Motorsport's governing body, the FIA, held a meeting on Monday where some key decisions on Formula One power unit rules to be introduced in 2026 (formerly 2025) were made.
The changes brought about by the new regulations will be on the same level as when the current V-6 hybrid era was introduced in 2014. F1 organizers are particularly focused on reducing costs and carbon emissions while ensuring the power units are still powerful and emotive—something that has the potential to sway one or more Volkswagen Group brands to enter the sport.
VW Group's Porsche brand last decade came close to making a return to F1 as a power unit supplier and was still working on a power unit as recently as 2017. Fast forward to today and there are rumors VW Group is once again seriously considering committing both its Audi and Porsche brands to F1 as power unit suppliers, should the rules be in line with VW Group's sustainability and cost targets, which is looking likely.
The rules announced on Monday call for a 1.6-liter turbocharged V-6 in a hybrid configuration, just like the current setup. However, the new power unit will be simpler due to the elimination of the MGU-H, the electric motor-generator which recovers exhaust energy via the turbocharger. The MGU-K unit, which recovers energy from the (rear) brakes, just like a conventional hybrid, will remain and will deploy more power. The rules call for an increase in electrical power to 369 hp.
The rules also call for a power unit cost cap to be introduced, which should help smaller teams be more competitive. The organizers also want to make it easier for new suppliers to enter the sport at a competitive level. As a result, newcomers may receive concessions on budget caps for their first few seasons.
Finally, the organizers aim to introduce a 100% sustainable fuel, likely sourced from biomass and newer carbon-capture technology. The organizers are already in talks with energy companies in this regard.
It's thought that many of these changes are concessions VW Group had been seeking.
The FIA plans to submit a detailed document on the 2026 power unit rules in early 2022.
You might be wondering why VW Group would consider entering both Audi and Porsche as power unit suppliers. According to Auto Motor und Sport, the cost for each brand would be roughly half that of rivals since the costs could be shared, but the benefits received by competing in F1 would be the same as those rivals.
According to the rumor mill, VW Group has had exploratory talks with Red Bull Racing, McLaren and Williams about potential power unit deals. McLaren and Williams currently use Mercedes-Benz AMG power units while Red Bull starting next season will build its own Honda power unit under license but will need a new supplier once the 2026 rules are introduced. Red Bull's team principal, Christian Horner, has also said in the past that the team would be open to a partnership with an automaker, meaning Red Bull may even become a semi-factory team in the future.
But McLaren and Williams are not to be excluded. Williams' new CEO, Jost Capito, was previously head of the Volkswagen brand's R performance and motorsport division, and he also headed VW's successful World Rally Championship team which won three-straight titles last decade. Capito also worked at Porsche between 1989 and 1996.
Meanwhile, McLaren's team principal, Andreas Seidl, was previously head of Porsche's motorsport division and ran the automaker's successful LMP1 program in the World Endurance Championship.
We should also point out that F1's CEO, Stefano Domenicali, was previously head of VW Group's Lamborghini brand, and before that head of Ferrari's F1 team.