Formula 1’s revised 2026 powertrain regulations will pave the way for additional automakers to enter the sport, but they’ll also create less powerful engines.
However, as detailed in this Engineering Explained video, the lower power is all part of the plan.
The 2026 rules will continue the use of hybrid powertrains, known as “power units,” based around a turbocharged 1.6-liter V-6 engine. The V-6 will have 33% less power under the new rules, reducing output to about 560 hp. That’s thanks to a new rule that regulates fuel flow based on total energy rather than the mass of the fuel itself.
Fuel tank capacity will also be reduced, and fuel octane levels will be regulated for the first time—so engine manufacturers won’t have many workarounds for the new fuel-flow rule. That means less combustion, and thus less power.
In addition to reducing the amount of fuel used, the rules also stipulate sustainable fuels made from some process other than refining crude oil. All of this is intended to make F1 look more environmentally responsible although, as noted in the video, the emissions of the cars driving around the track are fairly small compared to the emissions associated with teams and fans traveling to each F1 race.
The rules also change the electric side of F1 hybrid powertrains. Currently, electric power comes from two sources. The Motor Generator Unit Kinetic (MGU-K) is spun by the engine’s crankshaft and the Motor Generator Unit Heat (MGU-H) is spun by the exhaust gasses via the turbocharger. For 2026, the MGU-H is being eliminated, but the MGU-K gets a boost in output from 160 hp to 470 hp. That should make up for the loss of power from the combustion engine.
Battery capacity won’t change however, remaining at about 1.1 kwh. That’s going to create an added challenge for engineers, as the MGU-K’s added power means the battery could be drained on some of the longer straights at certain tracks. Electric motor output will also be limited at higher speeds, but the limited combustion engine power means cars will still likely be leaning heavily on their electric motors.
We’ll have to wait until the 2026 F1 season starts to see how these new regulations affect the racing, but they’ve already convinced more automakers to get involved in the sport. Ford is partnering with Red Bull, while Sauber will switch from its current Alfa Romeo branding to Audi for the German automaker’s F1 debut. Cadillac aims to enter F1 with Andretti, a move that, if approved, would likely bring the General Motors luxury brand into F1 after the new regulations go into effect.
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