Christian Horner, Red Bull, Monaco, 2023

Horner: Red Bull wouldn’t have set up Powertrains had we expected Honda return

2023 Monaco Grand Prix

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Red Bull would not have set up its own engine division had it known Honda would remain in Formula 1, says team principal Christian Horner.

Honda was Red Bull’s power unit supplier when they announced their plans to leave Formula 1 at the end of 2021 season. As a result, Red Bull announced they would form their own power unit division to design and build their own engines.

Honda subsequently agreed a deal to continue providing their power units to Red Bull, which the team maintained in their newly-built Powertrains division. After F1 announced its new engine regulations for 2026, Red Bull agreed a deal with Ford to develop their next power units.

However Honda also chose to return to F1 in 2026, and this week announced it will provide engines to Aston Martin when the new engine formula begins. Horner said the announcement was good news for the sport.

“I think it’s positive for Honda, it’s positive for Formula 1,” he said. “They’re a great brand and have got a great legacy in the sport.

“We’ve enjoyed and continue to enjoy – and will do so for another two-and-a-half years – a great relationship and supply with them. Obviously they announced their withdrawal in 2020 and that forced us to make a decision, long term-wise, as to what strategically was the best route forward for us. And so we created Red Bull Powertrains, they agreed to become a technical supplier to Red Bull Powertrains and we’ve enjoyed a great working relationship.

“But of course, now we’re off on our own journey as an engine manufacturer, with the partnership with Ford and that’s exciting for us for the future. Honda from ’26 will become a competitor, but I think it’s positive for Formula 1 and it’s positive for them to remain in the sport.”

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Horner says setting up their own power unit division was a major commitment from the Red Bull organisation and they would likely not have taken such a big step had they known Honda would have reversed their decision to depart Formula 1.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Monaco, 2023
Gallery: Monaco Grand Prix practice in pictures
“In many respects, Honda, we should be grateful to for giving us that push to create our own engine facility and the jobs that it’s created and provided,” he said. “And then, of course, the partnership that we have with Ford, that’s particularly exciting for the future – the commitment, obviously, from Red Bull and the shareholders to the project.

“Would we have made the same decision knowing what Honda’s decision is today? Absolutely not. But we’ve made it and we’re committed to it. As the more we’ve got involved, the more benefit that we see to the group long-term.”

With Honda choosing to remain in F1 and design all-new power units for the 2026 regulations, Horner says it is a reflection of how the upcoming engine formula is resonating with manufacturers like the Japanese giant.

“For me, it demonstrates that the combustion engine isn’t dead yet, that there’s still life in combustion,” he explained.

“Because obviously when they withdrew, it was because of electrification and I think perhaps with sustainable fuels and zero emissions and the route that Formula 1’s going for for 2026, combustion became relevant to them again. Whereas it was something that was very much off their agenda.

“Who knows, maybe we’ll get to back to V8 and V10s that are fully sustainable. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?”

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2023 Monaco Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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22 comments on “Horner: Red Bull wouldn’t have set up Powertrains had we expected Honda return”

  1. Everything is always easy in hindsight & V8s or 10s are unlikely to return even with fully sustainable fuel.

    1. People aren’t going to stop wanting to race, and when the (often contrived) relation between motorsport and road vehicles becomes uninteresting to manufacturers then a return to cheaper, more dramatic and more raceable engines could very well happen. It is, after all, already the norm in most of motorsport.

  2. Oh man, when the electrification implodes, (already starting in germany) then i hope we see V8s and V10s return.
    (Keith, you started this with your Imola article, no turning back now, as Christian said)

    By the way, the sunspots are back, so another wet winter in 2023 to 2024 in northern hemisphere.
    (its not CO2 hat correlates with weather changes, it is sun spots)

    1. Exactly what I’ve been thinking. At a certain point there will no way to pretend to be road relevant anymore and either F1 will dumb and kill itself by allowing the series to go all electric or something close or they’ll be smart, let the manufacturers run away and focus on making it all about the spectacle rather than “road relevant technology.” If they’re smart they’ll go to a 2012 era type format with a V8 or V10 with biofuels and KERS so there is some token green tech (but the sound is spine tingling again) + much smaller chassis which will already be much lighter anyway without today’s multi-stage PUs.

