Throughout its 73 year history, the FIA has regulated on the Formula One engine specifications which the teams must work within. There have been 9 broad eras as broadly outlined here. Since 1950 the current era of F1 engine regulations has been by far the longest. By the time the V6 hybrid power units are substantially revised they will have powered the F1 cars for at least 12 full seasons.
The current V6 hybrid power units were initially conceived during the 2011 season as in modern times a consultation period, agreement of engine specification and the signing up of the manufacturers takes between 3 and 4 years.
V6 Turbo hybrid era longest ever in F1
It was envisaged that the original lifespan of the V6 Turbo formula was set to run for 7 years and be replaced by the next generation of F1 power units in 2021.
However, the consultation period from 2017 ran and ran without agreement and behind the scenes Mercedes clearly dithered preferring to extend the V6 era given its huge investment in – and the dominance of – the AMG F1 power unit.
Covid delayed matters further and finally the date of 2026 was agreed upon.
F1 team with no engine supplier
During the V6 hybrid era the unthinkable almost happened when Red Bull Racing were close to being denied supply of a power unit from each of the manufacturers. Their fractured relationship with Renault and the refusal of Ferrari or Mercedes to supply Milton Keynes with a power unit meant in a last ditch effort Red Bull turned to the unhappy Honda.
Honda had signed an exclusive deal with McLaren, however both parties agreed to end this and go their separate ways thus providing a way for new Red Bull Honda arrangements to be made.
The FIA and F1 are keen with the next generation of F1 power units to broaden the manufacturer base to ensure a better continuity of supply. New manufacturers prefer not to enter the sport as did Honda part way through an F1 engine era given their catch up time to the others is much greater.
Deadlines for 2026 signatures come and go
So part of the reason for the delay for the introduction of the new F1 power units from 2021 to 2026 is to facilitate new entrants such as Audi.
The 2022 season saw deadlines set for those wishing to participate in the new power unit era, but these came and went as frequently as London busses.
A deadline of October 15th was set for the power unit suppliers to sign up for the 2026 package, though only newcomer Audi put pen to paper prior to this date. Alpine, Honda, Mercedes and Red Bull Powertrains (RBPT) submitted their registrations by the second deadline but Ferrari refused their acceptance of the conditions.
Ferrari banned from F1 power unit discussions
This meant that at a meeting of the F1 engine advisory committee held on December 15th, Ferrari were banned form attending.
In an attempt to attract new power unit manufacturers, the 2026 F1 power unit regulations include incentives for the newbies. They get extra dyno time in the R@D phase and given the new power units will be subject to a cost cap, new engine suppliers will be allowed additional spend.
Red Bull Powertrains have applied along with Audi to be considered as a new power unit manufacturer in 2026 and to receive the incremental concessions allowed for new entrants.
Red Bull Powertrains seeks new supplier exemptions
They argue they don’t own the intellectual property rights to the Honda powertrain they are presently running a frozen Honda PU and not one designed by Red Bull Powertrains.
Alpine too had concerns over the Red Bull Powertrain being declared as a new entrant but Lauren Rossi commented, “We had some points we wanted to discuss on the legal side, to make sure that we fully covered as much as possible, which we did.”
Ferrari to be forced to F1 table
It is unclear yet whether Ferrari have signed on the dotted lie for 2026 given a spokesperson for the team reveals they had “no answer” as to when the situation could be resolved.
For now though it appears the FIA are pressing on with fleshing out the 2026 specifications together with the teams who have signed on for the plan. Ferrari will be forced to the table inevitably because the longer they prevaricate the more will be decided without them.
The all-new AMF1 HQ at Silverstone is taking shape!
We caught up with Project Manager Guy Austin in December to see the latest developments and get a first look at our new wind tunnel.
Tap below to watch.
— Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) January 3, 2023