The Fernando Alonso factor wasn’t a hindrance for Honda and Aston Martin to come together, as Yuki Tsunoda’s name is in the play too.

While F1 2026 is far off at the moment, the driver talks has already begun post the announcement of the deal between Honda and Aston Martin. The big name remains Alonso, whose association with the Japanese manufacturer didn’t end well the last time.

He famously uttered the ‘GP2 engine’ words on the radio as the relationship broke between McLaren and Honda, which eventually hurt Alonso later when he attempted to win Indy500 with the British team but they couldn’t secure the prized engine from Japan.

They had to run the Chevrolet engine which lacked slightly against Honda in Indy500. Since then, Alonso raced with Toyota in WEC and upon rejoining F1, he has been with Renault and now Aston Martin, who run the Mercedes hybrid power unit.

But come 2026, Aston Martin will become a works team with Honda. The Japanese manufacturer have praised Alonso in what can be seen as ‘let bygones be bygones’, but it remains to be seen if it materialises in the time to come.

The age factor is certainly a big ask from Alonso, who will be above 45-years in 2026. For now, Honda has no worries about it where they will certainly have Lance Stroll in one seat, while the other one will become a coveted one should Alonso retire or move out.

Honda notes that they won’t play a hugely active role in the driver selection, but considering how they have done so with Red Bull, they may try to lobby a driver from their own junior scheme. Tsunoda by then will be experienced candidate indeed.

Having had a difficult start, Tsunoda is finally showing his potential this year but as with the Alonso factor, it is still early days as the Honda family has more drivers coming up through its programme and by 2026, they may have more than one driver to choose from.

Alonso factor and past –

Koji Watanabe: “So the past is the past and Alonso is a super talented driver and we pay high respects to him as a driver. Regarding 2026, it is a little beyond and a good bit into the future as we cannot say anything about the driver but since driver selection is up to the team I would like to leave it up to the team and we are going to be participating under the works structure, development has already begun a bit but there are requirements regrading the chassis requirement. We are going to be designing the engine that meets that requirement and configuration. So I believe that car will become quite high potential.

“As just mentioned we have been through a very difficult time together, so as a result we exerted our utmost effort as a unit and were able to win the World title gradually [with Red Bull]. In that regard we did our best but Alonso is a genius driver, we believe and we respect him highly but with respect to the driver selection, those decision are up to the teams. I believe he is such a grand, respectable driver. If we are to have Alonso again as our driver, we have no objections whatsoever in him driving. We would be giving suggestions and input and of course there are Japanese drivers as well as the HRS who would be challenging to take on part so we would like them to be one of the candidates to race in the real race.”

Martin Whitmarsh: “Clearly Fernando is doing a great job 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. 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, which were quite memorable, but he understands and respects what Honda is doing. 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 great partner for us and I think Fernando sees that.

“2026 is probably outside his planning horizon at the moment. We’ve got to give him a car that is consistently capable of winning races. 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. 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 is today. Then it would be fantastic to have him in the car in 2026 as well.”

Tsunoda situation –

Watanbe: “About Tsunoda, he is originally from our school.  He is doing very well in the Formula One and we are very happy to see him succeeding but talking about the future, we still have three years to go but it too early for us to say and I don’t think it is the timing for us to talk about it but we are hoping that he will become a candidate and it will be up to the team to make a final decision that is all.”

Whitmarsh: “I think he is making a great impression this year, he is still young and relatively inexperienced but he has made great progress so it is tremendously exciting and I am sure our driver line up will evolve before 2026. Ultimately, Honda and Aston Martin, we want to have the very best two drivers we can have in the cars. We are here to win as are Honda so in 2026 we want to start winning together. Do we have to great drivers? I am sure he must be considered as a candidate. I am sure he would love to drive for a Honda powered can so let us see how he makes progress in the next couple of years and hopefully we can have some serious discussions together.”

Here’s news on Honda with Aston Martin

Here’s F1 teams on Concorde Agreement

Here’s Fernando Alonso on 2023’s focus

Here’s Fernando Alonso on wanting more