Formula 1 is a complex discipline where, to put it briefly, two aspects coexist. On one side, there’s the sporting aspect, related to the achievements of the drivers, and on the other, there’s the technical aspect involving engineers who, in their competition, challenge the rules set by a legislator who often struggles to curb the creativity of the design departments.
The complexity of the category is exacerbated by regulatory frameworks that change from time to time, sometimes in a disjointed manner. Take the case of the new regulatory framework that will come into effect in 2026. There’s a significant gap between what has been established on the engine front and what hasn’t been addressed yet on the aerodynamic and chassis front. Many manufacturers are almost ready to test the first prototype versions of the 2026 six-cylinder engines.
This can happen because the regulations in this regard were determined and further defined in a new draft issued at the end of June. On the other front, things are stagnant. The image is striking, but in practice, the F1 Commission is still adrift, lost amid ideas, proposals, vague objections, and assessments regarding the dimensions and weight of the cars of the future. In other words, there is still no framework for the designers who are working on engines that are in an advanced stage of development, which will be installed in cars that haven’t even been conceptualized yet. It’s a significant challenge.
The only thing known so far is that, in the process of simplifying the power units, there will be no MGU-H (Motor Generator Unit – Heat). Some engine components will have to “find a home” within the safety cell of the chassis. This begins with the MGU-K, which is increased in terms of capacity and size and will be placed near the battery, which will remain below the fuel tank.
F1: Relocating the MGU-K Creates New Challenges
Moving the motor-generator from the internal combustion part presents new challenges for both the engine manufacturers and the chassis designers. The MGU-K will have to produce more than twice the power of the current 160 horsepower. This naturally requires heavier and bulkier battery packs that will be placed in a very confined area.
The subheading is telling: relocating an electric power unit to a different area than the current one raises concerns about reliability and changes in the forces that oversee the behavior of any moving vehicle. On the first front, it’s clear that a more complex power transmission to the endothermic unit is needed, balancing two units that operate at different RPMs: about 10,500 for the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) and around 60,000 for the MGU-K.
The stresses on this transfer mechanism will be extremely high and could pose some challenges for the engine builders. The fact that technical regulations on chassis are not yet known exacerbates the difficulties because you can’t design the allocation of the electric motor in detail.
Adding more weight to a critical area like the safety cell requires a revision of the overall aero-mechanical balance. However, this has to be defined in detail once the reference rules, which are currently up in the air, are published.
F1 teams, therefore, are urging prompt decision-making because 2026 is just around the corner. In less than two years, the models must already be in an advanced deliberation phase, following extensive analysis and studies that need to be carried out based on clear regulations.
This temporal gap between the two sets of regulations is peculiar (though not surprising to those familiar with the decision-making dynamics of this discipline) and needs to be bridged as soon as possible to avoid difficulties that might not be easily overcome in an era of financial constraints.
Source: Diego Catalano for FUnoanalisitecnica