Williams Racing has effectively ruled out partnering with Honda F1 under the new F1 engine regulations for 2026, suggesting it is not in a position to be a ‘serious competitor’. Honda is one of six manufacturers interested in the 2026 engine rules, along with Mercedes, Ferrari, Alpine (Renault) and new suppliers Red Bull Powertrains and Audi.
The current Honda F1 project has officially withdrawn from F1 at the end of 2021, but has agreed to continue supplying engines to both Red Bull teams until 2025, and has strengthened the brand’s exposure this year compared to 2022, is a complex arrangement. Honda appears to have reconsidered its formal withdrawal, which led to its 2026 entry, but cannot continue its partnership with Red Bull if it decides it wants to fully return to F1. Following the initial exit, Red Bull Powertrains launched Red Bull to build its own engine, which it will do in conjunction with Ford in 2026. That means Honda will have to find another partner to remain part of F1. Honda claims it has been approached by several F1 teams, Williams is believed to be among them, along with Mercedes customers McLaren and Aston Martin. However, Williams Racing F1 team principal James Bowles said Williams could reunite with Honda, the engine manufacturer that won back-to-back constructors’ titles in the mid-1980s and a driver’s title in 1987. He almost refused. The current Red Bull deal, which is carried out by a smaller F1 team in Japan, means that Honda does not have a set-up ready to start a full development project immediately. There is currently no commitment from the board to build an F1 engine for 2026. A decision is expected to be made later this year, but early 2026 manufacturer registrations do not have to participate. Multiple sources indicate that Honda should have already started working to fully comply with the next F1 engine rules. When asked by The Race whether Honda would be a reliable option for Williams, or whether Honda’s indecision could prevent them from making the necessary preparations for 2026, James Bowles said: “I don’t know what the facilities will be. I don’t have one , so it’s hard to comment.” “But I think they’re a bit far from where they need to be seriously.” Williams had a successful run with Honda in the 1980s. James Bowles will join Williams from Mercedes as team principal in early 2023. During his time with Mercedes, he played an active role as a key figure in the management that achieved the success of winning the Constructors’ Title eight times in a row. He suggested it would be better to stick with Mercedes’ F1 engine, but that’s not guaranteed, saying “it’s stupid to just go where you’re comfortable” and the need to look at other options , compared to getting three estimates when painting a house. James Bowles has suggested that he will make a decision by the end of 2023, and while it is rumored that Williams will switch to Renault, staying with Mercedes seems most beneficial. Williams has used Mercedes engines since the start of the V6 turbo-hybrid era in 2014 and has expanded that relationship to include Mercedes gearboxes and hydraulics for 2022. “At the moment we are still in the process of understanding all the options available to this team,” said Bowles. “We are not bound to Mercedes. It is still being considered, but we have to make a decision very soon. “I believe at the end of the year it will be late.