Christian Horner is not ruling out a Honda return to Formula 1 in 2026 when the next generation of power units is brought in.
Honda gave Red Bull more than 14 months’ notice that they would leave F1 at the end of the 2021 campaign – which they did on a glorious high as Max Verstappen clinched the Drivers’ World Championship in Abu Dhabi.
Rather than seek a different engine supplier after a turbulent relationship with Renault which ended in 2018, Red Bull Powertrains was set up with effect from this season – although Honda are unofficially still involved in the background.
That suggests the door remains ajar for the Japanese company to potentially make a comeback for 2026, especially now a Red Bull partnership with Porsche, which had appeared on the brink of being announced, is now off the table with talks having broken down.
The key issue regarding Honda remains the one they cited for their withdrawal in the first place, that they are focusing on electrification, but Horner does not necessarily see that as a total dealbreaker given the 2026 power-unit regulations that have been finalised.
“There’s plenty of speculation,” said the Red Bull team principal on the Beyond the Grid podcast.
“Honda announced their withdrawal because their range of vehicles was heading the electrical route and obviously combustion engines didn’t form part of their future. So it’s difficult to imagine them doing a complete U-turn on that.
“But maybe there are elements that might want to come back in. With the 50-50 split between combustion and electrical power for the future power unit, maybe that is a route for them to retain an involvement in Formula 1.
“But nothing we are doing is in any way dependent or contingent upon that – we are very much on our own track.”
Horner believes the growing interest in Formula 1 means manufacturers are being swayed not to put all their eggs in the EV basket just yet, even if that is their public message. Audi have confirmed they will enter F1 in 2026.
“It’s great that the manufacturers are coming in,” said Horner. “It just demonstrates how relevant Formula 1 is and how strong its marketing presence is because we’ve seen viewing figures we’ve never seen before. So it’s a case of the manufacturers sort of can’t afford not to be in.
“Many of them have announced they have made their last ever combustion engine, yet here we are in Formula 1 committing to a V6 with sustainable fuels for the future.
“And I think it just demonstrates the strength of Formula 1 because logically these guys would be going the Formula E route but the emotion and passion just isn’t there from what I see in that form of racing, whereas Formula 1 draws that raw emotion and technical excellence.
“So it’s great to see a manufacturer like Audi and hopefully Porsche coming into Formula 1 and a host of interest from many others.”