McLaren and Honda F1 – Reunion Under Consideration, Initial Talks Held
McLaren and Honda have reportedly initiated discussions about the possibility of a reunion in Formula 1, as both companies examine their options for the 2026 engine regulations.
McLaren and Honda previously collaborated in the early stages of the V6 turbo-hybrid era, from 2015 to 2017, however, their partnership was cut short due to issues with the engine’s poor performance and unreliability, which caused tension to rise between the two companies.
After ending their partnership with McLaren, Honda shifted their focus to supplying engines to the Red Bull teams. With significant improvements, they powered Red Bull and driver Max Verstappen to consecutive championship wins in 2021 and 2022.
It is believed that any discussions regarding a potential reunion between McLaren and Honda in 2026 are still in the preliminary stage. Honda is currently evaluating their options for supplying engines under the new 2026 regulations and deciding on a potential partner, while McLaren is considering its options for securing an engine supplier after their current agreement with Mercedes expires in 2025.
In 2020, Honda made the decision to officially withdraw from Formula 1 at the end of 2021, in order to allocate its financial and technical resources towards developing carbon-neutral technologies for its automotive business. Despite this, they agreed to continue supplying engines to Red Bull’s two teams until 2025.
However, Honda started to reconsider their departure from Formula 1, due in part to the appointment of a new CEO after the initial decision to leave, as well as the success they achieved with Red Bull.
Following close monitoring of the 2026 rules discussions, Honda officially expressed their interest in the regulations to the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) at the end of last year.
The FIA has announced that Honda is among the six manufacturers that will participate as engine suppliers from 2026 to 2030, alongside Red Bull Ford, Audi, Mercedes, Ferrari, and Alpine (Renault).
The upcoming engine regulations could align more closely with Honda’s goals for carbon neutrality as the hybrid engines will be powered by 100% sustainable and synthetic fuels, and the energy recovery systems will have a substantial increase in electrical power output.
Registering with the FIA simply means that the manufacturers are participating in the discussions and creates a streamlined process for them to officially enter if they choose to do so.
All the manufacturers except Honda have now made their official entry. Any uncertainty about launching a new Formula 1 program may have been influenced by the loss of their current and highly successful partner.
Red Bull Powertrains, the entity that Ford will collaborate with for 2026, was established by Red Bull as a way to secure their engine future for the long-term, as it appeared that Honda’s participation could not be continued.
As Red Bull has made substantial investments in preparing itself to build its own engine, any potential continuation of their partnership with Honda would have had to be on Red Bull’s terms, which likely would have involved making a financial contribution, giving up any significant input on the V6 engine, and only being involved as a hybrid partner.
Although Ford was apparently satisfied with this arrangement, either Honda was not or could not provide a prompt response to Red Bull’s request. Regardless, Red Bull has now announced its partnership with Ford for the 2026 engine regulations.
Given that the discussions between Red Bull and Ford took place in the latter part of 2022, it is highly probable that Honda expressed their intent for the new rules while fully aware that any 2026 project would not be with Red Bull.
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Therefore, Honda’s ongoing interest in the sport is based on the understanding that they need to find another team to collaborate with in building an engine.
Other independent teams like Williams have also been mentioned in connection to a possible engine supplier. However, a reunion between McLaren and Honda would be the most significant and surprising, considering the way their previous partnership ended.
McLaren and Honda initially rekindled their partnership with aspirations of becoming a dominant force, much like their successes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, this reunion resulted in a lack of wins, poles, and podiums.
Since their separation, both McLaren and Honda have experienced improved performance. The leadership and internal operations of both companies have changed since the end of 2017.
It is uncertain if the changes within the two companies are sufficient for them to be able to collaborate effectively once again.
The initial contact between McLaren and Honda does not necessarily indicate that McLaren has a preference for working with Honda. As the CEO of McLaren Racing, Zak Brown is likely exploring all available options and looking to solidify the team’s plans for 2026 as soon as possible.
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As an example, it is believed that he also toured the Red Bull Powertrains facility. Although it may be challenging for the newly established Red Bull Ford setup to provide support to a third team apart from Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri, Christian Horner has expressed his intention to have the capability to serve clients in the past.
McLaren may also consider exploring the upcoming Audi setup at some point in the future. Audi is developing an engine for the year 2026 and has acquired the Sauber team, which is currently managed by Andreas Seidl, who used to be the team principal at McLaren under Brown.
There is a potential connection there, as there have been prior discussions regarding Audi’s attempts to form a partnership with McLaren. Although McLaren explicitly rejected the possibility of a sale, they left the possibility of an engine supply open.
Another option for McLaren is to maintain their current partnership with supplier Mercedes, which has been thriving since its revival in 2021.
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McLaren F1 and Honda – The Best Option for Each Other
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