In 2026, for the first time since 2014, Formula 1 will welcome a new engine formula. And the FIA World Motor Sport Council have approved regulations for the new Power Unit. The 2026 F1 Engine Regulations are a crucial leap towards a fantastic future for Formula 1. Since 2014, F1 cars have been running the 1.6-litre V6 Turbo-Hybrid engines.
But at the end of 2025, this engine era will come to an end. The engines will retain the V6 1.6-litre layout at the same RPM, but there will be major changes that will differentiate the new engine from the current one. It’s a necessary change as Formula 1 takes major steps towards financial and environmental sustainability.
Initially, it seemed that these new regulations would come into effect in 2025. In February 2021, an F1 Commission meeting took place. In that meeting, F1 proposed an engine development freezefrom the beginning of 2022 to the end of the turbo-hybrid era. The proposal had complete agreement from all representatives, which is why the freeze is taking place right now.
At the meeting, there were representatives from Formula 1, the FIA, the 10 teams and the engine manufacturers. And that is also when the F1 Commission discussed the Engine Formula Goals for the new engine era that would to come into effect in 2025. Now here we are, in August 2022, and the 2026 F1 engine regulations and details have been devised. This means that the regulations will come into effect in 2026, not 2025.
This post is going to be in 4 sections. The first section focuses on environmental sustainability. The second section focuses on financial sustainability. The third focuses on the performance of the engine, and finally, the last section focuses on how F1 is poised to bring in new power unit manufacturers.
Currently, in F1, pollution is a major problem. As they have been doing for decades, F1 cars emit carbon dioxide as waste gas from their engines, just like regular cars do. Look at the video above. When the cars are lined up on the grid, look at the cars towards the rear end of the grid. If you look closely, you can see some sort of distortion. That’s the result of 20 cars on the grid emitting gas. The pollution is visible. If you look really closely, you can see the emissions coming from the cars on the front of the grid too.
And think about how much racing a single F1 car does during a race weekend. 3 practice sessions, a qualifying session, and a full Grand Prix. That’s a lot of emissions from just one weekend. Apply that to all 20 cars, and all 22 race weekends. In 2019, the FIA calculated F1’s carbon footprint for the year. The result? 256,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year. That’s incredibly high. The global average carbon footprint per person is 4 tons. That means that F1’s carbon footprint is worth the same as 64,000 people.
That’s why Formula 1 engines are going to produce net zero carbon dioxide emissions from 2026 onwards. The 2026 F1 Engine Regulations demand certain sustainable practices. The engine will use a 100% sustainable fuel, which means that there will be no more carbon being burnt from fossil fuels. The carbon will come from genuine municipal waste, biological sources, and possibly from the atmosphere. Another major change that makes the engine more sustainable is the reduction in fuel consumption. A range of changes to the car, combined with more electrical power reduces the amount of fuel the cars will use during the race.
Another change to reduce fuel consumption is the way that the F1 will control fuel flow. F1 controls the maximum amount of fuel that flows from the fuel tank to the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine). Currently, they control it through the maximum mass of fuel in a maximum mass flow rate. But now, they’re limiting it using a maximum energy flow rate. That is better because F1 is trying to control how much energy the engine uses. At the end of the day, fuel is the energy source, so controlling the flow rate in terms of energy is more efficient and accurate.
And lastly, in the new power units, some components will be recycled. The battery must be recycled. And some materials from the MGU-K, like cobalt, must be recycled. Given that the sport has committed to being carbon neutral by 2030, this is exactly what they need. More sustainable and efficient practices are benefitting not just F1, but the world as a whole.
As the motorsport world has evolved over time, money emerged as a crucial factor in Formula 1. Nowadays in motorsports, a lot of money is needed not just to succeed, but to survive. Drivers, teams, and engine manufacturers are not as keen to enter Formula 1 simply because it costs too much money. Thankfully, the FIA and Formula 1 have addressed this. They’ve taken much-needed steps to encourage and ensure financial stability in Formula 1.
In 2021, they introduced the first-ever mandatory cost cap. With this cost cap, all teams could spend a maximum of $145 million for the entire year. In 2022, that cost cap went down to $140 million, and will reduce by another $5 million for 2023. This cost cap is not only to make it easier for teams to stay in F1, it is also there to reduce the field spread. Before the cost cap, there were huge gaps in performance between the top teams, the midfield teams, and the backmarkers. That’s because the top teams had much bigger budgets than the teams at the rear. But not anymore with this cost cap. This is healthier for the sport because it doesn’t give teams with more money an unfair advantage.
