Christian Horner says Red Bull would never have formed its own powertrain division if it had known Honda would return to F1 quickly.
Earlier this week, Honda has announced that it will partner with Aston Martin from the 2026 season.
The Japanese brand will design and manufacture power units tailored to the requirements of the Silverstone team within the framework of employee relations.
Honda announced this in October 2020 he was going to retire from Formula 1 at the end of the next season.
According to Horner, the key to this decision was the sport’s persistence in terms of combustion power.
The sport has since announced new powertrain regulations that will increase the electrification aspect of powertrains from around 20 percent to 50 percent.
There will also be an obligation to use fully sustainable fuelbreathing new life into internal combustion engines.
These changes were enough to lure Honda back.
However, this decision came too late for Red Bull, which by then had started its own project at Red Bull Powertrains – and had since signed a deal with Ford.
Red Bull drivetrains
“It was definitely an expensive decision,” Horner said of the change of plan.
“We grew out of being a customer.
“I think for us the power unit on site, on campus, fully integrated with the chassis, and the synergy that is created when the engine and chassis engineers sit side by side, I think for us, in the long run, the benefits are significant.”
“We wouldn’t have made this leap if it hadn’t been for Honda’s withdrawal.
“So in many ways, Honda, we should be grateful for the impetus to create our own engine plant and the jobs it has created and provided.
“Of course, the partnership we have with Ford, which is particularly exciting for the future, and the commitment, of course, from Red Bull and 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’ve committed to it, and the more we commit, the more benefits we see for the group in the long run.”
Conversations with Honda
The decision to work with Ford was made because talks with Honda about staying involved ultimately went nowhere.
This was even after talks where the company pulled out of F1 as it continued to support Red Bull with powertrain power.
“We have had many discussions with Honda as a valued partner over the past few years,” said Horner.
“Originally, the deal was that by the end of 2022 they would completely disappear from the sport, and we ourselves would be responsible for assembling the engines.
“So we were able to convince Honda to stay and continue assembling these engines until the end of 2025.
“Then last fall we discussed whether there was any connection regarding electrification because incineration is something they don’t want to continue.
“But honestly, there were just too many compromises probably on both sides that would have to be made for that to happen.
“That’s when we decided to exercise the Ford option.”
A sustainable future
In announcing the deal with Aston Martin, Honda highlighted the importance of F1’s move towards increased electrification and the impact this could have on its road cars in the future.
This is a point not missed by Horner, who noted the presence of combustion power as a point of contention in his own discussions.
“This shows that the internal combustion engine is not dead,” he noted.
“There is still life in combustion because when they (Honda) retired it was because of electrification.
“I think maybe it was about sustainable fuels and zero emissions and the route Formula 1 is taking in 2026, combustion has become important to them again, while it was something that was very much off their agenda.
“So who knows, maybe we’ll go back to V8 and V10 engines that are fully balanced…”
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