McLaren and Honda begin talks as failed partnership set to be re-ignited

McLaren were powered by Honda from 2015 to 2017, a period which saw the British side become almost a backmarker due to a woeful power unit.

It has been reported by The Race that Japanese manufacturer Honda and Woking-based outfit McLaren have made initial contact between them to discuss a potential deal for the 2026 season, when the new engine regulations will be introduced.

A McLaren-Honda reunion is certainly something that many wouldn’t have predicted, given how poorly the team performed from 2015-2017 in their most recent collaboration with the current partner of Red Bull.

Honda’s power unit during their recent spell with McLaren was terrible to say the least, with Fernando Alonso having famously compared it to a ‘GP2 engine’.

It was slow, unreliable, and ultimately saw McLaren fall backwards, with the side having still not completely recovered from their period of working with the Japanese manufacturer.

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However, since the two split, Honda has performed miracles at Red Bull and has designed a reliable and, most importantly, fast power unit.

Red Bull were virtually unbeatable in a straight-line last season and were often able to defend even when the car behind it had DRS activated, highlighting its power.

Following Red Bull’s announcement last Friday, though, where they revealed a partnership with Ford from 2026, Honda have been left to search for a new partner.

Honda knew ahead of Red Bull’s launch that their partnership would be ending at the end of 2025, with the Austrians not wanting an engine partner but a technical partner.

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The Milton Keynes-based team are, of course, powering themselves from 2026 as an official powertrain supplier, with Ford set to supply technical support.

Honda, though, are one of the six powertrain suppliers to have signed up for the 2026 regulations, even though, they don’t currently have a team to power.

Partnering with Red Bull’s sister team, AlphaTauri was quickly ruled out by the Austrians, with many then wondering where Honda might look next.

Their best bet perhaps, would be with one of the new teams joining the grid presumably in 2026; however, it appears that Alpine’s supplier Renault already has a close-relationship with Andretti-Cadillac should their bid be successful.

With all of that in mind, McLaren appears to be Honda’s next attempt at remaining on the grid in 2026, given that the British side are yet to decide whether they’ll remain as a Mercedes customer team beyond the 2025 season.

“We’re very happy with Mercedes,” said McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown last November, as reported by The Race.

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“I’m a believer that you can win a world championship with a customer engine.

“There’s obviously benefits to being a works team with the advanced knowledge that you get.

“We have a long-term contract with Mercedes, very happy with the collaboration, and aren’t really spending too much time yet thinking about 2026 and beyond.”