F1 has decided on its next regulations (from 2026), both technical, financial and sporting, concerning the power unit.
For this new era, although the changes will not be as drastic as in 2014, Red Bull will build its own engine with its Red Bull Powertrains facilities, probably in a joint venture with Porsche. Audi will arrive from 2026 too, probably with Sauber.
However, two pitfalls must be avoided with this new regulation. Two pitfalls seen in 2014. On the one hand, the disparity of performance on set: in 2014, Mercedes crushed the competition, and the suspense with it. On the other hand, it will be necessary to make life somewhat easier for new entrants to the Volkswagen group, to avoid a new Honda-type disaster.
For this, the regulations have provided for the coup: new manufacturers will receive $ 5 million in 2025 and double in 2023 and 2024, to enable them to upgrade.
Christian Horner appreciates these efforts, since Red Bull will have a new engine manufacturer in 2026, whether it is called Red Bull Powertrains or Porsche. But is it enough? Isn’t the challenge of building a new power unit too big for Milton Keynes?
“The engine is changing, but there are a large number of elements that we can transpose from one regulation to another. »
“But for a newcomer, when you’re starting from scratch, it’s a huge challenge. »
“Even if the FIA tries to have a more prescriptive engine [dans sa conception]there is always performance to seek. Formula 1 engineers constantly show how creative they are in finding performance. »
“The most important weak points for a newcomer are twofold. The first is that we have to catch up, we have to try to catch up with nearly 10 years of regulations, know-how and knowledge that we don’t have. »
“And within the budget constraints that exist, $10 million [de bonus] for a newcomer is quite frugal, especially for the engine, to be able to catch up with knowledge and know-how. And in particular with the transposition, from one regulation to another, of internal combustion engine technology. »
Given the scale of the project, isn’t Red Bull Powertrains already behind schedule for 2026? Horner takes stock.
“The other challenge for a newcomer to these financial regulations is to build their facilities, because you have to start from scratch. In 55 weeks, we created a factory and we produced our first combustion engine, which is a huge achievement. »
“But there is still a long, long way to go in terms of manufacturing capacity and so on. And there are deadlines for that, some of which are slightly unrealistic. As a newcomer, it’s a huge burden. »
“We just want there to be a plateau with a fair level of performance – in that we don’t want to outperform what the current engine makers have, but we want to be able to get to a point where we can have the same thing. »
Christian Horner is concerned about one point: what will happen if an engine manufacturer (Red Bull Powertrains at random) completely misses its target in 2026, like Honda in 2015? Will there be compensation provided to allow him to catch up?
“Basically, the safety net that was in the regulations is something that will have to be reviewed over time. If a manufacturer misses the mark… what is this indemnity, this compensation that is intended to correct this – so that we don’t have a big massive disparity in performance, as we saw when introducing the era V6 2014? It is a work in progress. »
So why did Red Bull produce a classic combustion engine in its factory? To practice or because this engine will be really useful for 2026?
“The engine we have created is based on knowledge that has been discussed in the power unit technical forums. »
“So luckily it’s not entirely unrelated to the regulations and it was important for us to have this very first engine designed and produced by Red Bull. It was a historic moment for the company to see this engine come to life just before the summer holidays. »
“But now clarity on regulations, turbo capacity, compression ratios, piston specs, etc., all of that allows development to continue into the timeframe to 2026, which, in a context of cost control, represents a significant challenge. »