as quoted by the Japanese subsidiary of Motorsport.com.

"The F1 regulations from 2026 onwards are moving in the direction of carbon neutrality. In addition, the fact that electrification is also being promoted, and the carbon neutrality and electrification that Honda Motor Co., Ltd. is promoting, is the same. The targets match.

"As a racing company, we have registered as a manufacturer in order to advance research on racing.

"There is also the fact that November 15 was the deadline [for registration]. [We] have registered as a manufacturer in order to continue [this research]."

The decision to register means Honda still have time to figure out whether or not to commit to a step-up in its F1 activities for 2026 and beyond.

What about F1's other power unit manufacturers?

As for the other power unit manufacturers, Alpine's Laurent Rossi confirmed Renault were committing their interest for 2026 when he spoke to media, including PlanetF1.com, at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

"We had some points we wanted to discuss on the legal side, to make sure that we fully covered as much as possible, which we did," he said.

"We just kept on discussing those points as far as we could. And at some point, when we reach a level in discussions where we think we're all in a good position, we sign - or we're going to sign. I think it's imminent."

Christian Horner confirmed Red Bull Powertrains have signed up for 2026: "As a newcomer for 2026, Red Bull Powertrains has entered. It's an exciting moment for the group, for the company, a new challenge to take on, and a lot to do between now and 2026."

Toto Wolff similarly confirmed Mercedes have put pen to paper, while Aston Martin's Mike Krack refuted any possibility that his team may seek to become a power unit supplier in their own right: "We have evaluated really, all the resources needed, our situation for the years to come, and we decided that we are very, very happy with our current supply of power units with our partner, and then decided not to follow up."

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