The opportunities and headaches of F1’s 2026 engine plans

Formula 1 is set to alter the DNA of its power units from 2026 in a bid to entice new manufacturers in, with Audi and Porsche favourites to make the jump.

The opportunities and headaches of F1’s 2026 engine plans

Talks have intensified over critical aspects of the new engine rules over the last few months, as the manufacturers want to get on with their R&D projects as soon as possible.

Whilst the current manufacturers are clearly happy with the power unit as it stands, they understand that in order for any new entrants to come onboard, some compromise needs to be made in ensuring that new car makers stand a chance of being competitive.

The MGU-H has been at the heart of this debate, due to the manufacturing challenges it creates and the complexity of its role within the energy recovery system.

Therefore, it appears that Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, Honda and Red Bull are in agreement that they will let the MGU-H go, providing Audi and Porsche commit to a long-term entry.

The ditching of the MGU-H obviously raises several issues, and talks had been ongoing during the consultation period about the introduction of a front axle MGU to help bridge the energy gap created by the loss of the MGU-H.

However, it appears those plans have been shelved, with the MGU-K set to be given much more authority.

This will mean it has much more of a KERS style role, albeit with a much larger recovery and deployment model and a significantly larger energy store at its disposal.

To give some sense of the scale of what is being proposed, the original F1 KERS was a 60kW system, which roughly equates to 80bhp and could be used for approximately 6.67 seconds due to its 400kJ per lap capacity.

The current MGU-K is a 120kW system, which equates to around 160bhp and can deliver throughout the course of the entire lap, as it works with both the MGU-H and energy store.

Lance Stroll, Racing Point RP19, returns to the pits without an engine cover

Lance Stroll, Racing Point RP19, returns to the pits without an engine cover

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The suggestions are that the 2026 MGU-K will be able to deliver 350kW, or approximately 470bhp, which is a giant leap forward in terms of the ratio delivered by the energy recovery system.

There’s no mention yet about how much energy will be able to be stored in the battery pack, but for example, a 4MJ Energy Store, similar to what is used now, would be depleted from a full charge in 11.43 seconds if you were deploying the full 350kW.

Added to this is the challenge of recovering the energy from just a single source, where as with the current power units energy can be recovered by either MGU and passed to the other without needing to store it. This increases the limit beyond the perceived 4MJ limit per lap. 

The MGU-K would need to be more robust to deal with the additional forces acting on it, and the energy store would need to be larger and heavier in order to store and deliver the necessary energy.

Given the significant headroom that’s been proposed, it’s more likely that we will see this 350kW system broken down into a two-tier system.

One will be automated, with the MGU-K delivering power almost as a constant boost on throttle demand, like we have now. There will also be another KERS-like boost system that will be available to the driver for strategic deployment.

There’s also talk of some aerodynamic assistance being brought in to help mitigate the recovery issues posed by a single point recovery system. Talks surrounding a spec active suspension have been tabled on numerous occasions and could still provide the necessary answer that F1 is looking for. 

It is understood that the recent meetings amongst F1’s stakeholders have raised question marks over whether the sport could introduce some kind of active aerodynamic package that takes a holistic approach to drag reduction and boosting downforce, rather than just the limited use that DRS provides.

At the heart of power unit’s new design, it’s anticipated that the single centreline turbocharger and 1.6 litre ICE will be retained.

However, the concepts will need to be overhauled to account for the sport’s continuous shift toward a more biofuel biased sustainable fuel. Furthermore, in order to shift the distribution of power more towards the combustion element of the power unit, it’s likely we will see the fuel flow restrictions either eradicated entirely or adjusted significantly.

This will have a bearing on the rev limit too. While the regulations currently permit a 15,000rpm limit, manufacturers can find little performance advantage beyond the fuel flow curve below 10,500rpm. 

The changes being made might also have an impact on one of the aspects of the power units that was heavily criticised when they arrived in 2014.