  3. That’s what they do.
    Since Mercedes came back in 1994, Honda has come and gone 2 times already.

    If they can’t win, they leave.
    And these 2 times the work they left ended up winning without their name on it lol

    1. I wonder who is next to take the credit?

      1. Aston ofc, they’re the next ones that will have the honda engine, give it a few years for them to leave again and in the meantime it’s possible red bull will be beatable.

  4. I was disappointed when Honda said they were quitting F1, but it may turn out to have been for the good.

    If they had stayed, then we may now have been staring at a decade of mind-numbing boredom as the RB/Honda conglomerate (with or without Max) totally dominated F1.
    This way, I would say, there is a fair chance of at least Aston posing a threat within a few years.
    If Mercedes have sorted their act out as well, then a three-way fight could yet be a reality before I die.

    I will discount Ferrari as they seem hell-bent on being the Clown act of the sport.

    1. And yet the clowns finished 2nd in the championship.

      1. Yes, ferrari aren’t as bad performance wise compared to most of the grid, but in the long term mercedes are more of a threat for the championship than ferrari can be.

  5. So Christian states that Honda left due to the rise of electric vehicles and the demise of ICE. But now Honda is getting back into an ICE sport. Guess the rapid demise of ICE may not be all Hondas expected?

    1. 50 percent of the power will be electric in the new engines du mb a ss. Did you read the article are are you busy with your sun spots and astrology tables?

  6. Surely Honda have enough time to enter and leave F1 again before 2026.

  7. Scotty (@rockonscotty)
    26th May 2023, 21:51

    Horses stopped being a mode of transportation over 100 years ago but we still have horse racing. Why not go full on 1000 hp petrol engines and embrace it!

    1. YES!!!!!!!
      Bring back the smaller V10 McLaren of the Senna era.
      Simple regulations, and the basic rule was just go faster.

    2. Bad analogy though as horse racing won’t be around too much longer unfortunately. Big push in the States to end it. Reminds me I should catch a bullfight as well.

      1. Except the end of horse racing in the US has nothing to do with its popularity and everything to do with animal welfare.

        When 7 horses need to be culled after a race it’s clear the rules for animal welfare weren’t condonned by the organization and it’s horse racing in general that is the problem.

  8. Honda subsequently agreed a deal to continue providing their power units to Red Bull, which the team maintained in their newly-built Powertrains division. After F1 announced its new engine regulations for 2026, Red Bull agreed a deal with Ford to develop their next power units.

    From the sound of that statement, somewhere down the track Ford and Red Bull will combine their intellectual might to design and build their next generation F1 engine, and it isn’t unreasonable to believe some of those now involved with the current Honda engine will contribute to the design of this new Ford engine. So what about Honda’s intellectual property? Presumably Ford will have to negotiate some sort of agreement with Honda to avoid claims of patent infringement.

  9. This was obviously a case of mismanagement that this happened. It sounds like they could have retained the relationship had they tried harder and put more energy into including the Honda aspect of the brand when marketing RBR.

  10. Ford are looking to relaunch the RS Escort with new unbeatable power pack.

  11. This is quite a u-turn by Horner. This is what he said after Porsche talks broke down and Ford was yet to enter the picture

    “Honda obviously withdrew from Formula 1, they’ve kept a toe in with the agreement we have with HRC, they’re making noises about 2026. But obviously, our train has left the station. We’ve committed to that investment within Red Bull Powertrains we’ve [got] circa 300 people now working on that 2026 engine. So it would need to fit any agreement with any potential partner or [manufacturer], with that and with the whole team being under one roof and the synergy benefits that have our chassis designers sitting next to engine designers.”

    (source :

    I think Red Bull are discovering it is not easy to make your own engine

    1. It’s not a u turn, he says exactly the same thing.
      At that point in time Honda also still hadn’t announced they would be back for 2026.

      Had Honda never left or timely indicated they would come back, then Red Bull would have never started Powertrains.
      By the time Honda indicated they would come back, Red Bulls train had already left the station.
      And Red Bull nor Horner ever claimed it’s easy to build an engine. Even doh they had a brand new ICE on the testbank 6 months after starting the powertrains project.

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