Hywel Thomas, managing director of the engine division of Mercedes F1, talked about the next generation F1 power unit of 2026.
F1’s next-generation power unit regulations pose significant challenges in terms of overall package optimization. From 2026, F1 will simplify the current regulations by phasing out the MGU-H, with a focus on electrification and the introduction of sustainable fuels.
Also, the rules were designed in an attempt to lure new manufacturers into the sport. And it’s already working, with Audi (at least) committed to becoming an engine supplier and Porsche expected to partner with Red Bull, but talks fell apart. Still interested.
“Nevertheless, the changes for 2026 are quite extensive. It’s a completely new power unit,” explains Hywel Thomas, managing director of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrain.
“We look forward to the challenge and are excited by the increased electrification of the power unit and the increased size of the MGU-K to date.”
“It’s very important, it’s very different and it links well with what’s happening in the road car environment.”
“And, of course, there will be a corresponding reduction in the power output of the internal combustion engine, but the transition to running on sustainable fuels will be another challenge.”
“Fuel changes are going to be a big part of this regulation set.”
“It is very important for sport and for everyone to address environmental issues at the right time.”
F1 has frozen current power units until the end of 2025 to ease the burden on manufacturers. This was done to prevent parallel development programs that would have little effect but drive up costs.
There are also limits on the scale of development that can be employed, especially testbench time. Manufacturers considering homologation of power units for use in F1 must comply with these regulations.
That means a company like Audi won’t be committing unlimited resources to projects before it officially joins F1 in 2026.
Conversely, companies like Mercedes have already invested resources into understanding what they know about the future of F1, even if the ruleset isn’t finalized. It’s a process that can only be accelerated now.
“We have a project team working towards 2026,” Hywel-Thomas confirmed.
“We continue to focus on our existing programs.”
“Some projects, such as Formula E, are coming to an end. This means we can move other people into the 2026 programme. This is exciting.”
“One of the things that comes with the current regulations is that the regulations from now until 2026 will greatly reduce the amount of engineering and the amount of business working on existing products by reducing dynamo hours and such. I encourage
“So it’s a bit of a portable feast.”
“We already have a sizable project team and have been working on it for some time, as everyone does.”
“And as we move forward, 2026 is a long way off, but it’s approaching so quickly that we need to make more progress.”
Red Bull Powertrains is in a similar position to Mercedes, but being a de facto new manufacturer, the details are different.
For now, it is developing its own engines for both Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri, although it may partner with another brand in the future.
“It may seem like a long way off, but from an engine point of view it’s still effectively tomorrow,” explained Horner.
“There’s been a lot of back and forth around these regulations, but it’s not just the technical specifications. It’s the sporting regulations, and of course the introduction of the financial regulations.”
“Like all these things, we have to find a middle ground. Knowing that the regulations have been released, we are precisely designing engines with fixed compression ratios and other fixed architectures. It’s moved slightly from where the discussion started.”
“But I think it’s good to have that clarity now so that we can work towards 2026.”
Category: F1 / mercedes / F1 machine