Honda says it is targeting an assault on Formula 1's world championship in 2026, matching its ambition to that of Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll.

From 2026 Honda will move its works engine deal to Aston Martin, ending its successful association with Red Bull.

Following Honda's initial decision to withdraw from F1, which led to Red Bull deciding to take its engines in-house and link up with Ford for 2026, the Japanese brand was forced to seek a new works partner when it reversed its exit decision.

After being approached by several candidates, Honda was impressed by Aston owner Stroll's ambition to put all the key elements in place for a title bid from 2026 onwards.

In an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com, Honda Racing Corporation president Koji Watanabe says that this target is shared by Honda as well.

When asked about Honda's ambitions with its new partner, Watanabe replied: "To become world champion from 2026 onwards.

"We know that it will be very difficult and it is not so easy, but we need some good targets to put in our best effort together with Aston Martin.

"So, that's why together with Stroll and Toshihiro Mibe [Honda CEO and president], we set the target to just aim for the world championship in that year. In reality, it is not so easy."

Lance Stroll at Japanese GP 2024
Offering an assessment of whether Aston Martin and Honda will have all the ingredients in place to mount a title challenge, Watanabe added: "Probably we're missing something [right now], but we have to tell each other what is missing.
"From an Aston Martin point of view what is missing on the Honda side and also what is missing on the Aston Martin side. That is an honest conversation to become a top-class team together."
Pressed further on what impressed Honda so much about Stroll's plans for Aston Martin, Watanabe pointed to the squad's state-of-the-art Silverstone facility as a key marker of just how serious the Canadian businessman was about realising his lofty goals.
"After we registered as a power unit supplier for 2026 some other teams contacted us as they were interested in working with Honda. Then we talked to those parties and made a decision," he explained.
"Honda was very impressed with Mr Stroll's strong passion and his strong leadership to fight for the world championship in 2026.
"They invest a lot of money to establish the factory in Silverstone. We visited them to see the factory that was under construction.
"Several times we have meetings with Martin Whitmarsh and Mike Krack, so the management team. They are very open and the entire team is working in the same direction, it's one united team. That is a very good image for us.
"At the same time, they also think that Honda is a good partner for them to become world champion.
"We have already started a technical working team and also a steering committee meeting to discuss some important issues that we can maybe improve."
Last week, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso announced he would stay with the squad into its Honda era, until at least 2026, after saying he was similarly convinced by the prospect of an Aston - Honda tie-up.