Although the highly anticipated 2026 Formula 1 season is some time away, crucial plans are being put in place to start the new era on the right foot.
Riding on a high following its leap forward up the pecking order in 2023, Aston Martin has revealed what it believes is its last step before championship success.
On Wednesday, it announced that it had signed into a partnership with Honda, with the Japanese manufacturer becoming its engine supplier for the next cycle of regulations starting in 2026.
Since Lawrence Stroll took over ownership of the Force India squad midway through 2018, the team has grown from strength to strength. Following a complete rebrand to Aston Martin in 2021 after Stroll became Executive Chairman of the British sportscar company, it announced plans for a brand new factory at Silverstone with its own wind tunnel.
The boost of upgraded facilities has fallen nicely in line with the timeline of a leap up the pecking order as it has started the 2023 campaign off in strong fashion, scoring four podiums at the first five races.
It has even managed to largely outperform Mercedes, which has been its engine supplier since the 2009 season.
But despite having a successful link with the German manufacturer, Aston Martin has the opportunity to become a ‘works team’ through the Honda deal.
It may materialise that Aston Martin will be Honda’s only customer – currently, there are just three teams left without a deal in place for 2026.
McLaren has a mixed history with Honda. Decades ago, they enjoyed championship success together, but its most recent partnership venture from 2015 to 2017 was troubled and uncomfortable for all involved, leaving doubt over a potential reunion for 2026.
Williams has stated that Honda is not a serious contender for a Power Unit deal, leaving Haas (who has close ties with Ferrari) as the only other question mark.
But Aston Martin’s current position in the running order made it an obvious target for Honda, who has committed to re-entering the sport not long after it dropped out at the end of the 2021 season.
In partnership with Red Bull and its sister team AlphaTauri for several years, Honda enjoyed a much more successful period compared to its time spent with McLaren, and it bowed out with a title in hand following Max Verstappen’s maiden championship.
Honda’s strong run of form with Red Bull also made it a glaring prospect for Aston Martin, who is now gearing up to take the next step in F1.
Should it continue its strong growth and establish itself as a race-winning squad over the next three years, 2026 should signal the time for Aston Martin to compete for F1 titles.
It is the ultimate aim for any team, but Aston Martin is the only squad outside of the ‘big three’ to show true promise in recent years and deliver on its goals of striding up the order.
Aston Martin has created one of the most promising futures on the grid, and there’s little reason to doubt that should it continue on its strong development path, it will be a competitive force come the start of 2026.
Another factor that will be worth keeping tabs on is the driver line-up for the team in three years’ time. The pair of hands behind the wheel often makes the final difference in critical moments, and the Aston Martin-Honda partnership may seek a headline driver when the time comes.
Assuming that Alonso will not continue racing into his mid-40s, could Aston Martin look to poach a name such as Charles Leclerc or Lando Norris to its squad for the project?
And might Honda put pressure on Lawerence Stroll to oust his son Lance from a seat and replace him with a Japanese presence in Yuki Tsunoda?
The choice will need to be made carefully, especially if F1 is heading in the direction of manually tightening the pecking order through matters such as the budget cap.
But for now, both parties can look forward to a positive future, building on the facilities and ideas in place that will aid its quest for its ultimate goal – to win.