Toto Wolff updates on 2026 Mercedes power unit plans with ‘moonshot project’ fears revealed

Thomas Maher
Toto Wolff, Mercedes, 2024 Chinese Grand Prix.

Toto Wolff has offered an update into how he sees the 2026 Mercedes power unit developing.

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff believes the power unit being developed for the new 2026 regulations is hitting targets that should be enough to be “very competitive”.

F1 introduces very different power unit regulations in 2026, with an increased focus on electrical power that will see the ratio of combustion versus electrification shift to a 50/50 balance.

Toto Wolff: Mercedes have ambitious targets

Alongside the chassis regulations that will coincide with the new power units, F1 looks set for a major shake-up in terms of the formbook as there is simply no guarantee of any team or manufacturer nailing both chassis and power unit regulations straight away.

This is proving a major factor in the driver market, with drivers no longer certain of where may prove competitive in 2026 regardless of a team’s current performance level.

This is particularly pertinent for Mercedes, who are currently hunting a driver to replace the departing Lewis Hamilton. While the team has struggled for race-winning pace throughout the current ground effect era, Mercedes nailed the last major power unit regulations change in 2014 and set themselves up for years of dominance when combined with strong chassis designs.

This means that, at a time when Mercedes is openly courting the likes of Max Verstappen as the Dutch driver’s future with Red Bull seemingly isn’t as assured as it once was, Wolff believes his team could be a prime destination for a driver evaluating their options on the driver market.

“I think we’re in a very good position for 2026, we are ambitious with the targets we set ourselves for the power unit, for the batteries, for the fuel,” Wolff said after the Chinese Grand Prix.

“If we’re able to produce a decent chassis, we’re a good value proposition – but who knows?”

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Asked what he is doing to sell the Mercedes project to drivers he may be chatting with regarding the vacant cockpit, and what he might be saying in order to try convincing them a competitive future is in store, Wolff said he is relying simply on the facts and has no interest in attempting to oversell what Mercedes’ engine department is achieving.

“I’m really not good at selling, to be honest,” he said.

“It is down to facts. Overstating something, in order to attract someone or something isn’t the right way.

“I think we are having a development trajectory, we have set ourselves ambitious targets that we believe are necessary in order to perform on a strong level.”

But Wolff admitted there is always the possibility that, regardless of how strong the Mercedes power unit may turn out to be, there is always the danger of one of the manufacturers developing something far beyond what the others may have figured out.

“These are facts on the current understanding but obviously, if there’s somehow someone from our competitors that develops a moonshot project, who knows?” he said.

“I’m not good at convincing, I just say what I think it is.”

With Mercedes’ High-Performance Powertrains developing the 2026 power unit under the new regulations, which also see a switch to fully sustainable fuels, Wolff said the success with the 2014 regulations change is no guarantee of succeeding in the same manner this time around.

“There is a certain degree of confidence that I have in our abilities and resources in HPP and, 2014, we got that right but there’s no guarantee we’re going to get it right in ’26,” he said.

“But we are giving it the utmost effort and we have set targets that we believe that are high enough and ambitious enough to have a very competitive power unit.

“2014 was obviously more of a journey into the unknown because it was such a change of regulation, but this is a little bit of a similar situation.”

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