Honda “will have no objections whatsoever” if Fernando Alonso is still one of Aston Martin’s drivers when its partnership begins in 2026.
Aston Martin will become the Honda works team from 2026 onwards as the Japanese manufacturer returns in a full supplier capacity under new power unit regulations after having officially pulled out of Formula 1 at the end of 2021. Prior to its successful partnership with Red Bull, Honda had a difficult three years with McLaren that led to Alonso becoming particularly critical of the company – including his infamous “GP2 engine” team radio message at Suzuka – but Koji Watanabe says there is no animosity towards the Spaniard.
“Our stance remains unchanged in thinking the selection of the drivers is fully up to the team members and not something that a partner and supplier like us is supposed to be making,” Watanabe, the president of Honda Racing Corporation, said. “So, we’ll be leaving the driver selection to the team.
“We have been accelerating our development during all our recent time in Formula 1, (including) while working with Alonso, and that enabled us to win the World Championship. I believe he’s such a brand and respectable driver, but, like I said, the selection of drivers is up to the team to decide. So, if the team decides we’ll have Alonso as a driver again, we will have no objections whatsoever in him driving.”
Alonso’s current deal runs until the end of 2024, but Aston Martin Performance Technologies group CEO Martin Whitmarsh – who helped instigate discussions that saw Honda return with McLaren back in 2015 – says he can see him staying for longer even if the 41-year-old’s potential presence wasn’t discussed with Honda.
“Clearly Fernando is doing a great job in the team and I’m delighted to have him as part of our team as he’s making a great contribution both on and off the track,” Whitmarsh said.
“Obviously I spoke to Fernando a while ago about the direction we wanted to go, he’s a very intelligent individual, I’m sure everyone here is referring to some comments that were made in the heat of the battle, once, which were quite memorable for some, but I think he understands and respects what Honda is doing.
“We’ve got to be aware – and we haven’t said it, but we should say it – Honda won the 2021 and 2022 world championships and unless we can beat them this year they’re going to do it again. So, they are a very great partner for us, and I think Fernando sees that. 2026, who knows, it’s probably outside his planning horizon, at the moment.
“We’ve got to give him a car that is consistently capable of winning races. As I hope you’ve observed, we’ve made a reasonable step forward this year, we’re not yet where we need to be but we’re continuing to develop the team’s facilities and we’ll get stronger. And we’ll have a discussion before 2026, I’m sure, about where Fernando’s future lies.
“I hope he’ll be around for a number of years, and it would be great if he’s as fit and competitive as he’s today. Then it would be fantastic to have him in the car in 2026 as well.”