Formula 1 Will Look Very Different in 2026

Image credit: Unsplash

In the motorsport world, most attention is trained firmly on the start of the 2023 Formula 1 season. With the teams learning plenty of lessons from last year, expectations are that the field will be more tightly packed and the championship battle will be much closer. Based on these predictions, it is expected that F1 fans will be more likely to have a flutter on the Grands Prix this year and bookies are offering bonuses and promotions such as free bets that can be used for this in anticipation of this increase in demand. 

But in recent weeks and months, there has also been a lot of talk about how Formula 1 will look in the future. Despite only introducing the new aero rules last year, F1’s bosses are already focused on the next major rule changes that are scheduled to be introduced in 2026. 

While there will be a lot of details still to be ironed out between then and now, the current predictions, rumours, announcements, and leaks are giving us an understanding of just how different the landscape of Formula 1 will be in just a few years’ time. 

New Engines

A lot was made about Formula 1’s new turbo hybrid engines when they were introduced in 2014. The rationale for their use was to make the sport more relevant to road car development and to improve the sustainability of F1 cars themselves. 

For the most part, this was achieved. Modern F1 cars use a turbo to recycle exhaust gases and two energy capture systems to charge a battery. However, one of these capture systems has proven to be a headache for teams and a barrier to new engine manufacturers entering the sport. 

Known as the MGU-H, it is a clever contraption that captures energy from the heat in the exhaust gases. It may be clever, but it’s also complicated and is not translatable to road cars, removing any incentive for brands to throw their hat into the ring. Therefore, the MGU-H will be removed from 2026 onwards. But the MGU-K, which extracts energy from the wheels during braking, will get a three-fold increase in capacity

Removing the MGU-H will have a side effect too. It could make cars harder to drive as it will result in increased turbo lag under acceleration. 

Image credit: Unsplash

More Major Brands

The updated engine rules were designed to encourage more car brands to enter the sport and Formula 1 bosses have had their wishes granted. 

Within the last few months, both Audi and Ford have announced that they’ll be entering the sport. The German company will be developing its own engine from scratch, while Ford will be putting its name on the Red Bull power unit. 

On top of that, Honda has reversed its decision to leave the sport. Several teams are rumoured to be interested in working with the Japanese company for a 2026 engine. Ferrari, Alpine (Renault), and Mercedes will all continue their long-running partnerships with F1 too. 

Talks have also been ongoing for Porsche to enter Formula 1, though this is currently looking less likely at present. Andretti is also attempting to find a way to get a place on the grid, with its most recent approach involving a partnership with Cadillac. 

Improved Safety

Formula 1 gets safer every year but the FIA never rests in its quest to improve in this area. While no firm details have been provided yet, there are suggestions that F1 cars could be fitted with active crash avoidance systems from 2026 onwards. 

These would work in a similar way to the systems installed on road cars, using sensors to detect excessive closing speeds between themselves and other cars and objects in front of it. However, it’s not yet clear whether F1 cars would be fitted with automatic braking systems like road cars, as they could be easily activated when they shouldn’t. 

The open wheels may finally be going away too, using arches like those seen in Formula E and IndyCar. These will provide aerodynamic and sustainability benefits, but they’ll also improve safety since wheel-to-wheel collisions usually cause a car to become airborne, like in the accident that saw Mark Webber’s Red Bull flip over in 2010.

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