Formula 1 finalizes 2026 engine rules (with video)

After what appears to be years of wrangling, the FIA ​​has announced new technical rules which will govern the powertrains used by Formula 1 teams from the 2026 season. to attract new engine suppliers to the sport. Currently, if you want to race in Formula 1, you have to choose an engine supplied by Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault or Honda/Red Bull.

The Volkswagen Group has been planning to get into the fun for several years, but it is a car manufacturer and a production car manufacturer. There’s an old expression in racing that goes, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” Although this phrase has its origins in NASCAR, it explains why Volkswagen is not interested in getting involved in Formula 1 unless the engine technology is relevant to its production cars.

In Formula 1 today, the majority of teams belong to car manufacturers – Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, Aston Martin or Alpine (Renault). Only Red Bull, Williams, Haas and Alpha Tauri (the Red Bull B team) are not involved in car manufacturing. The new rules have been specifically designed to satisfy the Volkswagen Group, which will now see two of its brands – Porsche and Audi – join the sport as engine suppliers in 2026.

Trace Formula 1 engine changes

In a press release last week announcing the new 2026 engine regulations, FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem said: “The FIA ​​continues to drive innovation and sustainability forward – across our entire portfolio of motorsport – the 2026 Formula 1 power unit regulations are the highest. -example of profile of this mission. The introduction of advanced PU technology along with sustainable synthetic fuels aligns with our goal of delivering benefits to road car users and achieving our goal of net zero carbon by 2030. Formula 1 is experiencing currently experiencing immense growth and we are confident that this settlement will build on the enthusiasm that our 2022 changes have generated.

The new regulations aim to support the four main long-term goals of Formula 1:

  • Maintaining the show – the 2026 power unit will have similar performance to current designs, using high output, high revving V6 internal combustion engines and avoiding excessive performance differentiation to allow for better raceability.
  • Environmental sustainability – the 2026 power unit will include an increase in electrical power deployment of up to 50% and use 100% sustainable fuel.
  • Financial viability – The power unit financial settlement will reduce overall costs for competitors while maintaining the cutting-edge technology showcase that is at the heart of Formula 1.
  • Attractive to new power unit manufacturers – the regulations aim to make it possible and attractive for newcomers to join the sport at a competitive level.

The MGU-H, a device that harvested electricity from engine heat and used it to power an electric motor which in turn could wind up the turbocharger independently of exhaust gas flow, disappeared from newer powertrains. This device allowed cars to avoid the lag time associated with turbochargers when engines were running at low revs.

But the units were incredibly complex and significantly complicated engine packaging. At the start of the hybrid turbo era in 2014, the turbocharger and MGU-H were bundled together and the failure rates were high. Mercedes solved the packaging problem by splitting the MGU-H in half and positioning the components at each end of the engine. They were connected by a shaft passing between the cylinder heads of the V-6 engine. Failure rates dropped and it took years for most competitors to catch up.

Road car turbochargers are largely the result of Formula 1’s decision to use turbocharged engines in the 1980s. But MGU-H technology has little relevance for passenger cars, and manufacturers like Volkswagen have therefore hesitated to join the sport. Now the MGU-H is gone and the Volkswagen Group is in it. It is not a coincidence.

The new rules tightly regulate the lower end of engines – the block, crankshaft and pistons. They also eliminate variable-length air intakes and other gimmicks that widen the powerband of the engines. But they leave engine designers more freedom to experiment with cylinder heads, which appeals to companies. They are also encouraging innovations in batteries and electric motors that are incorporated into hybrid powertrains. This is a very relevant area for companies like Volkswagen that focus more on making electric vehicles and less on cars and trucks with internal combustion engines.

The new rules increase the total available power of the electric motor from 120 kW (160 hp) in today’s cars to 350 kW (470 hp). The engines will run on 100% sustainable fuels from non-food factories, municipal waste or carbon capture, meaning no new carbon dioxide will be added to the atmosphere by the engines. Power from the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine will remain at around 635 kW (850 hp).

Today, Formula 1 establishes a maximum fuel flow, but the new rules will instead impose a maximum energy flow. Today’s cars are allowed 100 kilograms of fuel for a race, but the new engine formula will limit them to a maximum of 80 kilograms of fuel, which will favor strategies that maximize the amount of electrical energy harvested during a race . For more details on the new 2026 rules, see the latest FIA technical bulletin.

Takeaway meals

Over the years engine manufacturers have come and gone from Formula 1. Honda, Toyota and Ford have been heavily involved at one time or another. All left the sport when costs accelerated beyond expectations and/or results on the track fell behind projections. Honda returned a few years ago to become Red Bull’s engine supplier but then backed out, although it agreed to continue working with Red Bull Technology, which now supplies the engines for its racing cars. Porsche has now jumped into the Formula 1 game via Red Bull Technology, according to Mark Hughes of the race.

Audi has entered into a relationship with the Alfa Romeo/Sauber team and would become its engine supplier in 2026, although it is unclear whether it will still be called Alfa Romeo at that time. Why would Audi and Porsche be involved in competing teams? Because racing improves the race. Ultimately, everything that one division of the Volkswagen Group knows filters through the organization to all other divisions. Audi and Porsche also compete within the Group, each developing its own electric car chassis.

Formula 1 is hugely popular around the world, making it a dream location for marketing departments. There was a time when the sport was dominated by individuals like Bruce McLaren, Dan Gurney, Colin Chapman and Enzo Ferrari – people who sold cars to support their racing pursuits. Now, these racing activities support the sale of cars.

None of this is about the huge carbon footprint of Formula 1 flying around the world for races around 24 or more times a year, or the carbon emissions of all the car fans who drive to those races. But this criticism can be directed at all sporting events in the world. Formula 1 is making a valiant effort to stay relevant while not killing the golden goose. Judging by his millions of passionate fans, everything he does works great.

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