Christian Horner says Red Bull would not have set up engine division if team knew Honda would remain in Formula 1
Honda will supply Aston Martin with engines from 2026 onwards; Honda withdrew from being Red Bull’s official engine partner in 2021, but agreed to continue to supply engines as a paid contractor from 2022 to 2025; watch the Monaco GP on Sky Sports F1 this weekend
Last Updated: 26/05/23 4:02pm
Red Bull chief Christian Horner says the team would “absolutely not” have set up their own engine division if they had known Honda were going to return to Formula 1.
The Japanese manufacturer announced earlier this week that it will make a full-time return to the sport to supply Aston Martin, Red Bull’s nearest challengers at the top of this season’s constructors’ standings, with engines when new regulations are introduced in 2026.
Honda announced in October 2020 that it would withdraw from F1, and being Red Bull’s official engine partner at the end of the 2021 season, but then agreed to continue to supply engines as a paid contractor from 2022 to 2025.
As a result of Honda’s decision to exit F1, Red Bull Powertrains was set up to enable the team to build its own engines for 2026, while a partnership to work alongside Ford on the project was announced in February.
“Would we have made a same decision knowing what Honda’s decision is today? Absolutely not,” Horner said after first practice at the Monaco Grand Prix on Friday.
“But we’ve made it, and we’re committed to it, the more we’ve got involved the more benefit we see to the group long term.”
Despite his admission, Horner says that he now feels “grateful” towards Honda for pushing Red Bull to create its own engine division.
Red Bull ended Mercedes’ streak of eight successive constructors’ titles last season, and are on course to retain their title having taken dominant victories in each of the first five races of the 2023 campaign.
“For the long term, the prospects of Red Bull, we’ve outgrown being a customer,” Horner said.
“For us to have the power unit on sight, with the chassis, the synergises that creates, with engine and chassis engineers sitting next to each other, the advantages are significant. We would have not made that jump if it had not been for Honda’s withdrawal.
“We should be grateful to Honda for giving us that push to create our own engine facility, the jobs it’s created, and then the partnership that we have with Ford that’s particularly exciting for the future.”
Verstappen: Honda partnering with Aston Martin ‘a shame’
Horner’s comments came after his lead driver, Max Verstappen, said on Thursday that seeing Honda partner with Aston Martin was “a bit of a shame”.
Verstappen, who is seeking a third successive drivers’ title, admitted the link-up was “great” for Aston Martin, who have been the surprise package of the season, jumping from the back of the midfield last year to claiming four podiums in the first five races of 2023 through Fernando Alonso.
“I think from our side it’s a bit unfortunate how that turned out because a few years ago they said they were going to stop so Red Bull set up their own engine division,” Verstappen said.
“Then at one point they [Honda] said they want to continue. When you are in the process of building a whole engine yourself, you can’t really work together anymore.
“It’s a bit of a shame because we always had, and have, a really good relationship with them and seeing them go to Aston Martin is a bit of a shame.
“But we are also very excited from our side from 2026 onwards, what’s going to happen together with Ford.
“For Aston Martin it’s really good, they have a great engine, we all know that.”
Horner: Great relationship with Honda will continue
Despite Red Bull’s clear frustration, Horner remains confident that his team will be able to maintain a strong relationship with Honda as they continue to work together until the end of 2025.
“We’ve enjoyed and will continue to enjoy a great relationship and supply with them,” he said.
“They announced their withdrawal in 2020, and that forced us to make a decision, long term wise what strategically was the best route forward for us, we created Red Bull powertrains, they agreed to become a technical supplier for us.
“We’ve enjoyed a great working relationship but of course now we’re off on our own journey as an engine manufacturer, with our partnership with ford, and that’s exciting for us for the future.
“Honda from 2026 will become a competitor, but I think it’s positive for Formula 1, I think it’s positive for them to remain in the sport.”
The Formula 1 season continues with the Monaco GP this weekend. Watch qualifying at 3pm on Saturday with lights out at 2pm on Sunday. Get Sky Sports