Honda are on the entry list to be a Formula 1 power unit supplier from 2026, but do not yet have a partner team to go with it.
A reunion with Red Bull is now off the cards as well, given their new tie-in with Ford which will take effect when the sport’s new power unit regulations take effect, though Honda will remain their partners until the current regulations end in 2025.
Honda are one of six suppliers for the 2026 grid, along with Red Bull Powertrains-Ford, Ferrari, Alpine, Mercedes and Audi, so this will rule out the factory teams with which they are all associated for the Japanese manufacturer to partner with in future.
But what it does do is offer an opportunity for a current engine customer team to have a crack at having an exclusive deal for themselves in future.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the contenders…
Looking at face value, Honda partnering with Aston Martin would appear to make the most sense for both power unit supplier and team.
It’s no secret that Aston have invested heavily in improving their infrastructure enough to compete with the big hitters in Formula 1, with a new factory and wind tunnel in progress at Silverstone – so it seems the logical next step in their progress would be to gain their own ‘factory’ engine supplier.
Aston Martin are currently one of three Mercedes customers on the grid, so they have the benefits of the Silver Arrows’ expertise and multiple title-winning experience from recent years, but if they choose to follow their own path, Honda could be just the ticket.
Given how Haas have made their ties seemingly tighter to Ferrari over the past year, setting up a technical base at Maranello next to the Scuderia’s own factory after taking on several of their former team members, it seems unlikely they will be giving up their Ferrari bonds any time soon.
Gene Haas has also turned down multiple approaches from Michael Andretti about taking over his team in the past, so any changes are unlikely to be forthcoming in that regard for the time being.
That being said, as Murray Walker famously attested: “Anything can happen in Formula 1, and it usually does.”
But for Honda, barring anything surprising, Haas seems an unlikely destination for now.
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Could it be third time lucky for a McLaren-Honda partnership?
McLaren’s current customer deal with Mercedes runs until at least 2024, and while the team could not resurrect the all-consuming dominance from their first period together in the mid-2010s, the gradual increase in competitiveness from Honda over time should make McLaren assess their options, if a deal ends up being put in front of them.
Recent memories may still sting on both sides given the way the infamous “GP2 engine” line from Fernando Alonso hit Honda’s reputation at the time, but almost a decade will have passed since the team and brand last worked together come the new regulations, and bridges in Formula 1 have definitely been mended in the past.
Mercedes’ third and final customer team on this list may not be inclined to give up the Silver Arrows’ power any time soon, unless former Mercedes strategy director turned Williams team principal James Vowles feels bold in taking the team in a new direction.
In the short term, sticking with what they (and Vowles) know so well would seem like a logical step as they look to make their way back up the field, even though there are three seasons yet to go before the power unit regulations change over.
But like McLaren, Honda re-partnering with Williams would resurrect a legendary duo in Formula 1 circles, with the Japanese marque having powered the team to World Championship glory in 1986 and ’87 respectively.
Or, if you wanted a speculative wildcard option…
Honda re-enters F1 themselves?
Okay, this is definitely a long shot at this moment in time.
But given the FIA has now opened applications for up to two new teams to enter the sport, the option is there for Honda to get back involved as a constructor, if they choose to do so.
Granted, Honda’s previous entry as a constructor in Formula 1 left a fair amount to be desired by the standards they set themselves, but as is the case with Ford, having a marquee brand from a key market re-enter the sport would do wonders for the commercial side of things.
The teams themselves have been lukewarm at the prospect of adding more cars to the grid, as their reaction to Michael Andretti’s advances would prove, so it would be far from certain that a Honda bid would succeed – but a surefire way of getting your power unit onto the grid would be to have your own factory team, after all…