2026 F1 engine development begins: Binotto on Audi shortlist

Jaden Diaz

All the teams are at work. In 2026, Formula 1 will have to race with new generation power units, which will push cars with significantly redesigned aerodynamics above the floor. While waiting for the 2026 technical regulations to be fully approved, the factories are busy designing the first phase of the new power units. 

The new power units will, for example, lack the very expensive MGU-H (Motor Generator Unit – Heat). Something would’ve impacted the advanced technological research in F1. However, the motto of these years is cost control.

Engineers are figuring out how to compensate for the loss in performance due to lack of energy recovery. It will not be an easy undertaking, considering that the engines will produce three times the electricity – going from 120 kW to 350 kW (470 hp).

This will amount to almost 50% of total engine power. Some engineers think that, at least at the beginning of 2026, we could face unpleasant surprises if aerodynamic efficiency. The regulations have not been balanced with respect to engine efficiency.

This will prevent the engines from being significantly lighter despite the abolition of the very heavy MGU-H. The battery pack and the new MGU-K will be significantly heavier to store and deliver energy.

Power Unit

Heat engines will have some important new features. However, they will be fundamentally simpler and cheaper. Titanium has been banned and replaced by aluminium alloys, linked to a much lower combustion ratio per regulation.

The consequence is to push oil companies to develop carbon-neutral fuels. This will require ultra-high levels of efficiency.

The higher it is, the fewer kg of fuel will be needed for the same power used.

Formu1a.uno is able to provide some other details. For example, the intake pipes will no longer be variable but will have a fixed height.

This choice is consistent with the (low) cost objectives imposed by the FIA, given that the usefulness of variable height on turbo engines is rather limited. 

Regarding the injectors, they will be standard and supplied by Magneti Marelli. The Italian-Japanese company won the tender after the vote in the commission, beating its rival Bosch, which also currently supplies Ferrari.

2026 may seem distant. However, regarding the new construction philosophies and engine targets, there is a sense of urgency. Obviously, the development race is now in full swing.

Power Unit

The advantage of the new regulations is that they have attracted two other major manufacturers. In addition to Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Honda, Audi will enter F1. Ford will also join through their partnership with Red Bull powertrains.

It is said that in recent discussions, someone proposed the idea of increasing the petrol flow to overcome the problem of energy recovery – but the solution was rejected.

There is the fear of conceiving Frankenstein cars – as Christian Horner declared some time ago. After all, a lot of the aerodynamic concepts for the 2026 cars will be based on engine efficiency.

According to what we have learned, the first complete engines will be on the bench in 2024. Mercedes is ahead of its rivals in this respect.

Development limits and budget cap

Even the development of new engines is subject to constraints. From now until the end of 2026, engineers have 700 hours available each year for the combustion engine and 500 for the ERS.

From 2027 to 2030, the hours will decrease to 500 for the ICE and 400 for the ERS. Then, there is a significant limitation (to scale) that concerns the powertrain cells – that will run on a maximum of 9 test benches.

Obviously, all this is also regulated by the cost ceiling, which goes from $95 million to $135 million.

It is no mystery that one of the aims of introducing new cars is to decrease weight. To achieve this, there are thoughts of easing some of the development constraints.

Regarding the current level of engine engineers, Audi seems to be struggling more than their rivals.

Some sources continue to report they are finding it difficult to acquire the best engineering minds.

Mattia Binotto is undoubtedly one of Audi’s targets to fill this role. However, the former Ferrari team principal would also have several other options.

Despite some uncertainties and the arrival of a new CEO, Gernot Doellner, the German company has no intention of giving up its entry. They intend to complete the acquisition of the Swiss company founded by Peter Sauber.

Author: Giuliano Duchessa
Piergiuseppe Donadoni

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang