Notwithstanding an 18-month developmental pause, Honda is convinced that it will be equipped to compete with other Formula 1 power unit manufacturers when it fully returns with Aston Martin in 2026.
At the end of 2021, when its contract with Red Bull expired, Honda ceased to be an official engine manufacturer; however, it continued to produce motors for Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri under the name Honda Racing Corporation.
"I'd like to mention that we have been continuously supplying engines upon request from Red Bull even for the current F1, so therefore we are still in operation for the ongoing F1 races as well," Watanabe said when asked about the expected condition of Honda engines in 2026, as quoted by Motorsport.com.
"As for the new regulations to be introduced from 2026, we have continuously engaged in studies of the important factors in terms of the power units. So therefore, we have not totally withdrawn from our R&D activities. Unlike the previous time where we were fully withdrawn, we have already been engaging in development."
"Until March 2022, we were fully engaged in gauging the development of the power units up until 2022," he added. "So, we had the full headcount still remaining.
"In April 2022, a new company called Honda Racing Corporation was established, this is the dedicated company for motorsport races. This company kept on engaging in studies and the development of four-wheel technologies, and we commenced studies regarding the new regulations.
"Therefore, we don't think that we have lost so much regardless of our withdrawal from F1 racing at this point in time."