Aston Martin have confirmed that Honda will be their engine partner from 2026 onwards, expressing a desired shift away from their dependence on Mercedes. The Japanese manufacturer is a titan in motorsport and saw recent success in 2021 and ‘22 with the latter resulting in a World Championship double with Red Bull. The new partnership will have large ramifications for Aston Martin themselves but also other teams on the grid.
In saying that, here’s everything you need to know about Honda’s return to F1.
An Aston Martin Works Team?
Aston Martin used the term “works partnership” to describe Honda’s return to the sport and essentially this partnership will create a de facto Honda works team known as Aston Martin Aramco Honda.
Aston Martin Performance Technologies CEO, Martin Whitmarsh, described the Honda partnership as, “… one of the last parts of the jigsaw puzzle slotting into place for Aston Martin’s ambitious plans in Formula 1.”
Speaking of the future, Whitmarsh told the media that, “It is clear to us and Honda that the 2026 F1 regulations will require the full integration of chassis and PU that only a full works team relationship delivers.
“So to have this partnership puts us in the position to compete for championships. They have a huge passion, they are racers and they want to win – that is what they are in this sport to do. That is fantastic because that is exactly our goal.”
Everything Aston Martin has been doing since Lawrence Stroll took control has suggested this path. He hired the best engineers he could, signed two World Champions with Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, and invested in a new factory and wind tunnel. The final piece is the ability to produce their own power unit.
Goodbye to Mercedes Parts
Mercedes have lost a customer here, but Aston Martin will have to say goodbye to the Mercedes power units, gearbox, rear suspension, and almost the entire rear of the car.
It has been suggested that Aston Martin feel the Mercedes rear is having an impact on the effectiveness of the AMR23’s diffuser, forcing the team to run larger and more draggy wings to make up for an inefficient diffuser. It has even been hinted that the Mercedes parts in general may be holding them back.
At the beginning of 2023, Aston Martin tech boss, Dan Fallows, was asked about the ending the partnership with Mercedes and said, “… as we move into the future and do things our own way, or take on our own projects, we’re very mindful that we have to be able to do them at least as well if not better than they do. That’s a capability that we would have to build up before we even talk about making those decisions.”
Fallows continued to say that while they appreciate the Mercedes partnership, “winning means beating our existing partner. If you’re trying to win while relying on your competition, that’s problematic.”
That problem has seemingly been eradicated and given there are opinions that an engine customer will never win a championship, it makes sense for Aston Martin to wave goodbye to Mercedes and forge a new works team with Honda.
How Will This Affect Red Bull? (Not Much)
Honda are still technical partners with Red Bull. They continue to manufacture and assemble power units for Red Bull as the team prepares to create their own powertrains from 2026 with Ford.
This will hardly affect Red Bull as the engine has already been built for this current regulation cycle. Due to the engine freeze in 2022, the engine used will be fundamentally the same in 2025 as the only changes allowed focus on reliability and software updates.
Red Bull Powertrains will be focused on the ICE portion of the engine while Ford will focus on the hybrid and electrical components. Essentially, Red Bull will just have to get used to a new workforce in Ford.
New Power Unit Regulations in 2026 the Reason for Honda’s Return
The largest reason for Honda’s return to F1 is the introduction of new power unit regulations in 2026 that align with a new set of sustainability goals. These goals include the implementation of carbon neutral fuels, and a greater focus on electrical power output ratios. This is all part of a wider push to become carbon neutral by 2030. Honda primarily left F1 in the first place to focus on their own environmental goals.
FIA President, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, believes that Honda’s return to F1 is evidence that the sport is making the right decisions towards future power unit regulations.
“The continued interest from global automotive giants such as Honda shows once again that the 2026 Power Unit REgulations set out by the FIA in collaboration with FOM and the incumbent PU manufacturers struck precisely the right balance to ensure that the Formula 1 World Championship remains at the forefront of technological innovation, sustainability, and competition,” said Ben Sulayem.
He goes on to say that “no fewer than six of these industry leaders have registered their participation” for the next regulation cycle. These “leaders” include Alpine, Audi, Ferrari, Honda, Mercedes, and Red Bull Ford.
How will this Affect Fernando Alonso Given his Previous Comments?
Honda have remained adamant that there are “no objections” to potentially being reunited with Fernando Alonso, despite his previous comments about the manufacturer.
During the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix, Alonso described the Honda power unit in his McLaren as a “GP2 engine” after being easily overtaken by a Toro Rosso. He has since stated that he regrets the statement.
Honda Racing Corporation President, Koji Watanabe, told the media that driver selection remains with Aston Martin.
“The selection of the drivers is up to the team to decide but if we were to team up with Alonso, we have no objections to him driving,” said Watanabe.
Honda Global CEO, Toshiro Mibe, echoed these statements, “The past is the past. Alonso is a super talented driver and we pay high respect towards him. But since the driver selection is up to the team, I would like to leave it to the team.”
Whitmarsh has also insisted that Alonso sees the bigger picture and “understands and respects what Honda is doing.”
“We’ve got to be aware – and we haven’t said it but we should be saying it – Honda won the ‘21 and ‘22 world championships,” added Whitmarsh, “and unless we can beat them this year, they’re going to do it again. So they are very great partner for us, and I think Fernando sees that.”