until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

‘They made their decision’ – Honda on Red Bull ending 2026 talks

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Honda Racing Corporation president Koji Watanabe has hinted that it was Red Bull that ended discussions about a 2026 Formula 1 engine collaboration, to go with Ford instead.

Red Bull and Honda first worked together in F1 in 2018 with the Toro Rosso team, then adding Red Bull Racing in 2019, and despite Honda’s formal exit at the end of 2021 there is still an engine supply deal in place to the end of 2025.

The two companies had talks about extending the partnership into the new rules cycle but this would have been a different arrangement as Red Bull had set up – at great expense – a new engine division called Red Bull Powertrains when Honda decided to quit.

When Honda started to indicate it wanted to be in F1 for the new rules cycle after all, Red Bull was already well advanced with its plans and therefore had certain conditions any partner would need to meet.

And in the wake of Red Bull announcing it would work with Ford in 2026 instead, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said of Honda: “We explored the relationship beyond 2025 but it just logistically became too complicated.”

F1 Grand Prix Of Brazil

The reasons seem obvious: Honda couldn’t make its mind up and Red Bull wanted a partner that offered a very specific, restricted technical brief and a significant cash contribution.

The hesitancy within Honda was clearly the opposite of how keen Ford was to do this kind of deal, so Red Bull pushed ahead with getting the massive US manufacturer onboard.

But Red Bull and Honda had plenty of discussions about continuing the partnership, which has been so successful and produced a great working relationship, so it was slightly strange at how quickly it all seemed to fall apart.

The symbolic late-season change of stickers from HRC to Honda, and the extension of that deal for 2023-25, plus the engines officially being given the Honda name again on the F1 entry list, were all seen as part of the lobbying for the partnership to continue beyond 2025.

In hindsight, late-2022 is where talks broke down.

Red Bull and Ford accelerated their discussions in the final months of 2022, so perhaps by October an unbridgeable divide had emerged between Red Bull and Honda – whether that was diametrically opposed conditions for a partnership to work, or Honda’s uncertainty about being in F1 altogether.

F1 Grand Prix Of Japan Qualifying

It is clear that neither party wants to discuss the matter much in public, at least for now.

In a Q&A in Honda’s press briefing for its 2023 F1 programme on Monday, Watanabe said that Honda received advanced notice about Red Bull’s Ford deal and that Honda’s partnership with Red Bull remains unchanged to the end of 2025.

Though Watanabe kept things vague, and even had the air of someone who could not or would not speak too plainly, there was a clear implication that it was Red Bull which ended things, rather than Honda saying no to Red Bull.

“With Red Bull we have constant communication,” he said. “And we have worked together in many areas.

“They made their decision. There’s nothing further that I can say about this.”

He was either being careful not to speak badly of Red Bull, given it is Honda’s current partner, or did not want to criticise the decision-makers within Honda who allowed this partnership to come to an end.

But Watanabe did seem uncomfortable with the suggestion Honda had failed by losing Red Bull to another manufacturer.

F1 Grand Prix Of Abu Dhabi

He insisted that was not the case at all, which is little surprise given Red Bull is emphatically the best chance of success for Honda long-term in F1 and blowing the deal would reflect very poorly on Honda.

“It was not a failure,” said Watanabe. “We never really saw that as any failure of any sort.

“As a technical partner, we’re always in contact with Red Bull. So, there are many topics that we have discussed.

“But out of this dialogue, it was decided that we will not continue this partnership beyond 2025.”

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks