Motor racing-Honda's F1 return shows combustion engines are not dead, says Horner

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Miami Grand Prix - Miami International Autodrome, Miami, Florida, U.S. - May 7, 2023 Red Bull team principal Christian Horner after the race Pool via REUTERS/Chandan Khanna

MONACO (Reuters) - Honda's move to provide Formula One power units to Aston Martin in a works partnership from 2026 is proof that the combustion engine still has a future, according to Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.

The Japanese manufacturer has performed a U-turn, thanks also to a change of top management, since announcing in 2020 its departure from the sport as an engine provider to focus on carbon neutrality and increased electrification.

Honda have continued to build engines in Japan for world champions Red Bull, who have set up their own powertrains company in Milton Keynes and in February announced a new partnership with Ford from 2026.

The deal with Aston Martin was announced in Tokyo on Wednesday.

"For me, it demonstrates that the combustion engine isn't dead yet, that there's still life in combustion, because obviously when they withdrew it was because of electrification," Horner told reporters when asked if he was surprised.

"I think perhaps with sustainable fuels and zero emissions and the route that Formula One is going for 2026, combustion became relevant to them again, whereas it was something that was very much off their agenda.

"Who knows? Maybe we'll get back to V8 and V10s that are fully sustainable. Wouldn't that be fantastic?"

Formula One's next generation of engines will retain the high-revving 1.6 litre V6s but with significantly more electric power and 100% sustainable fuels. The sport also has a target of being carbon neutral by 2030.

The last of the wailing and fuel-thirsty V10 engines disappeared from the grid in 2007, replaced by 2.4 litre V8s that then made way for the far quieter V6 hybrid engines from 2014.

The sport's chief executive Stefano Domenicali hailed Honda's return as proof that Formula One was on the right path for the future.

"This is further evidence that our global platform and growth provides brands with huge potential, and it also shows that our plans to move to sustainable fuels in 2026 is the right approach to offer the automotive world alternative solutions to decarbonise the planet," he said.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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