Honda believes improved reliability is key for 2026

SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 07: Honda branding is pictured on the car of Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on October 07, 2022 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202210070148 // Usage for editorial use only //

Honda has upgraded its engine for the 2023 F1 season and they believe it will help them reach a better market come 2026.

Since the end of the 2022 F1 season, Red Bull and Alpha Tauri have begun parting ways with HondaThis has opened up the opportunity for Ford to become an engine supplier for the first time in F1 since 2004. It also gives the American-based company an opportunity to win its first world championship since 1994.

With the power unit freeze at the beginning of last season, engine manufacturers have not been allowed to upgrade the performance of their engines. However, this doesn’t mean that they were not allowed to upgrade their reliability.

Some teams have managed to find an increase in horsepower by improving their reliability. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Honda’s F1 Project Leader, Tetsushi Kakuda, said that they haven’t found any increase in horsepower but it should allow teams to have better one-lap pace.

Identifying Limits and Maximizing Potential

“Improving the reliability is not going to help improve the power of the PU itself,By regulation, there’s only a certain type of development we can do with a power improvement. So, talking about reliability, if that can be improved, this is going to help with giving more options from a strategic perspective in how you can use the power unit.”

He then went on to say that last year’s performance of the engine was the benchmark for how fast the 2026 engine was. This is most likely due to the straight line advantage Red Bull had.

“Last year, I believe all the PU manufacturers prioritised performance in their development, and so did we,” he commented. We made every effort to recover the performance loss due to the E10 fuel introduced by the regulation change. But, as a result, the internal load to the engine increased significantly compared to the previous year and the reliability was severely compromised. As a result, several problems surfaced during the 2022 season. We have been working to address those problems for this season. Not only must we improve the areas where problems have become apparent, but also we have been preparing ourselves to have wider strategies by identifying the limits of each part and maximizing its potential. In addition to improving reliability, we deepen our understanding of our PU to further optimise the control and energy management.”

“We have also matured ourselves in the electrification technologies, where we had a clear advantage last year, especially the MGU-K deployment. In addition, we have continued to work with our suppliers to improve the precision of parts in terms of manufacturing, quality inspection, governance, as well as the precision power unit assembly. HRC Sakura has been making an all-out effort for this coming season. So, we believe we are fully prepared for the pre-season tests starting this week.”

Honda’s 2026 Options

Honda’s potential partners for 2026 are quite limited. Very teams are not locked into strong relationships with an engine supplier. McLaren and Williams are both options, but appear happy with their current deals with Mercedes. So who could Honda supply in 2026?

If Andretti enters the championship in the coming years they are a potential option. Or they could supply Alfa Romeo since their current contract with Ferrari runs out at the start of 2026. Haas’ current engine deal with Ferrari runs out at the end of 2023. But with McLaren higher up the order, they are likely Honda’s preferred team. Only time will tell where Honda’s badge lands in 2026. Whichever team it is will have an experienced and developed engine ready from the start.

Featured Image Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images