Key aspects of the 2023 aerodynamic rule changes and the brand-new 2026 power units

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Formula 1 has finally approved the 2026 F1 engine regulations, but the Technical Regulations will undergo several key changes for the coming season as well. F1Technical’s Balázs Szabó explains what to expect from the new regulations.

Teams and manufacturers have been long waiting for the announcement of the key changes to Formula One’s Technical Regulations with the FIA finally announcing the details of the 2026 power unit regulations and a wide package of aerodynamic changes for 2023 on Tuesday.

The governing body’s World Motor Sport Council published a raft of new F1 rules and regulations with which they aim to tackle the propoising phenomenon, but all eyes were set on the all-new engine regulations. The new engines will be as powerful as ever, but some key aspects have been changed that will not only allow new manufacturers to embark on an F1 project, but will also force the current engine suppliers to work on their actual engine design and architecture.

Maintaining the spectacle – The 2026 power units will have similar performance to the current designs, utilising high-power, high-revving V6 internal combustion engines and avoiding excessive performance differentiation to allow for improved raceability. The new power units will continue to provide over 1,000 horsepower.

Environmental sustainability – The 2026 power units will include an increase in the deployment of electrical power to up to 50% and utilise a 100% sustainable fuel. The sport has conducted a thorough analysis with partner ARAMCO which will drive the technology toward a more sustainable future, meaning that no new fossil carbon will be burned.

No exotic materials – The new rules will limit the use of costly exotic materials within the new power unit design with the aim of reducing costs. The FIA will also mandate recycling options with parts of the batteries and elements of the MGU-K needed to be recycled.

Less fuel – While cars use around 100kg of fuel during a race in the current era of the power units, the sport aims to cut that down to just 70kg of fuel during a grand prix. As a reminder: cars used over 160kg of fuel ahead of the era of the hybrid power units.

Three times the electrical power – The current power units generate 120kW of energy through the MGU-K and MGU-H. That will be increased by a massive amount as the new MGH-K will produce around 350kW that is equivalent to around 469bhp.

Safer technology - The MGU-K, the battery and the control electronics will be all placed within the safety cell with which the sport aims to make cars safer.

Motor generator unit – heat – The often-debated MGU-H will disappear in 2026 altogether. This is a move and gesture towards the new potential manufacturers who should be able to join the sport in a smoother way thanks to the simpler hybrid technology. The removal of the MGU-H could make life thougher for drivers as the phenomenon of turbo-lag could return. Currently, the energy supply from the ES is mostly needed during sharp accelerations to avoid turbo-lag.

Fuel-flow - Since the introduction of the current hybrid units, teams have been required to fit a fuel flow meter which ensures their power units do not consume fuel at a rate greater than 100kg per hour. That will change with the introduction of the new era of power units as the fuel-flow rate will be limited by energy rather than mass or volume.

Financial Sustainability – Financial Regulations regarding the Power Units will reduce the overall costs for competitors whilst retaining the cutting-edge technological showcase that is at the core of Formula 1.

Manufacturers will be allowed to spend $95million for the 2023-25 seasons and then $130m from the start of the new engine rules in 2026. However, the costs generated through the development of their current-generation engines are excluded from the initial $95m that manufacturers are allowed to spend until the end of 2025.

New manufacturers will receive a concession with the rules grant them an extra $10m for their first two seasons and $5m in the third.

Attractive to new Power Unit Manufacturers – The regulations are intended to make it possible and attractive for newcomers to join the sport at a competitive level.

Further limitation - During the current season, drivers are allowed to use 3 ICE, 3 TC, 3 MGU-H, 3 MGU-K, 2 ES, 2 CE and 8 EX without penalty. When the use exceeds these amounts of power unit elements the driver of that car will receive grid penalties in the following race.

The new power unit era will limit drivers to just three ICEs and exhausts, and two energy stores and MGU-Ks each season. However, they will be allowed to use one additional of each element for the first year of the new rules.

The new engine formula will come into force in 2026, but teams will waste no time and will be busy with developing the best power unit for the new era considering the fact that the in-season development and the development in general will be limited after the new units go through the homologation process.

With the engine manufacturers having their hands full with the power unit development, the team’s engineers will also need to conduct serious research work in preparation for the 2023 season after the governing body announced a raft of changes to the second year of the new-generation cars.

The new F1 machines produced an unexpected phenomenon of vertical oscillations, which has been referred to as aerodynamic porpoising. The appearance of this phenomenon has raised concerns about safety and the health and wellbeing of the drivers. While most of the teams managed to control the vertical oscillations in recent races, several outfits, mainly the reigning champion squad Mercedes has been pushing for changes for both this year and the following season.

The first set of changes will arrive as soon as at the Belgian Grand Prix with the FIA introducing more stringent test that will revolve around the central floor flexibility and will re-define the stiffness requirements of plank and skids around the thickness measurement holes.

As far as the 2023 changes, are concerned, the modifications will be much deeper with teams forced to make key changes to their floor/diffuser design.

Floor - The all-new cars produce the majority of their downforce with the help of their underfloor rather than through their outer surfaces such as the front and rear wing. The new floors feature large Venturi tunnels on the underside to help direct the air, generating incredible levels of downforce that are less sensible of the distraction of turbulent air created by front-running cars.

According to the changes to the technical rules regarding the underfloor, the floor edges will be raised by 15mm. Originally, Mercedes pushed for a raise of 25mm, but the majority of the teams stated that it would not be possible to accommodate such a change to this critical area of the car around this time when every team is deep into the work on their 2023 cars. Teams were also worried about the cost implications of the relative late approval of such a significant change.

Diffusor - As the FIA deemed that the changes to the floor edges might turn out to be not sufficient enough to tame the floor, it confirmed further changes to the diffusor. The diffuser throat height will also be raised and its edges stiffened. The Paris based association claimed that the wider package of changes was created in a way that should "avoid any impact on the teams' designs of the mechanical components".

New measure device – Although the governing body already measures the vertical loads that act upon the cars, an additional sensor will be introduced in 2023 which will allow the FIA to monitor porpoising more effectively.

New roll hoop rules – Following Alfa Romeo driver Zhou Guanyu’s horrific crash at the start of the 2022 British Grand Prix, the governing body has approved changes to the 2023 technical regulations in a bid to increase the roll hoop strengths. First of all, teams will be required to design a rounded top of the roll hoop, which will reduce the chance of it digging into the ground during an accident. According to the FIA’s analysis, the latter was the reason why the roll hoop came off the chassis during the accident.

Furthermore, the FIA will implement a change to ensure a minimum height for the point of application of the homologation test while a new physical homologation test will be created where the load pushes the roll hoop in the forward direction.