By the end of the year, the FIA and Formula 1 will define the 2026 aerodynamic regulations, which will go hand in hand with those on engines published last summer. The next generation of power units will see a reduction in the performance of the internal combustion engine and a power increase of the electric part, which will triple. The MGU-H, the electric motor generator that has been recharging the battery since 2014 by converting the residual thermal energy in the exhaust gases, put into rotation directly by the turbine, will also disappear. Precisely in this area, the new regulations provide for an important novelty, which will lead to the ban of one of the most popular solutions of the hybrid era.
Goodbye to the split-turbo architecture
The new engine regulations will focus on experimenting with alternative fuels and researching batteries and electric motors. The heat engine, on the other hand, will be subject to strict geometric constraints, even more invasive than the current ones. The turbocharger assembly is no exception. In fact, the 2026 regulation imposes a diameter for the compressor between 100 and 110 mm, while the turbine will have an external diameter between 95 and 105 mm. Most importantly, however, a maximum distance between the turbine and compressor impellers of 175 mm is imposed.
Considering how the internal combustion engine is much longer than 17 cm, the new regulation effectively bans the architecture of the split-turbo. First introduced by Mercedes and then gradually taken up by the competition, the solution provides for the spacing of the turbine and compressor, no longer conceived as a single block. The two elements are connected by a rotating shaft located in the middle of the internal combustion unit banks and the MGU-H is also placed between them. Although the second electric motor will disappear from 2026, the split-turbo would have guaranteed important advantages in terms of compromise between aerodynamic dimensions and combustion engine performance.
In fact, with the compressor separated from the turbine, the fresh air directed to the engine absorbs less heat from the exhaust ducts, maintaining itself at a lower temperature.
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Similar benefits ensured the popularity of the split-turbo in the first era of hybrid power units in Formula 1, a solution inspired by helicopter turbines. In 2026, however, engine manufacturers will no longer be able to separate turbine and compressor or at least not with the same distances used up to now. Nothing prevents the manufacturers from continuing to distance the two elements as far as possible, but they will no longer be able to do so between the cylinder banks, provided they do not increase the overall height.