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F1 teams downplay fears of 2026 being an “ICE competition”

Formula 1 teams have downplayed fears expressed by Max Verstappen that the championship will become an “ICE competition” in 2026 with power units proving the dominant factor.

Mercedes F1 W14 engine

The Dutchman cautioned recently that he felt that would be the case under the new regulations, noting that there would be a “massive development war” between the manufacturers.

Audi will join F1 to take over the Sauber team that currently runs the Alfa Romeo effort, as well as supplying power units, while Honda has forged a works return with Aston Martin after previous partner Red Bull formed its own engine division that will also supply sister squad AlphaTauri with backing from Ford.

But McLaren and Williams, the two teams that still in theory have a choice over what PU they utilise in 2026, refute Verstappen's concerns. Both have indicated that they have faith that current supplier Mercedes will have a strong package and that the chassis will still be important.

“We've got a great partnership with Mercedes, so pretty hard to imagine them not getting it right, regardless of wherever the final rules shake out,” said McLaren CEO Zak Brown.

“And it's always a combination, isn't it, of driver, chassis and power unit to put out a competitive car. So I don't think that'll be any different, whether that was this regulation or next regulation or the regulation after that.”

Williams team principal James Vowles agreed that one supplier could get a jump, as his former team Mercedes did when the current rules were introduced, but insisted that it would soon even out.

“I think in any power unit regulation change you can win or you can lose out as a result of it,” he said.

“Mercedes did a very, very good job across the 2013/’14 changes, an example of that.

James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing, in the Team Principals Press Conference

James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing, in the Team Principals Press Conference

Photo by: FIA Pool

“Probably if you go the years before then again, there were power unit suppliers that were slightly above, but it did also settle out fairly quickly afterwards, well into a uniform formula.

“We have a great relationship with Mercedes and a long history behind it and they've been strong in the sport for 20 years.

“My view on things is that whoever you go with, you will forge your alliance, and I think it will settle down to a very sensible position very quickly shortly afterwards.

“And it would be wrong to say the chassis still doesn't have a large impact on it because I still think in the regulations, as raw as they are at the moment, there's lots of potential to do better or worse than your competitors.” 

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