2026 Formula 1 Powertrain Regulations: Everything You Need To Know

Formula One / 7 Comments

These are the regulations that will pave the way for Porsche's entry into F1.

  • Regulations come into effect for the 2026 season
  • Nearly 50/50 split between ICE and electric assistance
  • Removal of the MGU-H requirement
  • Synthetic fuel will be 100% carbon neutral
  • Plans to reduce cost and complexity without hampering racing

The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) World Motor Sport Council has finally approved the 2026 Power Unit (PU) Regulations for Formula 1, paving the way for greener racing and, importantly, more OEMs to enter the sport as powertrain manufacturers.

These new regulations result from extensive research and development by the FIA in collaboration with existing teams and potential new PU developers.

The big news is the adoption of new PU regulations, which open the door wide open for Audi, Porsche, and other manufacturers to enter the sport. The new rules cut costs of PU development drastically while maintaining the spectacle of 1,000-horsepower machines driving to the limit every fortnight.

F1 also wants to go green, and the new power units will rely on 50% electric power, while the ICE component will run entirely on 100% carbon-neutral, sustainable fuel.

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Before we launch into the new regulations, you first need to understand that F1 technology rarely filters down to road cars. Yes, Mercedes-AMG put an F1 engine into the One, but it took the best engineers in the business years to figure out how to do it. The Mercedes-AMG One was delayed several times as Merc had to find a way around several issues.

You could point to the paddles behind your steering wheel, but you'd be wrong. The paddles in a Ferrari 296 GTB have more in common with a lawn ornament than the paddles behind the square steering wheel of a Ferrari F1 car.

The development work being done on 2026 PUs will likely have a massive impact on the automotive world in general, with the FIA aiming to increase the "road-relevance" of the powertrains.

First are the new power unit regulations and their impact on the sport. The FIA knows how important spectacle is to the fans, and these new regulations were designed with high-speed racing in mind. Even though F1 is going cheaper and greener, the entertainment value will still be there.

Mercedes-AMG

Sustainable, Carbon Neutral Fuel

Fully sustainable fuel is one of the main cornerstones of the new regulations. The fuel must come from non-food-bio-derived, genuine municipal waste or sustainable carbon capture. Moreover, the greenhouse gas savings must be in line with the latest European standards, which is a tough ask.

This brings us neatly to Porsche's doorstep. Porsche all but confirmed its entry back into the sport earlier this week via a trademark filing, but its upcoming partnership with Red Bull is the worst kept secret in F1 since ever. Porsche has a massive advantage going into this deal because it started researching sustainable fuel ages ago as a means of keeping its high-performance gasoline cars on the road for decades to come. So it makes complete sense to convince the masses using the most-watched motorsport there is.

Find out more about synthetic fuel here.

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Combustion Engine Changes: The V6 Lives On

The ICE component of the PU will remain the same. It will be a 1.6-liter V6 with the same RPM, but the fuel flow rate will be reduced to reduce the output to around 536 horsepower (400 kW). This will save the teams a lot of money, as the development of the ICE component is essentially already done - at least for powertrain suppliers currently in the sport.

The lower part of the engine, including the engine block, crankshaft, connecting rods, pumps, and ancillaries, will mostly be the same but will be more closely regulated with major dimensions of items like the pistons, valves, turbocharger wheels, and injector positions defined more strictly than before.

The upper combustion area and the associated components will be where teams have more freedom. There will be new rules governing the design of these parts, but the freedom will exist to try and maximize performance from the new fuel. However, variable intake trumpets and actuation systems are no longer allowed.

F1/YouTube
F1/YouTube

Reducing Cost To Teams: Out With The MGU-H, In With Standardized Parts

To cut costs, the FIA is removing parts from the PU or restricting sections where the teams previously had more freedom.

The most significant cost saving is the removal of the MGU-H, which is essentially a system that converts thermal energy and stores it in the car's battery pack. It's incredibly costly to develop and has no real-world application. This was the biggest issue surrounding Porsche, Audi, and multiple other carmakers from joining F1, as they saw the development of such technology as of no use to their road-going operations.

To further reduce costs, items like the exhaust system and other ancillary systems are to be designed to last a full season, reducing the replacement cost in all circumstances apart from accident damage. Parts can no longer be designed to last only a few races.

