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Honda is to return to Formula 1 in a formal capacity in 2026 as engine partner for the Aston Martin team.
The company officially pulled out of F1 at the end of 2021 but its engines are still used by the two Red Bull teams and are called Hondas again in 2023.
Honda said on Wednesday that F1’s pursuit of carbon-neutrality by 2030 was the “key factor” behind its decision to re-enter officially.
New rules for 2026 will increase the electrical performance of F1 engines.
The sport’s governing body the FIA is mandating the use of fully sustainable synthetic fuels at the same time.
Honda Racing Corporation president Koji Watanabe said: “In pursuit of its goal in achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, starting in the 2026 season the FIA will mandate the use of 100% carbon-neutral fuel and the deployment of electrical power will be increased significantly by three times from the current regulations.
“With this massive increase in electrical power, the key to winning in F1 will be a compact, lightweight and high-power motor with a high-performance battery that is capable of swiftly handling high power output as well as the energy-management technology.
“We believe this know-how gained from this new challenge has the potential to be applied directly to a future mass-production electric vehicle.”
What is behind Honda’s change of approach?
F1 has used hybrid engines since 2014 but the new rules will make significant changes in their layout.
The biggest is the removal of the MGU-H, the part of the hybrid system that recovers energy from the turbo, and a significant increase in the proportion of hybrid power in the engine’s power output.
Watanabe said: “Currently, the electrical power accounts for 20% or less compared to the internal combustion engine.
“But the new regulations require about 50% or more of electrification, which moves even further toward electrification and I believe the technology for electrification will be useful for us in producing vehicles in the future.”
The use of carbon-neutral fuels and their integration into the engine, he said, also “matches with Honda’s direction”.
Watanabe said the extension of F1’s cost cap to cover engines was also a factor in the decision as it made “long-term and continuous participation in F1 easier”.