Honda registers interest with FIA for 2026 F1 engine rules

Honda has fuelled speculation that it could make an official Formula 1 return after revealing it has registered with the FIA as an interested manufacturer for the 2026 engine rules.

Honda registers interest with FIA for 2026 F1 engine rules

The Japanese manufacturer pulled out of F1 at the end of the 2021 season, with it clear that its focus on its electric road car business meant it could no longer justify a programme in the series.

But it still kept its toe in the water as it leased the IP of its power units to Red Bull from 2021, which duly went on to win the drivers’ world championship with Max Verstappen.

Its ongoing success this year has prompted an increase in its presence, with Honda logos returning to the Red Bull cars from the Japanese Grand Prix onwards.

The current arrangement with Red Bull runs until the end of the 2025 season, after which the Milton Keynes-based team plans to run its own power unit.

But talk about Honda coming back to F1 moved forward when an original plan for Red Bull to tie-up with Porsche from 2026 fell through after talks between the parties collapsed.

Immediately after that news emerged, Red Bull, which is developing its own engine, said it was open to potentially partnering with Honda – especially on the increased electrical element of the F1 power unit.

That idea has inched forward now with Honda’s motorsport chief revealing in Japan on Monday that the company had formally registered its interest as an engine manufacturer.

The FIA had laid down a request for all manufacturers that want to run power units from 2026 to notify the governing body of their intentions by the middle of November.

Honda Racing president Koji Watanabe confirmed that Honda had done so, but was clear to explain that this did not necessarily mean it would definitely enter from 2026.

“As HRC, we have registered as a PU manufacturer after 2026,” said Watanabe during Honda’s 2023 Honda Motor Sports Activity Plan Presentation.

A Honda logo on a Red Bull engine cover

A Honda logo on a Red Bull engine cover

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“The F1 regulations from 2026 onwards are moving in the direction of carbon neutrality.

“In addition, the fact that electrification is also being promoted, and the carbon neutrality and electrification that Honda Motor Co., Ltd. is promoting, is the same. The targets match.

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"As a racing company, we have registered as a manufacturer in order to advance research on racing.

“There is also the fact that November 15 was the deadline (for registration). I have registered as a manufacturer in order to continue [this research].”

Honda’s decision to register means it now has scope to evaluate whether or not to push on with a formal return in 2026, which could either be alone or in partnership with Red Bull.

If it had not registered by the November deadline then it would have been more difficult for it to enter for 2026 at a later date, and it would not have been involved in any of the formal discussions that are now ongoing between the different manufacturers and the FIA.

Speaking to Autosport earlier this year, Watanabe had explained that Honda never fully shut the door on an F1 return – and would actively consider it once it was happy that its road car priorities were sorted.

“I think there are several factors we need to watch,” he said when asked what would convince Honda to return.

“But once we decided to conclude the F1 because of mass production [road cars] and carbon neutrality, first we need to concentrate on this side.

“Then, once we can realise that we can achieve this, we can consider F1.”

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