Removing the MGU-H and altering the overall DNA of the power unit will likely result in a very different sound being produced

And whilst that is not as ear-piercing as some of the larger capacity V8 and V10 engines that F1 has used in the past, it might add more depth to the soundtrack. 

The 2022 Formula 1 car launch event on the Silverstone grid. Rear wing and exhaust detail

The 2022 Formula 1 car launch event on the Silverstone grid. Rear wing and exhaust detail

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

shares
comments

Related video

Why Williams isn't getting lost in its own F1 "hubris"
Previous article

Why Williams isn't getting lost in its own F1 "hubris"

Next article

Red Bull to race with white Honda tribute livery in F1 Turkish GP

Red Bull to race with white Honda tribute livery in F1 Turkish GP
The crucial tech changes F1 teams must adapt to in 2023 Plus

The crucial tech changes F1 teams must adapt to in 2023

Changes to the regulations for season two of Formula 1's ground-effects era aim to smooth out last year’s troubles and shut down loopholes. But what areas have been targeted, and what impact will this have?

Are these the 50 quickest drivers in F1 history? Plus

Are these the 50 quickest drivers in F1 history?

Who are the quickest drivers in Formula 1 history? LUKE SMITH asked a jury of experienced and international panel of experts and F1 insiders. Some of them have worked closely with F1’s fastest-ever drivers – so who better to vote on our all-time top 50? We’re talking all-out speed here rather than size of trophy cabinet, so the results may surprise you…

Formula 1
Jan 25, 2023
One easy way the FIA could instantly improve F1 Plus

One easy way the FIA could instantly improve F1

OPINION: During what is traditionally a very quiet time of year in the Formula 1 news cycle, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been generating headlines. He’s been commenting on massive topics in a championship that loves them, but also addressing necessary smaller changes too. Here we suggest a further refinement that would be a big boon to fans

Formula 1
Jan 24, 2023
How can McLaren keep hold of Norris? Plus

How can McLaren keep hold of Norris?

Lando Norris is no longer the young cheeky-chappy at McLaren; he’s now the established ace. And F1's big guns will come calling if the team can’t give him a competitive car. Here's what the team needs to do to retain its prize asset

Formula 1
Jan 24, 2023
What difference did F1's fastest pitstops of 2022 make? Plus

What difference did F1's fastest pitstops of 2022 make?

While a quick pitstop can make all the difference to the outcome of a Formula 1 race, most team managers say consistency is more important than pure speed. MATT KEW analyses the fastest pitstops from last season to see which ones – if any – made a genuine impact

Formula 1
Jan 23, 2023
When F1 ‘holiday’ races kept drivers busy through the winter Plus

When F1 ‘holiday’ races kept drivers busy through the winter

Modern Formula 1 fans have grown accustomed to a lull in racing during winter in the northern hemisphere. But, as MAURICE HAMILTON explains, there was a time when teams headed south of the equator rather than bunkering down in the factory. And why not? There was fun to be had, money to be made and reputations to forge…

Formula 1
Jan 20, 2023
What Porsche social media frenzy says about F1’s manufacturer allure Plus

What Porsche social media frenzy says about F1’s manufacturer allure

Porsche whipped up a frenzy thanks to a cryptic social media post last week and, although it turned out to be a false alarm, it also highlighted why manufacturers remain such an important element in terms of the attraction that they bring to F1. It is little wonder that several other manufacturers are bidding for a slice of the action

Formula 1
Jan 19, 2023
Why the new Williams boss shouldn’t avoid ‘Mercedes B-team’ comparisons Plus

Why the new Williams boss shouldn’t avoid ‘Mercedes B-team’ comparisons

OPINION: Williams has moved to replace the departed Jost Capito by appointing former Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles as its new team principal. But while he has sought to play down the idea of moulding his new squad into a vision of his old one, some overlap is only to be expected and perhaps shouldn't be shied away from

Formula 1
Jan 17, 2023