Renault even the scores in F1 2026 PU debate as doubts emerge about Red Bull engine

Michelle Foster
Alpine Renault F1 signage on the wall in Miami.

Alpine F1 signage on the wall.

With Ferrari on Red Bull’s side in the debate over tweaking the 2026 engine regulations, Mercedes have found an ally in Renault who insists the rules are “unlikely to be changed”.

Last August Formula 1 signed off on the 2026 engine regulations with the sport’s bosses agreeing to almost triple the amount of electrical power produced by the MGU-K to create a 50/50 split between battery and engine power.

That saw the likes of Audi, Ford and Honda all sign up for the 2026 championship with Audi taking over the Sauber team, Ford teaming up with Red Bull, and Honda doing a U-turn on their F1 exit to power Aston Martin.

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

Renault opposed to tweaking 2026 power unit regulations

But lately there have been a few voices of discontent over the split between engine and battery power with Christian Horner warning of a “technical Frankenstein“.

“F1 needs to be wheel-to-wheel racing,” said the Red Bull team boss. “We can’t afford to lose that challenge and have drivers downshifting on the straights to regenerate batteries.”

His Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff scoffed at Horner’s complaints, saying: “I think what frightens him is maybe that his engine programme is not coming along and maybe he wants to kill it that way.”

The debate is beginning to divide the paddock as while Ferrari are firmly in Horner’s camp, Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer says Renault support Mercedes in this one.

“Speaking to the powertrain guys we want to keep it as is,” he told the media including PlanetF1.com.

“Now I don’t deeply follow it, I wasn’t involved in the negotiations and the reasons why, but I asked them those questions. And yeah, we’re happy to keep it as is. So I would imagine it’s going to be unlikely that it’s changed.”

Asked about Horner’s ‘Frankenstein’ fears, Szafnauer says that’s premature as Formula 1 doesn’t know what the regulations will be when it comes to the 2026 chassis.

He cited fears over 2022’s all-new technical regulations as a reason to avoid scaremongering.

“We haven’t quite gotten that far yet, we haven’t determined that yet,” he said. “I hope it isn’t a Frankenstein package.

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“I remember being in all the meetings to determine what the regulations are now, and everybody, including me, said all the racing is going to be horrible, all the cars are going to look the same, it’s not going to be F1 anymore, and all that.

“That really didn’t happen.

“So it’s hard to predict the future, especially when the [chassis] regulations haven’t been determined yet. Hopefully we’ll get there.”

Red Bull rumours emerge

But while Horner suggested his concerns have valid as Red Bull Powertrains are further ahead in their development of the 2026 engines than rivals, Szafnauer says he’d “be surprised” if that was true.

“It’s one of those things where you have to have perfect information to be able to compare those two things. And I don’t,” he added.

“I know where we are. I don’t know where the rest of them are.

“I worked at other engine manufacturers before. So I can only imagine what Honda have done already, once they’ve decided that they’re going to be in. So I’d be surprised [about Red Bull].”

In fact the opposite is being reported by Auto Motor und Sport in Germany.

According to the publication, Red Bull are “actually slightly behind schedule” with the new Powertrains Division having suffered “teething problems.

“The talk is that the combustion engine from Milton Keynes is about ten HP below the target.”

“There are teething problems, which is normal for a project that has been pulled up from white paper. The talk is that the combustion engine from Milton Keynes is about ten hp below the target.”

This is in contrast to Mercedes who are said to be the “best out of the starting blocks” with Red Bull still ahead of Ferrari. “All rumours. But engineers like to talk to each other,” added AMuS.

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