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Honda hopes Verstappen relationship won’t end for good in F1 2026

Honda hopes it can one day be reunited with Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen after it moves its engine supply from Red Bull to Aston Martin for 2026.

Toyoharu Tanabe, F1 Technical Director, Honda, and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, on the podium

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Honda has powered Verstappen to all three of his world championships so far, with the Dutchman the overwhelming favourite to add a fourth straight title this year.

The Japanese marque has also clinched two constructors' championships with Red Bull, the culmination of an initially troubled F1 return with McLaren in 2015.

Verstappen's relationship with Honda is set to end in 2026, when it will become the works partner of Aston Martin.

Honda initially decided to withdraw from F1 by the end of 2021, but by the time it walked back on that decision Red Bull had already pressed ahead with its in-house Red Bull Powertrains division in Milton Keynes, which is working on its first bespoke power units for the 2026 rules era.

Barring a U-turn of his own, Verstappen is contracted to Red Bull until the end of the 2028 season.

Speaking to Autosport in a rare interview, Honda Racing Corporation president Koji Watanabe said he was sad to see Honda's relationship with Verstappen nearing its end, but hoped they would one day be reunited.

"I don’t think that day will come within a very short period of time, but if both continue their Formula 1 activities in the future then we hope that we can work together again one day," said Watanabe.

"It is a very good relationship. We trust each other and also the Honda workers love Max. We are proud to work together with Max, so we will miss him in the future.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, celebrates in Parc Ferme

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, celebrates in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

"But we still have two years together and we promise to do our best to win another world championship together with Max and Red Bull."

"He is so important. He is the number one Formula 1 driver now.

"Of course, the team management is important and the machinery is important as well, but the combination is crucial and one important piece of that is Max."

Watanabe said Verstappen's victory in the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix, the first win of the Red Bull Honda era and Honda's first F1 win in 13 years, is his best memory of the manufacturer's Red Bull partnership.

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On the podium, Verstappen went out of his way to include Honda in the celebrations, a gesture which the proud Japanese company has not forgotten.

"My biggest memory is him pointing at the Honda logo on the podium in Austria at the Red Bull Ring," Watanabe said.

"I was there, that was a very special moment for me. I was standing under the podium and that day was so special.

"He always thinks about Honda and says ‘thank you, Honda’ a lot. He expresses his thoughts to the outside world about Honda, which is also important for all the people working for Honda."

Race winner Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium with Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

Race winner Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium with Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

With Verstappen frequently hinting at an F1 retirement once his current Red Bull deal comes to an end, chances of a reunification appear remote.

It would only be possible if the 26-year-old decided to make a shock move to Aston Martin, where owner Lawrence Stroll is attempting to create a 'superteam' that can emulate Red Bull's successes.

In addition to signing Honda, Stroll has poached several key Red Bull engineers and it is believed he has also made an approach to Red Bull design guru Adrian Newey in recent weeks.

Against the backdrop of Red Bull's divisive power struggles, Verstappen leaving before his 2028 deal runs out is still a possibility, with Mercedes another party interested in the Dutchman's services.

Watch: Alonso Commits to Aston Martin with Multi-Year Extension

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