Honda Keeping a Watchful Eye on Formula 1’s Sustainable Future.
Honda may have quit grand prix racing as a factory effort at the end of 2022 as the company promised to shift its focus to zero-emission road car technology. It did not cut ties completely however. Honda continues to supply Red Bull the technology to run its HRC Honda Racing Corporation badged Honda power units. Honda also still manufactures, assembles, and supports both Red Bull and offshoot AlphaTauri’s F1 power units
Sustainable Fuelled F1 is an Attraction
Now, following Honda’s 2021 title success, and Formula 1’s major push toward a carbon neutral future as it prepares to move to sustainably fuelled new rules from 2026, it appears that the Japanese manufacturer could be poised for another full-time F1 return. Speculation was fuelled by Honda senior Honda suits including CEO Toshihiro Mibe, chairman Seiji Kuraishi, HRC president Koji Watanabe and racing director Yasuaki Asaki all visiting last the Austrian Grand Prix a week ago.
“It is not a closed door,” President Watanabe pointed out while at the Red Bull Ring. “My understanding is that Formula 1 is discussing to decide the regulations for 2026, and definitely the direction is carbon neutrality. “That is the same direction as us, so we do not have to split from carbon neutrality through F1 now. “It is probably also a good opportunity to study carbon neutral Formula1, so it’s not a closed door.
“We have just concluded our activities. “Nothing has been discussed within the Honda company about 2026 season yet, so we do not have a plan. “Formula 1 is however the top motorsports category, and we are always watching what is happening in the F1 world. “First, we need to concentrate on mass production and carbon neutrality. “Then, once we can realize that we can achieve this, we can consider Formula 1.
“We Are Watching Sustainable Formula 1” — Honda
“Formula 1 is the top motorsports category, so we are always watching what is happening. “I don’t know the exact timeframe, but if we want to return to F1 in 2026, probably we need to decide within a year and a half. ”
While Red Bull is known to be fostering a switch to Porsche power from 2026, Honda remains committed to both Red Bull and AlphaTauri until then. “Honda is going to be a kind of team partner of both teams at least until 2025,” Watanabe confirmed. “The detail is not decided yet, also HRC will become a kind of technical partner of both teams until 2025, but personally I want to utilize more Honda brand as a combination of Honda and HRC.”
Watanabe also cleared up a significant grey area as he confirmed that that Red Bull has not acquired Honda’s intellectual property to its F1 engine. “They can utilize the IP, but we didn’t sell the IP to them,” the Honda chairman explained. “It is just a lease which allows them to utilize the Honda IP.” That IP will return to Honda at the end of the current deal in 2025. So, a Red Bull Porsche collaboration would therefore be classified as a new entrant, rather than an existing manufacturer.
Honda’s Fifth Formula 1 Dalliance
Should Honda make a full time return in 2026, it will be the company’s fifth dalliance with Formula 1. Honda made its debut in the 1960s 1500 cc era. And stepped up to the 3-liter formula before leaving before the end of that decade. It returned as a highly successful engine supplier in the 1980s turbo era, winning several titles, before quitting again. Only to return again in the early 2000s. Before leaving and selling the team to Brawn, which won the title the following year.
Brawn became Mercedes F1 a year later and the team went on to dominate the early turbo hybrid era. To which formula Honda returned with McLaren, before switching to AlphaTauri nee Toro Rosso, and then Red Bull, to finally break its former team Mercedes grip with Max Verstappen’s 2021 tile. That a year after Honda confirmed it would quit in 2022, which led to the current HRC lease deal!