Christian Horner explains why RBR/Honda 2026 engine deal did not happen

Thomas Maher
Christian Horner in a press conference. Melbourne, Australia, March 2023.

Christian Horner in a press conference. Melbourne, Australia, March 2023.

Christian Horner has opened up on why there was no possibility for Honda and Red Bull to continue their extremely successful partnership.

Earlier this week, it was confirmed that Honda will return to Formula 1 as an official power unit supplier as they will work with the Aston Martin F1 team from 2026 onwards.

Honda are an unofficial power unit supplier in F1 at the moment, having agreed an arrangement with Red Bull to supply their power units after their official withdrawal from the sport at the end of 2021.

This arrangement came about as a result of the introduction of a sport-wide engine freeze between the start of 2022 and the end of ’25, meaning no research and development costs as there is no performance-related development permitted.

The relationship between Honda and Red Bull has been completely amicable and extremely fruitful, with Red Bull using their Red Bull Powertrains-badged Honda power units to lead the championships with ease to follow on from their championships wins last season.

With Honda’s participation in the sport completely uncertain, Red Bull opted to set up their own engine department and have agreed a new high-profile partnership with Ford which will kick in for 2026. As a result, there was no chance of Red Bull continuing their relationship with Honda.

Christian Horner: There were too many compromises needed to continue with Honda

On Thursday, Max Verstappen said it has been a “shame” for Red Bull how the situation played out, given the competitiveness of the Honda power units and the closeness of the relationship, while Christian Horner opened up with further detail about how discussions with Honda had gone since their official withdrawal.

“We’ve had a lot of discussion with Honda as a valued partner over the last few years and, originally, the deal was that they were going to be totally out of the sport by the end of 2022 and we’d be responsible for assembling the engines ourselves,” Horner said in Monaco.

“And we managed to convince Honda to remain and to continue to assemble those engines to the end of 2025. We then had discussions in the autumn and heading into the winter of last year, about whether there potentially any link-up regarding the electrification, because combustion was still something that they were not keen to continue with then.

“But, to be honest with you, there were too many compromises, probably on both sides, that would be needed to be made to enable that to happen. So that’s when we decided to take up the option with Ford and make our commitment.” recommends

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Speaking to Sky F1, Horner said he was thrilled to see Honda stay in F1, as the Japanese manufacturer had no clear way back into the sport given most of the teams have long-term supply agreements with manufacturers. In Aston Martin’s case, they are dropping what will be a 16-year Mercedes supply deal stemming back to their Force India days in order to swap to Honda.

“Obviously, it’s a U-turn from where Honda were a couple of years ago when they announced their withdrawal from the sport,” Horner said.

“That prompted us to take control of our own destiny which we’ve done by creating and investing in a start-up in Red Bull Powertrains and, of course, as we look to the future in 2026, we have an exciting partnership with Ford Motor Company.

“We’ve still got two and a half years to run with the Honda relationship so there’s still a lot more racing to be done with Honda before the exciting new chapter where suddenly everything is on one campus for 2026.”

Christian Horner: Honda are a great partner to have on board

As for his thoughts on Aston Martin securing an exclusive supply deal with Honda, Horner said he has no doubts his rivals will enjoy having signed the Japanese manufacturer.

“About the co-existence I think of Aston Martin and Honda, I mean, Honda are a great partner to have, I’m sure that the team at Silverstone will enjoy working with them,” he said.

“But again, that’s still two-and-a-half years away. Aston Martin, we were the sandwich between… or the filling in the sandwich between Aston Martin and Honda the last time when Aston were our title partner.

“So obviously, I think they found a way of overcoming whatever differences they have as automotive manufacturers and I think for Formula 1 it’s positive that the Honda brand remains in the sport.”