Red Bull make admission over F1 2026 power unit changes from FIA

Oliver Harden
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen in action during first practice at the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen in action during first practice at the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix.

Red Bull technical director Pierre Wache believes it is too late to tweak F1’s 2026 rules despite fears that the new engine regulations could prove disappointing.

F1’s technical rules were be significantly overhauled for 2026, when changes to both the cars and power units will come into effect.

The engine regulations are particularly important as F1 strives towards a greener future, with the sport switching to sustainable fuel and the output of the powertrain’s electric ancillaries set to be greatly enhanced.

Red Bull address F1 2026 rule fears

Red Bull have been among the harshest critics of F1’s 2026 plans, with three-time World Champion Max Verstappen telling media including PlanetF1.com last summer that the new rules risk “really overcomplicating a lot of things.”

Verstappen’s complaints were echoed by Christian Horner, who expressed fears that F1 could be lumped with “Frankenstein” cars as a result of a more even power balance – estimated to be a 50-50 split – between the internal combustion engine and the electrical components.

With significant reductions in drag required for the 2026 engine plans to work, F1 is keen to reduce drag with the 2026 cars and innovations such as active aerodynamics are under consideration.

However, experts believe that slightly increasing the internal combustion engine’s power output relative to the electronic components would go a long way towards addressing F1’s 2026 concerns.

With work already well underway on the 2026 powertrains, however, Wache fears the time has passed for changes to the new engine formula.

He told the Dutch edition of Motorsport.com: “It is starting to be too late for that now.

“The problem is that the design and development time for an engine is longer than for a chassis. Changing things about the concept of the internal combustion engine, battery and electrical components is therefore very difficult for them.

“We now have to work on the chassis side. We no longer have a choice and together we have to solve it on the chassis side.

“The most important aspect is the transfer of power from the new power unit. The engine will change a lot in 2026 with the things that have already been decided.

“The share of electric power will be much larger and the share of the electric internal combustion engine will be smaller. The challenge on some circuits is therefore the transfer of the amount of energy you have left.

“The transfer of the energy a particular engine can deliver obviously has a lot of influence on the characteristics of a car. So until the FIA and the teams discuss all the effects of that and all the characteristics of the cars, it will remain tricky.”

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In his criticism of the new rules last year, Verstappen predicted they will require a counter-intuitive driving style – and called for teams to put politics aside to find the right solution for the sport.

He said: “It’s just not right, I think, that you have to drive the car like that.

“And also, the way under braking the engine just almost stays flat out, I think it will just create [a] very weird atmosphere – it’s a bit like with the blown diffusers, just being flat out almost.

“For me, it just looks very weird and also with the active aero that is regulating itself, it looks a bit odd to me.

“And, from the engine side, we really need to have a good look at it. But I also know that people think they will have an advantage, so they will say that the regulations are good.

“I think from my side, just looking at it as a racing driver, it looks wrong. But you always have these politics in Formula 1 where one team thinks: ‘We can take an advantage out of this.’

“They will say it’s great, but at the end of the day we really have to look into what is good for the sport and I think at the moment, with how it’s looking, I don’t think it’s good for the sport.”

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