Honda Motor President Toshihiro Mibe (L) shakes hands with Aston Martin F1 executive chairman Lawrence Stroll during a press conference in Tokyo on May 24, 2023. Photo: AFP
Even if Fernando Alonso is still with the team.
Alonso and the engine maker had a nasty split in 2015 when the Spaniard was highly critical of Honda's F1 efforts. He drives for Aston Martin now, and the team announced on Wednesday in Tokyo that it will have a works partnership with Honda beginning with the 2026 season.
Honda was lured back into a more prominent engine role in F1 with the upcoming new regulations, which are part of F1's goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. The engines beginning in 2026 will have an engine/electric motor maximum power output ratio of 50/50 and use 100% sustainable fuel.
Ford has said it plans to return to F1 in 2026 under the new regulations with Red Bull, while General Motors under its Cadillac banner wants in if Michael Andretti is granted a team.
Honda officially pulled out as a works program with Red Bull after the 2021 season — Max Verstappen's first championship year — and it has only aided as a technical partner for both Red Bull and AlphaTauri since. Aston Martin gets its engines from Mercedes.
The FIA has so far approved for 2026 engines from Alpine, Audi, Ferrari, Honda, Mercedes and Red Bull with Ford. Audi will also be a new entrant.
As Honda announced its return, the very first question asked to the president of Honda Racing Corp. was if the engine maker is willing to work with Alonso. He's having a career resurgence at 41 years old in his first season with Aston Martin, but he had a bitter split with Honda when Alonso drove for McLaren.
Alonso so badly angered Honda that it refused to work with him as a McLaren entrant in the Indianapolis 500. But if Alonso is still driving three seasons from now, Koji Watanabe said Honda would work with the driver.
“When it comes to Alonso, there were times in the past where we did have difficulties,” Watanabe said through a translator. “Since then, we have teamed up with Red Bull and we were able to win the world championship title. Alonso is a very outstanding driver and as far as Honda, we respect him. And of course it is up to the team to decide the drivers. But should he be selected, we will work with him.”
Martin Whitmarsh, group CEO of Aston Martin Performance Technologies, quickly noted that Alonso's criticism eight years ago was during a race and should be long forgotten.
“I think this stems from something Fernando said in the heat of the battle a few years ago, which was regrettable,” Whitmarsh said. “He is a truly great driver. I think he's developed not only as a driver, but in his thinking about being a team member, since that time.
“I am sure if he was driving with the same energy and commitment and skill and speed in 2026, we'd be delighted to have it in the team. However, 2026 is a few years away yet. We haven't decided our driver lineup.”
Alonso is teammates with Lance Stroll, the son of team owner Lawrence Stroll. Both are having fantastic seasons; Alonso has four podium finishes through five races and ranks third in the F1 standings, while Stroll is a career-high eighth in the standings.
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