While the cost cap is helpful for the teams, F1 is now bringing financial sustainability specifically for engine manufacturers. The FIA has devised financial regulations outlining a cost cap for engine development. For the Reporting Periods 2022-2025, there is a cost cap of $95 Million, and then there is a cost cap of $130 million from 2026 onwards. Along with a cost cap, the FIA banned expensive manufacturing materials and engine systems. The major system that the FIA banned the MGU-H. It is part of the hybrid-electric ICE, and stands for Motor Generator Unit – Heat. The component uses heat to generate electrical power and is a part of the ERS (Energy Recovery System).
And lastly, to reduce costs, standardised components will be used in the engines. While restricting costs, this formula still allows engineers to accomplish fantastic feats of engineering and innovation with the future engines. It is also more attractive to incoming engine manufacturers, which is something I will elaborate on later. The FIA will release more financial regulations on the 1st of January 2023.
Engine Structure And Performance
This is the most technical section of this post. This is a breakdown of the exact changes to the structure and the performance of the entire engine. The performance is actually going to be quite similar. This is because the engines will retain the same Internal Combustion Engine. The ICE will still be a V6 1.6-litre engine. That means that the ICE will still have 6 cylinders, and those 6 cylinders will still have the same combined capacity of 1.6 litres of fluid. The engines will still be high-power and high-revving engines, and may be even louder than the current ones.
However, as I mentioned earlier, the engines are going to consume less fuel. Currently, the engines use 100-110kg of fuel a race. The 2026 F1 engines will use only 75-80 kg of fuel. So how will the engines provide the same power output with less fuel? That’s thanks to the ERS unit. The 2026 F1 Engine Regulations have unleashed a much more powerful ERS unit. Because of the lower fuel consumption, the ICE won’t be as responsible for the power output as it is right now. In 2026, the ERS will provide around 350 kW of power. That’s worth 500 horsepower and is nearly 3 times the 120 kW that the electrical unit deploys right now.
In the ERS unit, two motor generator units recover energy from parts of the car. The MGU-K (Kinetic Motor Generator Unit) from the brakes, and the MGU-H from the engine. Electrical power is stored in a battery, and the energy is deployed and used to power the car. Currently, the MGU-K and the MGU-H generate that power. But in 2026, a much larger MGU-K will be the sole component to do so. Since the electrical unit will be so much more powerful, it will recover more energy, meaning the car will be more efficient and lose less energy. The increased power means that the battery will be bigger as well, and the Control Electrons will see some minor changes.
Since the MGU-H will be gone, there will be a noticeable change in the car’s performance. Currently, the MGU-H is attached to the turbo. But when the MGU-H will be gone, the turbo will be on its own. That fosters the possibility of turbo lag. Turbo lag is the time between throttle application and feeling the torque from the turbocharged engine. Currently, the MGU-H prevents turbo lag, which makes it easier for drivers to handle the car during throttle application. But in 2026, driver skill will prevail as they try to manage the car on the exits of corners. They will have to have much more control on their throttle application to manage the rush of power from the engine.
Attracting New Engine Manufacturers
The 2026 F1 Engine regulations are much more attractive to new engine manufacturers. In the current era, the only engine manufacturers have been Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault, Honda and Red Bull Powertrains. Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari have stayed as engine manufacturers since 2014. However, Honda left F1 at the end of 2021. They used to be the engine suppliers for Red Bull and AlphaTauri from 2019-2021, but then Red Bull took over Honda’s F1 operations, forming Red Bull Powertrains. So as of 2022, Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault, and Red Bull Powertrains are the engine suppliers.
However, F1 wants to attract more engine suppliers. Bringing more engine suppliers means broadening F1’s reach and allowing more healthy competition. And that’s why F1 and the FIA have taken major steps to attract more engine suppliers. The FIA completed the regulations after “collaborative consultation between the FIA and both incumbent and potential new PU manufacturers”. That means that they made regulations that would satisfy and encourage more Power Unit manufacturers. A great example to prove this is financial sustainability. Lower costs makes it easier for new manufacturers to enter the sport and be able to compete against the existing manufacturers. This is advantageous not just to the incoming manufacturers but to the sport as a whole.
It’s clear that F1 is accomplishing the goal of bringing in new engine manufacturers. The Volkswagen Group has expressed that they intend to enter Audi and Porsche into Formula 1 as engine manufacturers. This is great news, and hopefully we see more of the same from other companies that can benefit Formula 1. Overall the 2026 F1 Engine Regulations are a great step forward. I’m looking forward to a bright and sustainable future for Formula 1.