Formula 1’s 2023 season isn’t even half over, but manufacturers are already working on 2026. That is when revised power-unit regulations, running through 2030, will take effect.
It will be the biggest overhaul to the rules since the introduction of 1.6-liter V6 turbocharged engines in 2014. There will be more manufacturers and a step toward greater sustainability.
“It is fantastic that Formula 1 will have six engine manufacturers from 2026,” Stefano Domenicali, the chief executive of Formula 1, said. “Our global platform and growth provides brands with huge potential, and it shows our plans to move to sustainable fuels in 2026 is the right approach.”
The regulations will have the current V6 engines using fully sustainable fuels, producing more electrical power, while the complicated MGU-H, a component of the power unit that creates more energy, will be removed. Engine manufacturers will also be subject to a cost cap.
The power-unit manufacturers for 2026 are Mercedes, Ferrari, Alpine, Audi, Honda and a partnership between Red Bull and Ford, which returns Ford to Formula 1 for the first time since 2004, when it owned the Jaguar Racing team. Red Bull’s existing partner, Honda, will supply Aston Martin, and Audi will supply the team that is now called Sauber, but which may change its name after Audi takes majority ownership of it in 2026.
It will be the first power unit developed by Red Bull Powertrains.
“We’ve outgrown being a customer,” said Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal. “For us to have the power unit on site, integrated fully with the chassis and the synergies that creates, the advantages are significant. It’s exciting, taking on a new challenge, a start-up company taking on some iconic brands in Formula 1 as a power-unit manufacturer.”
“The foundation of our drivetrain for 2026 is being laid today,” Oliver Hoffmann, an Audi board member, said in April.
Honda has been in and out of Formula 1, but it has recommitted for 2026, emboldened by the championship’s direction.
“One of the key reasons for our decision to take up the new challenge in F1 is that the world’s pinnacle form of racing is striving to become a sustainable racing series,” Toshihiro Mibe, the chief executive of Honda, said when announcing Honda’s participation. He added that this was “in line with the direction Honda is aiming toward carbon neutrality, and it will become a platform which will facilitate the development of our electrification technologies.”
Having six power-unit manufacturers means there will also be six works teams, where there can be integration between chassis and engine designers.
“You have to be fully integrated with your P.U. [power unit] to design the right chassis for your regulations,” said Mike Krack, the team principal of Aston Martin. Aston Martin is now a Mercedes customer, but from 2026 it will be Honda’s works team. “You can have much more info earlier with regards to energy management, which aero-configuration you have to run, to set correct targets, and this is just a big asset for these kinds of regulations.”
Not every team will have a works partner. Haas is set to be one of four customer teams, meaning it buys a power unit from a manufacturer.
“In 2026, there are six engine manufacturers, how do you know that all will do the same good job?” said Guenther Steiner, the team principal of Haas. “There could be two or three that do a worse job, and if you are with the right manufacturer you are in front of the other ones. So there are pros as well to being a customer” instead of a works team.