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F1 2026 engine regs to include 355km/h KERS-style ‘override’ boost system

Formula 1 is to revisit the driver-operated KERS boost era by allowing for a high-speed ‘override mode’ function to its energy deployment power unit map from 2026.

Caterham CT01 steering wheel, showing KERS and radio buttons

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

It was previously revealed that the turbocharged, 1.6-litre V6 internal combustion engine element of the power unit is being reduced from 550-560kW down to 400kW (535bhp), and that the battery element will jump from 150kW to 350kW (470bhp) to replace that power loss – despite the eradication of the MGU-H.

The latest draft of the 2026 power unit regulations has been unveiled by the FIA and presents some new functionality for the more powerful hybrid system to help improve the wheel-to-wheel racing.

It had long been established that there was a desire to have a push-to-pass aspect with the incoming power unit, rather than all the energy being dispensed over the course of a lap by the systems themselves.

However, the details of such a system had yet to be formally announced, and while this latest draft of the regulations doesn’t cover everything, Article 5.4.8 puts some of the framework in place.

The first portion of Article 5.4.8 creates a glide path for energy deployment from the ERS-K hybrid system up to 345km/h (215mph). The second portion covers what’s being dubbed by the FIA as an ‘override mode’, whereby the driver will be able to deploy additional power to infill the energy created by the glide path and provide a further boost up to 355km/h (220.5mph).

This secondary function will provide a more strategic aspect to energy deployment and require the driver to make a decision on whether or when to use it as it becomes available. It is similar in concept to the KERS function that F1 had between 2009-2013, with drivers able to use that energy allotment to attack, defend or deploy it for lap time improvement.

Given how much more reliance is placed on the hybrid aspect of the power unit from 2026 onwards, it means that drivers won’t always have the ability to use the ‘override’ function. And, if they do, they might risk putting themselves in an energy deficit under normal deployment conditions further around the lap or over the course of the next few laps.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20 the field at the start

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20 the field at the start

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Fighting with another driver in wheel-to-wheel combat will be just one aspect of how this new system will be employed by both drivers and their engineers, as they look to extract the best from the car during the course of a lap, during battles and over a race distance.

The 2026 engine regulations have attracted the most manufacturers on the grid since 2008, with the current four engine suppliers set to be joined by Audi and Ford (via Red Bull Powertrains).

As revealed by Autosport in December, the FIA will also introduce new chassis rules in 2026 to make the cars between 40-50kg lighter.

The cars will be shorter, with the wheelbase likely trimmed down to 3400mm from the current maximum 3600mm. The cars will also be narrower by 10cm, so will be reduced from 2000mm to 1900mm.

Another step change from the current cars will be the addition of extra moveable aero to help reduce drag on the straights.

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