Red Bull-Honda 2026 F1 engine deal close

In Formula One as in life not all is always as it seems. For the first 7 months of 2022 we were led to believed the Audi/Suaber and Red Bull/Porsche hookups for 2026 were impending marriages made in heaven. Two global car manufacturers wished to join F1 for when the new breed of power units 

However, the news that the Red Bull Porsche tie up was dead in the water broke on September 4th. Nearly a month earlier TJ13 penned this article Honda signs new Red Bull contract leaving Porsche deal dead.

The basic problem with the Porsche/Red Bull deal was the German company originally believed they were negotiating an Audi style F1 entry where Audi will have control of the Sauber team. The reason this kind of a deal between Red Bull and Porsche was even conceivable was because of rumours that Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz being seriously ill and may be selling his F1 assets.



Porsche F1 ambitions too high

When Porsche realised an acquisition of more than 50% of RBR was not on the table, the board in Stuttgart scaled back their ambitions to having a 51% stake in Red Bull Powertrains and majority say in all matters power unit. Of course the new Red Bull Power Train facility would then have been rebranded Porsche.

Given Red Bull Racing’s wilderness years between 2014 and 2020 where a significant portion of their inability to challenge Mercedes was due to ineffective third party power units, RBR were never going to cede control of this again.

The best Porsche could hope for was a consultancy deal with branding as Honda have at present.

And so the deal died.



Honda/RBR deal being discussed today

A high level meeting between Red Bull and Honda is scheduled for today to discuss the partnership beyond the current contract to 2025.

Honda withdrew from Formula One to focus on its future core manufacturing business of electric cars and non-carbon technology, but the current Red Bull Power units are still manufactured by Honda. Of course the engine regulations are now frozen until 2026, so Honda does not have the cost of expensive R&D and Red Bull pay the going rate for their power units.

The Japanese car manufacturer at present receives little recognition for their F1 engine supply, merely a HTC sticker on the Red Bull and Alpha tour cars.



Honda hybrid in F1 showcase

There is a revised branding deal which will kick in nexts season where Honda will in fact receive more recognition for their power unit supply. The terms of this arrangement are being thrashed out in Suzuka today and it may allow for Honda a “soft re-entry’ into Formula One with a view to 2026.

The new power units for 2026 will drop the expensive heat recovery system but boost electrical power to around 50% of the power unit’s total output. Further bio fuels which are 100% sustainable will be phased in.

Whilst there has been resistance within the Honda board to rejoin Formula One based upon confused branding over their “non carbon” ambitions, a case is being made that Honda’s electrical expertise could be showcased alongside the Red Bull Power Trains internal combustion engine. This kind of a deal was unpalatable for Porsche, but fits Honda’s vision of the future.



Honda fans now get to celebrate

Japanese fans were denied a farewell to Honda in F1 due to the 2020 pandemic. Formula One returns to Suzuka for the first time since 2019.

When asked about sealinng an F1 title in Japan this weekend,Christian Horner replied, It would be a phenomenal thing,”

“We take nothing for granted. We go to Japan, attack the weekend and see what result comes out at the end of it.”

Helmut Marko was more direct. “From a marketing point of view, winning the title would be better in Japan, because of our engine partner Honda,” Marko told Austrian broadcaster ORF.



Honda F1 return but Porsche in the cold

If Red Bull win the race in Suzuka it would be surprising not to see a Honda representative on the podium collecting the manufacturers’ race win trophy.

What is left for Porsche is anyone’s guess, but clearly the German manufacturer will have to lower its sights if it wants to gain control of an existing F1 team. It could be the private equity owners of Williams would be prepared to sell given the value of an F1 team today commands a growing premium.

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