Formula 1 prepares a revolution from 2026. The new engines that will arrive then will materialize their technological route and that of some of the large manufacturers before the new energy paradigm in full bloom. And the Volkswagen Group will jump on the scene, one of the great pending issues of Formula 1 in recent decades. In recent days, the agreement between the major Formula 1 manufacturers, FIA and Fom, has been leaked on some of the guidelines that will define their future engine scheme. All with the agreement of the VW Group, finally ready to disembark in the Great Circus from 2026. Because not everything will be electric. In fact, no one yet knows for sure what it will be.
“Climate change is misunderstood as it is considered changes over time. Actually, it is about the changes in our way of life ”The phrase of Paul Polman, the Dutch businessman and environmental champion, synthesizes one of the greatest challenges in the history of mankind: the substitution of fossil fuels for depletion and reasons environmental conditions that have allowed the highest levels of development in history. The major automakers are at the forefront of such a strategic front, and with motorsport as a crucial research and development platform. Formula 1 has revealed a specific direction these days. But other forms of motor sport are already on the launch pad with different options to shape that energy basket of the future. Who gives more?
Out current fuels
The future Formula 1 engines are also the reflection of the technological strategies of the present manufacturers. From 2026 they will also be hybrids, but one of the big decisions is to eliminate one of its two energy recovery systems, the MGU-H, which works in combination with the turbo. According to the leaked news, the hybrid recovery will only work on the rear axle and will triple its capacity compared to the current one. Its extraordinary complexity was a brake for a new actor and, apart from the great savings that its elimination will entail, it had not confirmed its relevance for the direct transfer to the large-scale road car.. This was one of the inexcusable conditions of the VW Group to enter F1, despite Porsche’s experience in the Endurance World Cup.
Another great strategic decision has to do with the incorporation of sustainable fuels from 2026, both biofuels and synthetics, which means the continuity of thermal engines for at least another five years. Conventional engines will continue to operate but will have to be designed from scratch. A decision that indicates the continuity of vehicles with thermal engines, including the millions of combustion cars that will continue to be in the running for a few decades. But already without fuel without carbon emissions. Formula 1 will thus become a research and development field in this crucial area. In fact, it is one of the reasons that the Vw Group will enter Formula 1. From Porsche it has already been recognized that its future vehicles will have electricity or sustainable fuel supply in the coming years.
Formula E and Dakar, plugged in
But in the auto industry there is no unanimity about which technology will dominate as the prime mover. And this is reflected in other engine modalities, which are working on their different technical schemes for the coming years. For example, Formula E is committed to the development of electrical energy, and for this in 2023 the Gen3 will arrive with a huge qualitative leap: power units that go from 250 to 350 kW, the equivalent of almost 500 hp of power . The battery will reduce its weight by 120 kg and the single-seaters will triple their recharging capacity with 30-second pit stops at a rate of 600 kW with fast-charging technologies that do not yet exist on the market for street cars.
But Audi has left Formula E because it did not offer enough electrical energy exploration capacity and will face the Dakar from 2022 with a sophisticated mount, the RS Q-tron, which has three electric motors and a thermal one with which it intends win the mythical raid. Precisely its organizers are also betting on zero emissions by 2030, either through vehicles with a hydrogen fuel cell or hybrids.
Hydrogen at Le Mans
Unlike other manufacturers, the VW Group’s strategy does not bet on the hydrogen fuel cell in the short and medium term. However, the World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans have already created a specific category with this energy source. From 2024 the hydrogen category will already be viable, including quick fuel refueling in the pits with mobile platforms that can be carried from one circuit to another. It has even developed a prototype, the Mission H24, which has run on the French circuit, and which will soon enter competition. In addition to facing in the future the other two hybrid categories that are born from 2023: the Hypercar and the Daytona, with the confirmed presence of an impressive list of manufacturers, starting with Ferrari for the first time in 50 years. The hybrid category will also be open to large manufacturers wishing to participate in it, with some Koreans and BMW initially interested.
The World Rally Championship is also no stranger to the new era in the world of sport to develop new technologies. At the moment, next year the Rally 1 category is born, plug-in hybrid mounts from Ford, Hyundai and Toyota, the manufacturers currently present in the championship. And also with passenger cars as the protagonists, the Pure ETCR was born in 2021, with powerful electric mounts from Hyundai, Cupra and Alfa Romeo.
The arrival of the VW Group in Formula 1, which will possibly be announced at the end of this year, will be one of the great successes of the last decades for the discipline. Not only because it is the second largest manufacturer in the world, but because of its outright rejection of its technological path for decades. Also, because its arrival confirms the trends of the industry in the next decade. Given the uncertainty in the future of the car, they are already good tracks.