The publication of the technical regulations on the next generation of power units expected to debut in 2026 has already raised the first questions. One of these is how the FIA and Formula 1 have achieved the weakening of the thermal engine, while keeping intact the architecture of 6 cylinders with a displacement of 1.6 liters. The power of the electrical part has in fact been almost tripled, but the organizers have announced performances in line with the current onesthus assuming a decrease in performance by the combustion engine.
The second MGU-H electric motor coupled to the turbo disappears from the 2026 power units, while the MGU-K electric motor, which delivers power directly to the transmission line and wheels, will be re-evaluated. Its power will in fact rise from the current 120 kW to 350 kW, the equivalent of about 476 horsepower, which however will only be available up to 300 km / h, since at higher speeds the regulation imposes a progressive limitation up to 150 kW from 340 km / h forward. The MGU-K will thus experience a considerable weight gainthe minimum value of which will go from the current 7 kg to 16 kg, with a consequent increase in volumes as well. All this will create packaging problems, i.e. installation on board the car in that complex interlocking game that must also take into account the external aerodynamic needs. To complicate everything, there will be the obligation to combine the battery, inverter and electric motor in a single blockwhich must be enclosed in a single casing to better guarantee electrical insulation and the safety of the rider in the event of an accident.
Faced with such an increase in electric power, enthusiasts soon doubted how that of the combustion engine was limited to balance performance. By simplistically assuming a peak power of the present power units of 1000 horsepower, being known the current maximum power of the hybrid of 163 horsepower, one obtains a limit power around the 840 horsepower for the 2022 thermal thrusters. Assuming the maintenance of the 1000 horsepower overall also in 2026, as announced by the organizers, if the MGU-K rises to 475 horsepower, it goes without saying that the thermal unit will have to drop to 525 horsesa decrease of 315 horsepower roughly equal to 37% compared to current values.
In 2026, Formula 1 will switch to newly developed fuels, obtained from a blend of bio-components and synthetic gasolines. It will be granted great freedom for the partner companies of the single teams and specialized in the development of fuelsrenouncing to impose a highly restrictive chemical composition as defined in the current regulations, so much so that the density may range between 720 and 785 kg / m3. FIA and Formula 1 have therefore estimated a relative chemical differentiation between the different fuels on the grid in 2026, intended to encourage research, so much so that there is no pre-established value of energy density in the regulation. On the contrary, the chemical energy contained in each kilo of fuel will have to fall within an inclusive window between 38 and 41 MJ / kg, with the possibility that some engineers may therefore make use of gasoline that is more energetically dense than the competition. To ensure fair competition, the FIA has therefore decided to abandon the current approach that regulates the maximum amount of fuel injected into the engine per unit of time, equal to 100 kg / h over 10500 rpm. Instead, a limit will be imposed on the energy flow entering the heat engine, equal to 3000 MJ / h over 10500 rpm. The Federation will always measure the mass flow rate of petrol through the flow meters and will estimate the corresponding energy flow using the energy density values of the fuels measured in the laboratory. In fact, the regulation reads: “In verifying compliance with the energy flow, the mass flow of fuel will be recorded by the flow meters and will be converted in the standard control unit into energy flow using the energy density and latent heat of evaporation of the gasoline measured by the FIA”.
Since the limit to the energy flow entering the motor starting from 2026 is known, it is possible to make a comparison with the current framework. In fact, assuming an energy density of 41 MJ / h, the maximum allowed by the 2026 regulation, on new engines the mass flow rate entering the engine cannot exceed 73 kg / h, a value well below the 100 kg / h injectable in 2022. In doing so, approximately 70 kg of fuel will be sufficient for the completion of the race, contributing to a lightening of the racing cars. To this it must be added, however, that currently exploited gasolines are energetically denser than incoming fuels on the next generation of power units. By exploiting the information collected by FormulaPassion.itit is estimated that overall the injectable energy in the engine in 2026 will be approximately 30% lower compared to that usable on the engines currently in use.
The decrease in the mass flow rate of fuel and its energy density are therefore the main causes of the decrease in performance of the thermal engine, but not the only ones. By leafing through the regulations, one learns how the boost pressure of the turboi.e. the compression of the air entering the engine, a parameter closely related to its performance, it will be limited to 4.8 absolute bar. There are currently no regulation constraints, but as learned from FormulaPassion.it it is customary to use boost pressures between 5.5 and 6 absolute bar, meaning that the pressure drop in 2026 will be significant and close to 20%. In the end, on new thermal engines the compression ratio will be reducedindicative parameter of the volume spaced from the pistons in the cylinders and strictly connected with the thermal performance, which will go from 18 to 16.
In summary, the weakening of the heat engine was achieved primarily by the decrease in the flow rate of injectable fuel in the engine, which is accompanied by a partial drop in the energy content of the gasoline itself, the turbo boost pressure and the compression ratio. The impression is that the measures adopted could lead to an immediate decrease of more than 37% estimated albeit spannometrically, making it necessary to research the engine engineers to recover performance up to 1000 horsepower overall. At present however there is still little information available to the teams themselves and to the Federation to predict exactly what the technological picture will be between now and 2026, with the fog that will clear up along the way with the start of bench tests and more detailed simulations.
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