Hywel Thomas, managing director of the Mercedes F1 engine department, spoke about the next generation F1 power unit in 2026.
F1’s next-generation power unit regulations pose significant challenges in optimizing overall packages. From 2026, F1 will simplify the current regulations by phasing out the MGU-H, with an emphasis on electrification and the introduction of sustainable fuels.
Also, the rules were designed in an attempt to attract new producers to the sport. And it’s already working, with Audi (at least) committed to becoming an engine supplier and Porsche expected to partner with Red Bull, but talks are falling apart. Still interested.
“However, the changes for 2026 are quite extensive. It is a completely new power unit,” explains Hywel Thomas, managing director of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrain.
“We are looking forward to the challenge and are excited by the increased electrification of the power unit and the increased size of the MGU-K to date.”
“It’s very important, it’s very different and it links well with what’s happening in the road car environment.”
“And, of course, there will be a corresponding reduction in the power output of the internal combustion engine, but the change to run on sustainable fuel will be another challenge.”
“Fuel changes are going to be a big part of this regulatory set.”
“It is very important for sport and for everyone to tackle environmental issues at the right time.”
F1 has frozen current power units until the end of 2025 to ease the burden on manufacturers. This was done to prevent parallel development programs that would have little effect but increase costs.
There are also limits to the scale of development that can be used, particularly the time of the test bench. Manufacturers considering homologating power units for use in F1 must comply with these regulations.
That means a company like Audi won’t be committing unlimited resources to projects before it officially joins F1 in 2026.
On the contrary, companies like Mercedes have already invested resources to understand what they know about the future of F1, even if the ruleset is not finalised. It is a process that can only be accelerated now.
“We have a project team working towards 2026,” confirmed Hywel-Thomas.
“We continue to focus on our current programs.”
“Some projects, like Formula E, are coming to an end. This means we can move other people to the 2026 program. This is exciting.”
“One of the things that comes with the current regulations is that from now until 2026 the regulations will greatly reduce the amount of engineering and the amount of business that works on existing products by reducing dynamo hours and I encourages
“So it’s a bit of a portable feast.”
“We already have a sizeable project team and we’ve been working on it for some time, as everyone does.”
“And as we move forward, 2026 is a long way off, but it’s approaching so fast that we need to make more progress.”
Red Bull Powertrains is in a similar position to Mercedes, but being a de facto new manufacturer, the details are different.
For now, it is developing its own engines for Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri, although it may partner with another brand in the future.
“It might seem a long way off, but from an engine point of view it’s still very much a possibility tomorrow,” explained Horner.
“There has been a lot of talk back and forth around these regulations, but it is not just the technical specifications. It is the sporting regulations, and of course the introduction of the financial regulations.”
“Like all these things, we have to find a middle ground. Knowing that the regulations have been loosened, we are actually designing engines with fixed compression ratios and other fixed architectures. It has moved a bit from’ r the starting point of the discussion.”
“But I think it’s good to have that clarity now so we can work towards 2026.”
Category: F1 / mercedes / F1 machine