Honda to supply Aston Martin with F1 engines in 2026

Aston Martin has emerges as the second best team in the early part of the 2023 season. Gongora/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Honda will supply Aston Martin with Formula One engines from 2026 after the Japanese company confirmed its plans to remain in the sport beyond 2025.

Honda currently supplies world champions Red Bull with engines, but that deal will come to an end in 2026 when Red Bull starts building its own engines in collaboration with Ford.

Honda's recent success with Red Bull has marked it out as one of the top engine manufacturers in F1, but it was initially reluctant to commit to F1 beyond 2025 and so Red Bull decided to build its own engines for 2026.

Aston Martin has an engine deal in place with Mercedes until the end of the current power unit regulation cycle in 2025, but will now join forces with Honda to become a works team in 2026.

Honda references F1's engine regulations for 2026, which include the use of sustainable fuels and a more powerful energy recovery system, as its motivation for staying in the sport.

Global CEO Toshihiro Mibe said: "One of the key reasons for our decision to take up the new challenge in F1 is that the world's pinnacle form of racing is striving to become a sustainable racing series, which is in line with the direction Honda is aiming toward carbon neutrality, and it will become a platform which will facilitate the development of our electrification technologies."

The news means Formula One will have six engine manufacturers competing in 2026, with Honda, Red Bull, Renault, Mercedes, Ferrari and Audi.

Why Aston Martin decided to switch from Mercedes

Aston Martin is currently in second place in this year's constructors' standings after making significant performance gains from 2022 to 2023. Much of that step has been put down to its recruitment of top engineers from rival teams, such as Red Bull and Mercedes, but the team still uses a Mercedes power unit, gearbox and rear suspension and develops its car in Mercedes' wind tunnel.

While Aston Martin has praised its collaboration with former champions Mercedes, it is now building its own wind tunnel -- set for completion in 2025 -- and plans to move more of its development in-house. The Honda engine deal will be a key part of its plan to compete for championships in the future.

"Mercedes have been great partners and they remain that," Aston Martin Group CEO Martin Whitmarsh said. "But they are in it to win and clearly we are here to win as well. Ultimately, there is some incompatibility in those two missions and that's why we have taken the decision.

"The first and obvious example was we currently share a wind tunnel with them. We're having to spend a huge amount of money to build our own wind tunnel which is only 4 or 5 miles from the wind tunnel, a quite adequate one, that we use. The nature of F1 is, if you want to win, it means beating Mercedes and it's extremely difficult to beat an organisation as good as Mercedes if you're reliant on them for intellectual property, facilities and components.

"Team Silverstone has a great tradition of delivering big bang for small bucks. But we're in a different position now. The Aston Martin brand, the ambition of Lawrence Stroll and now great partners like Honda, we are here to win.

"Therefore, you have got to have the complete integration of facilities and approach. The 2026 technical regulations are going to demand a full integration, not just the physical integration of components, but the operational integration to be able to deliver and to win to a much greater extent.

"In my view, it's very difficult to win consistently championships without a full works relationship, which is why we have made this decision and why we are delighted to have a fantastic partner like Honda."

Although Honda initially planned to leave the sport after 2021, it continues to supply Red Bull with engines after F1 froze the current regulations to allow it to continue without additional development costs. Rival engine manufacturers have used the engine freeze to start preparations for 2026, but Honda remains confident its indecision has not cost crucial development time.

"In October of 2020 we announced that we would be ending our participation in Formula One after the 2021 season but until March of 2022 we have been fully engaged in the development of the Power Unit, giving full support to our partner [Red Bull]," Koji Watanabe, President of Honda Racing Corporation said. "So until March of 2022 the headcount remained the same until that time, so the development numbers were still existing until March of 2022.

"After that they were allocated to various carbon neutral projects, so the headcount of the development members started to decrease, starting from April 2022. However, also in April of 2022, a new company called Honda Racing Corporation was established.

"This is a dedicated company for motor sport racing and this company continued to engage in studies and development of four-wheel technologies, so, for that matter, we have also been continuously conducting studies regarding the new regulations and, therefore, we don't think we have lost so much, regardless of our withdrawal from Formula One racing at the present time."

Whitmarsh confirmed that the deal with Honda would not impact the shareholding and engine supply deal Mercedes-Benz has in the Aston Martin Lagonda (AML) road car company.

"AML is a public company, one of its shareholders is Mercedes-Benz, as you're probably aware, it has a significant proportion of the power units for its road cars coming from Mercedes-Benz.

"That is planned to continue, we are purely focusing on racing activities and we've chosen to partner Honda, so we'll be just absolutely focused on winning in Formula One with Honda and AML will continue to develop its own strategy."

Will Alonso and Honda work together again?

One question rising from the future partnership between Aston Martin and Honda is whether Fernando Alonso will be involved. The 41-year-old is currently in the first year of a two-year contract with Aston Martin, and after such a strong start to 2023 looks likely to remain at the team beyond 2024.

If he is still at Aston Martin in 2025, there is a very real possibility he stays at the team for 2026 once Honda comes onboard. That would be significant as Alonso's last experience with Honda engines, while he was racing for McLaren, did not end well.

In 2015, when Alonso was driving a Honda-powered McLaren at Honda's home race at Suzuka, he used team radio to brand the power unit a "GP2 engine", implying it was so far down on power it was at the level of a lower category. This, along with Alonso's position during the split between McLaren and Honda at the end of 2017, led to an apparent rift between driver and engine manufacturer.

However, Watanabe said the company did not hold a grudge and would not be against the prospect of working with Alonso again.

"We have been accelerating our development during all our recent time in Formula One, including while working with Alonso, and that enabled us to win the world championship [with Red Bull]," he said.

"I believe he's such a brand and such a respectable driver, but the selection of drivers is up to the team to decide. So, if the team decides we'll have Alonso as a driver again, we will have no objections whatsoever in him driving."

Whitmarsh added: "Obviously I spoke to Fernando a while ago about the direction we wanted to go, he's a very intelligent individual, and I'm sure everyone here is referring to some comments that were made in the heat of the battle, once, which were quite memorable for some, but I think he understand and respects what Honda is doing.

"We've got to be aware -- and we haven't said it but we should say it -- Honda won the 2021 and 2022 World Championships and unless we can beat them this year they're going to do it again. So, they are a very great partner for us, and I think Fernando sees that.

"Probably 2026, who knows, it's probably outside his planning, horizon, at the moment. We've got to give him a car that is consistently capable of winning races. As I hope you've observed, we've made a reasonable step forward this year, we're not yet where we need to be but we're continuing to develop the team's facilities and we'll get stronger.

"And we'll have a discussion before 2026, I'm sure, about where Fernando's future lies. I hope he'll be around for a number of years, and it would be great if he's as fit and competitive as he's today. Then it would be fantastic to have him in the car in 2026 as well."