Formula 1’s summer break silence was shattered on Tuesday when the FIA confirmed a batch of significant rule changes, as agreed by the World Motor Sport Council.
Alongside details on tweaks to aero regulations to control porpoising and tougher hoop standards, we’ve been waiting for something for some time: confirmation of the 2026 powertrain regulations.
This season may seem like a long way off, but in terms of designing and developing an all-new PU, it really isn’t that far away. And the significance is that the VW Group and its associated brands Porsche and Audi have waited for final confirmation of the rules before formally committing to enter the sport in 2026.
Since these settlements have now been agreed and published, we have to assume that the two newcomers are happy and that their plans will be officially announced soon.
Not that there will be too many surprises. Porsche is teaming up with Red Bull Racing and will produce its new PU in conjunction with the new RB Powertrains division which is being set up in Milton Keynes, while Audi is preparing its own independent V6 project and will take over and rebrand Sauber, or what is currently known through a simple sponsorship deal as Alfa Romeo.
It’s been over 30 years since Porsche’s last disastrous shot at F1 with the terrible V12 it supplied to the ill-fated Footwork team in 1991. Since then there have been a few false auroras as the VW Group kept tabs in grand prix races, but never entered.
The company took part in the discussions that led to the development of the current hybrid rules, introduced in 2014, but after doing so never showed up. The Dieselgate scandal hasn’t helped F1’s place on the priority list.
Now the time has come and a combination of technical, financial and marketing factors have come together to make it so. F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, once in charge of evaluating an Audi, has gone out of his way to ensure the two German brands are ready to engage.
They had a long list of boxes to tick before fully committing to F1.
Basically, they wanted a set of technical regulation changes big enough to send established rivals back to the drawing board, putting new entrants at a disadvantage.
Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari will enter 2026 having worked with the current regulations for a full 12 seasons, not counting the years of development leading up to the start of hybrid V6 rules in 2014. Honda, should it ultimately decide to pursue a project 2026, is only a year late.
In other words, the more changes there are for 2026, and the more elements established players have to rethink, the better it will be for Audi and Porsche.
|2026 Formula 1 engine rules changes – summary|
|MGU-K||Now provides up to 50% power|
|Fuel||Switch to fully sustainable fuel with zero CO2 emissions|
Key to all of this was the removal of the MGU-H, the device that scavenges and returns energy to the turbocharger, something that was agreed to long ago, a concession to newcomers that established manufacturers reluctantly accepted.