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Is strengthening ties with Honda a sophisticated move by Red Bull?

Is strengthening ties with Honda a sophisticated move by Red Bull?

5 October - 11:17
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GPblog.com

The cooperation that Red Bull and Honda had until 2025 will be significantly strengthened from the upcoming Grand Prix in Japan. The question is whether this is a set-up for further cooperation after 2025. In any case, it looks like a sophisticated plan by Red Bull. What do both parties gain from a partnership from 2026 onwards?

A new engine regulation will come into force in 2026 in Formula 1. These regulations will focus more than ever on the durability and reliability of power sources. It is an interesting time for many car manufacturers to enter F1. The Volkswagen Group, for instance, was there early, helping negotiate the precise rules that will apply from 2026. Indeed, the company's plan is for Audi and Porsche to enter F1.

Honda are in an interesting position for 2026

The advantage for car brands: With the development of sustainable F1 power sources, car brands can strategically position themselves as a major player in the car market. Volkswagen is therefore not the only one with ears for a partnership with an existing F1 team. According to Red Bull Racing team advisor Dr Helmut Marko, there were also several candidates for a collaboration with the Red Bull Group. With Red Bull choosing to consolidate its partnership with Honda in the coming years, it seems Honda is in an interesting position to continue its collaboration with Max Verstappen's team from 2026.

Although Honda pulled the plug on the F1 project just this year and would keep itself in the background for the next few years, until 2025, the partnership for 2026 seems more lively than ever. The deal between Red Bull and Porsche fell through, leaving a coveted spot open. For Honda, a full return in 2026 would be a big win over rival Hyundai. The Korean carmaker is currently active in several racing classes, but would also have ears for a debut in F1. Stefano Domenicali has already had a meeting with the brand's representatives.

Red Bull Racing's motivations

Negotiations between Red Bull and Porsche broke down over the division of control within the team. Porsche would like a proportionate share in Red Bull Powertrains, but Red Bull did not agree. Indeed, Red Bull's biggest negotiating advantage is that with Red Bull Powertrains, it has a reasonable independent position. Red Bull receives support from Honda but is not completely dependent on a partner or on the supply of an engine manufacturer. That makes the continuation of the partnership with Honda in 2026 logical.

The advantage for Red Bull: With the new regulations for 2026, a lot of time and skill will have to be put into developing a completely new product. Red Bull's independent position in engine development may no longer be entirely advantageous at that point. Having a car manufacturer as a partner would then be particularly useful. So Red Bull, which indicated that it did not want to cede half of its control to Porsche, is looking for a partner that will settle for less. Investing in the bond with Honda - which is quite strong after Max Verstappen won his first title and will only get stronger after winning both titles in 2022 - is a sophisticated move by Red Bull after the called-off partnership with Porsche. Indeed, Honda might now be more willing to settle for less (than that 50 per cent) in 2026.

A final big advantage Red Bull could gain from partnering with Honda for 2026 is that, if they play it right, they could potentially form a new team from 2026. According to F1 journalist Erik van Haren, Red Bull could use a partner on paper to develop the hybrid part of the engine. "That partner (Honda in this case) is, I think, ninety per cent considered a newcomer. Then you get a development bonus in the coming years."

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