More than this, the FIA will standardize components like injectors, knock sensors, ignition coils, and various temperature, torque, and pressure sensors. One supplier of one design will reduce the cost and put all teams on an even playing field.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1

Energy Recovery System: More Electric Power, Baby!

The ICE component is being restricted, so the teams must rely more on the Energy Recovery System (ERS). The power cap of this electric augmentation is being increased three-fold to 469 hp (350kW), and emphasis is being placed on energy flow management to achieve the critical objectives of spectacle, increased hybridization, and similar overall performance to the current PU.

Here's where it gets fascinating, however. The new regulations aim to increase the road relevance of the battery cells, electronics, and the MGU-K. The latter is essentially a highly-advanced regenerative braking system, as found in every EV on sale today.

Now you can see why Porsche and Audi were waiting for this element to become a focal point, as products like the Taycan, e-tron GT, and forthcoming Macan and Cayman EVs would leverage this immensely.

The ERS system will be required to use fewer critical materials or at least require that these be recycled in some way, while the FIA has also mandated more safety measures to prevent any unnecessary injuries or worse.

F1/YouTube
F1/YouTube

Limited Development Time Of New Powertrains

The FIA limits the number of operational hours a team may spend on developing the ICE and ERS components, but for the first few years, it's incredibly accommodating. Over the duration of the next three years, from 2023 to 2025, teams will each get 5,400 hours to spend on the ICE components and an additional 3,400 hours on the ERS.

Thereafter, annual limitations will apply, allowing teams to play catch-up should one manufacturer launch with a major advantage - as Mercedes did at the start of the turbo-hybrid era. Currently, teams have an allocation of 300 hours (ICE) and 200 hours (ERS) development per year, but 2026 will afford them 700 and 500 hours, respectively. From 2027, this will be reduced to 400 hours for each component.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas

Cost Caps And Powertrain Usage Limitations

Since saving money is a big theme, a new cost cap is being introduced from January 1, 2023. The FIA wants to promote long-term competitive balance, sporting fairness, and financial stability. This is good news for low-budget teams like Haas and Williams but not so great for mighty teams like Red Bull Racing, Scuderia Ferrari, and Mercedes.

The cost cap has been adjusted to $95 million per year from 2023 to 2025, after which it will increase to $130 million in 2026.

Several activities like marketing, human resources, health and safety costs, and non-PU activities (developing the new powertrains for the 2026 season) are not included under the cost cap, but it does not mention drivers' salaries explicitly.

As you might know, each driver gets a set allocation of components they may use over a season. If you burn through them like Ferrari has, grid penalties come into play. The 2026 regulations allow for three ICE units, including turbochargers and exhausts. On the ERS side, a driver is allowed two battery packs and two MGU-K systems.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1

In terms of driver salaries, Red Bull currently pays Max Verstappen $55.5 million per season, while Sergio Perez is paid $8 million. That's $63.5 million combined, roughly two-thirds of the budget. Mercedes-Benz is also in a tricky position, as its drivers cost $45 million annually. That's $40 million for Sir Hamilton and $5 million for George Russell.

It's unlikely that wages will be considered within the cost cap, as these drivers have every right to demand high salaries. Unlike other sports, these drivers risk their lives every time they climb into an F1 car. With Liberty Media bringing the sport to more people, the marketing potential of these drivers is massive, and without them, there would be no sport, so they should be fairly compensated for the spectacle they put on.

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What The New Rules Mean

Development needs to start almost immediately to hit the 2026 deadline, so any new powertrain manufacturers are likely going to be making announcements soon. Thus far, Audi and Porsche have been the brands in the limelight the most. Audi is expected to buy into Sauber (currently Alfa Romeo Racing), while Porsche has struck a deal to buy a substantial chunk of Red Bull Racing. Expect announcements from those two imminently. Honda has also been mulling a more serious return to the sport, but made it clear it would only do so if the development of powertrains were more lucrative to the brand. As Honda is going electric soon, the new regulations would prove favorable.

Obviously, the F1 designers and engineers will try and push the boundaries of these new rules, and they have two years to figure it out.

What these regulation changes are unlikely to affect is the addition of privateer teams like the proposed Andretti Autosport F1 team. Unfortunately for Michael Andretti and his cohorts, that decision rests with the FIA and F1 approving the team subject to meeting the conditions of F1's Concorde Agreement. Teams like Mercedes and Red Bull have been openly defiant of Andretti joining, while others like McLaren have been in support of another team on the grid.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1

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