The Japanese automaker is just waiting for the right circumstances, like Audi and Porsche.
In October of 2020, Honda broke the news that it would be quitting Formula 1. This came as a massive shock to the masses of Honda motorsport fans across the globe, but Honda stood firm, stating that it needed to shift its focus to electric vehicles, and a sustainable future. The brand, which has worked with massively successful F1 teams such as McLaren, continues to supply engines to the Red Bull and Alpha Tauri teams - albeit assisting under the banner of Red Bull Powertrains - and in May announced that it would extend its involvement in the sport by being the title sponsor for the Japanese Grand Prix in October. The brand is clearly keeping the sport at an arm's length but has not ruled out a return to the sport, earmarking 2026 as the year in which it might change its mind.
Honda has been involved in Formula one since 1964, and achieved its first victory in 1965 at the Mexican Grand Prix. Since then the Japanese manufacturer has enjoyed massive success, both as a manufacturer and engine supplier, and fans are crying for its return to the fast lane. The good news is that Honda's focus on creating a sustainable business practice is lining up nicely with F1's plans to introduce new rules and sustainable fuels by 2026. F1 plans to limit energy density, octane level, and energy flow when it shifts to fully synthetic fuels in 2026, and also has plans to reduce the complexity of its hybrid systems, making it more appealing to regular vehicle manufacturers including Audi and Porsche.
Honda is yet to make an official commitment to F1, but speaking at the recent Austrian Grand Prix, HRC president Koji Watanabe told media representatives that Honda was keeping a close eye on F1's commitments to a sustainable future.
"Formula 1 is the top motorsports category, so we are always watching what is happening in the F1 world. Of course, we just finished and concluded our activities, so nothing has been discussed within the Honda company about the 2026 season," said Watanabe. "My understanding is that F1 is discussing to decide the regulations for 2026, and definitely the direction is carbon neutrality. That is the same direction as us. It is probably also a good opportunity to study carbon-neutral F1. So it's not a closed door."
When pushed for a timeline for Honda's return, Watanabe said that the company would have to make a decision by 2023. The company is still fully dedicated to getting its product line green but seems to be pushing for more branding opportunities in F1, especially with team Red Bull Racing. The Honda name is expected to make a comeback in the team's name and will focus on being a technical partner for its two current F1 teams. This could however prove tricky, as Porsche is alleged to become an engine supplier for RBR, while Audi is looking to buy a controlling stake in Alfa Romeo Sauber.
New rules regarding engine development for 2026 state that new entrants will be offered some form of leniency to help them catch up with more established teams. Red Bull, which took over the running of Honda power units for the current season has argued that should be classified as a new entrant now that Honda has left the building, but other teams find that pill too big to swallow, and the fact that the IP returns to Honda after the 2025 deal ends solidifies the case against Red Bull.
There's also the fact to consider than F1 powertrains will no longer require the MGU-H (Motor Generator Unit - Heat) element from 2026 onwards, a simplification that has made entry favorable for Audi and Porsche. By removing this element and relying on brake energy regeneration, Honda could develop this tech for road use in sports cars like the Acura NSX and Honda Civic Type R.