He leaves and returns … Barely officially retired from F1, Honda (which nevertheless continues to operate engines for Red Bull and AlphaTauri until 2025) is already thinking about returning to the discipline.
In fact, regulations for the next power unit in 2026 provide for a simplified V6 (in order to seduce Porsche and Audi) with the withdrawal of the MGU-H. Above all, with the immense resurgence of F1 popularity, it would be a shame if Honda did not take advantage of the general enthusiasm.
Therefore, F1 could also consider Honda as a possible engine manufacturer candidate for the next regulatory era.
Koji Watanabe, president of Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) and director of brand operations and communications for Honda Motor Company, is considering this return; it is a working hypothesis anyway.
But in what form? According to well-founded speculation, a note has been sent to the CEO of Honda explaining that a return of Honda to F1, to be viable, should be … as a complete factory equipment (as before Brawn GP) . And therefore not as a simple engine manufacturer as with McLaren, then AlphaTauri and Red Bull.
However, in 2015, Honda had chosen to return to F1 only as an engine manufacturer, its experience was mainly in the power unit.
For Koji Watanabe, this is always the case.
“Yes. Right now, yes.”
But what about a return as a factory team? We are still evasive in Japan.
“If we return, we may find a new way to participate in the F1 championship. »
“I don’t know exactly which direction to take, but we need a new way of doing things. »
“I mean, not just being the power unit provider. Something else. But I don’t know if that means having a computer or something.”
“It’s too early, there is no discussion. »
Watanabe admits that Honda “is interested” by the direction taken by the following regulation of the power unit.
“From this point of view, we are still interested in the activities of Formula 1, if Formula 1 really focuses on carbon neutrality. »
As a reminder, Honda had already stopped its participation in F1, because it did not find the trajectory of F1 ambitious enough, especially in the electric field. Change of heart?
The American market, the real reason for a possible reappearance?
But what could have especially changed the wind at Honda is the growing popularity of F1, especially in the United States, Watanabe acknowledges.
“F1 is becoming more popular in the United States, it is also important to us. »
“Our activity in Europe is quite limited. And so, if Formula 1 becomes popular in the United States or North America and the Chinese market, it’s important that we make a decision. »
Honda is trying to save the day for now, hoping the Honda name will appear on the Red Bull and AlphaTauri cars by 2025. Instead of the less evocative acronym HRC.
But isn’t the problem that Honda has made a decision that seems questionable today?
“We do not regret leaving F1, but we are very proud of where we are now, because the engine itself is developed by us.”
“And we also help make the power unit itself work. So the power unit is a bit like our son.”
“We are no longer the official supplier, so we don’t care about the name itself. »
“But maybe we can say a little more that the original is made by Honda, or is currently supported by HRC.”