Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Miami International Autodrome, 2023

F1’s growing popularity in America a factor in Honda’s 2026 return

Formula 1

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Honda says Formula 1’s growing popularity in North America is part of the reason why the brand chose to return to the series.

The United States is Honda’s biggest market for road car sales. F1 will race in North America five times this year, with three events in the USA, all of which are contracted to feature on the calendar for at least the next two seasons.

During Honda’s previous F1 involvements as power unit provider to McLaren, AlphaTauri and then Red Bull, there was limited marketing potential for its activities in such a key market as the USA. But that has changed as the sport’s popularity has grown under American owners Liberty Media.

F1’s growing presence in the USA has been helped by Netflix’s Drive to Survive series, interest in which grew during the Covid-19 pandemic. Koji Watanabe, president of Honda Racing Corporation, said it was “difficult” to say how influential F1’s North American popularity has been on Honda’s return, but confirmed “it was one of the factors which led to this decision” and their presence in F1 will complement their other American racing activities.

“The major reason for this decision is that our direction and the F1 regulation direction were in sync,” said Watanabe. “We thought that in the age of electrification, this will be very meaningful for us to participate in F1.

“The United States popularity was part of the reasons. And of course, we’re doing other racing activities in the US, and we want to strike a balance so as to contribute to motorsports development, and ultimately contribute to the car industry’s development.”

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Honda Performance Development, a performance subsidiary of the American arm of Honda, is already heavily involved in motorsport but has never been engaged in F1 and will not be part of the future project with Aston Martin. HPD’s two highest profile racing programmes at present are a hypercar built to compete in IMSA’s top GTP class and a supply of twin-turbocharged 2.2-litre V6 engines to more than half of IndyCar’s grid. Tests are already underway by HPD for the hybrid engines being introduced to IndyCar next year.

“Talking about the changes from the past, as you know, in North America, F1 is becoming more and more popular. It’s quite popular these days,” Watanabe explained.

“In the past, the United States, they didn’t show that much interest in F1. And I think therefore that was the reason we did not focus that much on branding and marketing, because the US is our major market. But looking at the trend now, our racing in F1 can be maximised in branding and marketing.”

Honda’s Global CEO Toshihiro Mibe said he expects the brand to do a better job of marketing its presence in F1 when it teams up with Aston Martin. “We have to work on motorsports activities to try to enhance our brand,” said Mibe. “I think that is important.

“We are still not sufficiently addressing this need. But Aston Martin, we will consult with them and together try to make it so that our F1 activities can contribute to marketing.”

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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5 comments on “F1’s growing popularity in America a factor in Honda’s 2026 return”

  1. Proesterchen_nli
    25th May 2023, 9:16

    What return?

    How can we miss them if they didn’t go away?

    1. Does the Honda name appear on the Red Bull car?
      Kinda crazy they removed the Honda name from the fear wing just as they started winning

      1. Yes, it does. While Honda temporarily went with branding their PUs HRC on the car, they’ve been back to the full “HONDA” since the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix:


  2. I don’t understand the Japanese… hastily leaving F1 and changing their minds just 1-2 years later.
    The justification is even more ludicrous, F1 popularity in USA was already growing when they decided to leave.
    Maybe there was a different top management at Honda, but I’m baffled.

  3. I’s such a shame that so many things revolve around the US. But that may not last much longer.

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