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Formula 1 Monaco GP

Steiner: Customer F1 teams can succeed in 2026 despite added manufacturers

Haas chief Guenther Steiner reckons customer teams can still succeed in Formula 1, citing Aston Martin as an example despite the British squad signing a 2026 works deal with Honda.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523

Honda's full return to F1 was confirmed on Wednesday as it announced a deal with Aston Martin in time for the impending new 2026 power unit regulations - which will feature a higher-output MGU-K and fully sustainable fuels, and the removal of the costly MGU-H.

This has increased the number of powertrain suppliers on the grid to six, as Audi also join as a works partner to Sauber and Red Bull links up with Ford for the new rules.

But Steiner reckons that the greater proliferation of works entities will not dilute the success that a customer team can achieve, and that Haas did not feel the need to try to attract works manufacturer support.

PLUS: What Aston Martin's Honda deal reveals about its true F1 mindset

"I wouldn't say you need to [become a works team], I mean, you need to look into where you want to be in five to 10 years," he said.

"I think we are all in the moment overthinking what is coming in '26. I think there will be solutions to it, because not everybody can have a works team.

"It looks like for '26, there's only six engine manufacturers. So four teams will need to take a customer engine. We will be one of them for '26.

"But, looking forward, we need to see how Formula 1 is going, because - and I don't want to sound negative - but manufacturers come and go, and teams stay, so we need to think that as well.

"It could be also maybe teams are happy not to be a manufacturer in five years. So let's see what time brings. But, at the moment, I think we are ready for '26. We've got the customer engine and make the best out of it."

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Steiner cited Aston Martin's current advantage relative to its supplier team Mercedes as an example of how customer teams can excel.

Expanding further on the effect of the new rules, he added that the uncertainty over which powertrains would come out of the blocks in front in 2026 would add to the anxiety of being a works team.

"I just give one example, Aston Martin: what engine are they running? Mercedes. Where is Aston Martin? In front of Mercedes at the moment," said Steiner.

"While you are all thinking that will change in the future, you always have to live in the reality as well.

"There is a good chance that the customer team can do better than the works team like it is happening right now and you have to move with it, it's not something I dream up.

"And then also in 2026, there are six engine manufacturers. And how do you know that all do the same good job? There could be two or three which do a worse job, but if you are with the right manufacturer, you are in front of the other one.

"So, there are pros as well to being a customer. If you go out there and make your own engine, and the engine is not good, what have you achieved then?

"I think it's all open and only the future will tell. I think that we can dream up a lot of scenarios, which could and should happen, but the fact is that at the moment a customer team is beating the works team - and not a bad works team by the way!"

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