F1 Just Updated Its Power Unit Regs for 2026. Here’s What to Expect

F1 is toying with something called "override mode" that'll sound familiar if you're an IndyCar fan.

If you’re one of the many Formula 1 fans getting a little tired of the dominance of Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen, there’s a good chance you’ve got your eyes firmly set on 2026. That’s when we’ll see a massive change in power unit regulations and—in theory—a shake-up in the current hierarchy. Those regulations just got an overhaul, and we’ll run you through a few key changes so you know what to expect.

The fundamental power unit regulations have remained the same. The fuels powering the cars still need to be fully sustainable, and teams will be able to use less of those fuels thanks to a more efficient engine that can still make over 1,000 horsepower. The electrical components of the power unit are still going to become more prevalent, and they’ll still use energy more efficiently than they currently do. What we’re talking about today are some minor tweaks that can help that general picture come into better focus.

If you’re looking to check out the regulations directly, you’re in luck; the FIA not only publishes its regulations on its website but also highlights any alterations to the text with a pink-colored font. The most recent 2026 power unit regulations were approved by the World Motorsport Council and published on March 29, 2024. You can also check out previous technical regulations dating back to 2018 if you’re the kind of human who revels in details.


Override Mode

If you’ve heard anything about these updated regs, you’ve probably heard about something called “override mode.” Even though we’re still looking at 1,000 horsepower engines, the actual power coming from the combustion element will be reduced from 560 kW down to 400 kW, or 535 bhp. The electrical part of the power unit is getting a power boost, from 150kW up to 350kW, or 470bhp — and it looks like drivers will also be able to access a little extra power courtesy of something called “override mode.”

By enabling “override mode,” drivers can access a boost of power for a temporary amount of time that can increase top speed to 220.5 mph. If you’ve watched America’s IndyCar series, you’ve seen a similar concept at work; drivers are allocated a limited amount of extra power to overtake a car in front or defend against a car behind. It seems like this “override mode” will be similar.

There’s just one problem: if you check out the updated technical regulations, you’ll notice that the section on “override mode” directs you to the FIA’s sporting regulations to read more about how it’ll be deployed. However, the most recent version of the sporting regulations doesn’t mention anything about override mode; that implies that the FIA is interested in the concept but has not yet agreed upon how to implement it. Expect to see more about that in the near future.


Lambda Sensors

There’s an entire new subsection of the technical regulations centering around the addition of lambda sensors that must be “fitted into each exhaust secondary, one per cylinder bank; or a single lambda sensor fitted into the turbine tailpipe.”

You might have heard lambda sensors referred to as oxygen sensors. Basically, these small probes measure the amount of air and fuel in any unburned hydrocarbons and then can send a signal to the Electronic Control Unit  to change the fuel-to-air ratio. In your road car, lambda sensors are primarily used for decreasing emissions.

The addition of this sensor suggests a few different things. Perhaps teams are currently fiddling with their air-to-fuel ratios in a way that the FIA doesn’t agree with.

It’s more likely, though, that the fully sustainable fuels that F1 intends to implement remain something of a mystery. These fuels are going to be derived from non-food sources, general municipal waste, or even out of substances that exist in the atmosphere — but we still don’t know the exact formula that’ll be used here. Different fuels naturally require different air-to-fuel ratios to work most effectively. The FIA requires access to all data retrieved by the lambda sensor in its technical regulations; as F1 makes the leap to sustainable fuels, this will likely give the FIA reams of information to use in pursuing further carbon neutrality and tweaking regulations moving forward.


Standard PU and Ancillary Components

In 2022, F1 introduced a new set of regulations that included more standardized components for the overall design of the car itself. The 2026 power unit regulations will introduce standardized PU and ancillary components. “Ancillary components” are defined by the FIA as components “whose function is to support the primary activities of a main system to allow it to operate.”

Here, the FIA is basically saying that it can decide what kinds of PU components and ancillary items can be used by the teams, and how many can be used. It wants teams to provide the FIA with more complete lists of all those ancillary components, and if an FIA-mandated part proves to be more finicky than expected, the FIA has the power to decide whether teams can use more of those parts before receiving penalties.

The more complete component lists will allow the FIA to have greater clarity into all the revamped PUs, and the FIA is also accounting for the fact that all this new technology could need some work before it can be truly reliable.


External Power Unit Manufacturers

In the list of PU definitions, the FIA has added an entry called “External PU Manufacturer.” This essentially creates a whole new set of rules for PU manufacturers who may have withdrawn from supplying PUs, or who may be undertaking development of a PU it hopes to register with the FIA later. This “External PU Manufacturer” designation has been added into various clauses that had previously only mentioned PU Manufacturers. The rules dictating External PU Manufacturers thus far are pretty simple: don’t accept or share trade secrets, don’t swap employees around in a way that might enable them to share intellectual property with a different entity, and don’t try to merge with another PU manufacturer.

The really important thing here is that F1 and the FIA have created a specific category for companies like Cadillac, which are exploring the idea of entering Formula 1 but haven’t committed to joining just yet. The FIA is holding those interested parties accountable for the way they’ve sourced and developed their power unit technologies before they’ve even entered; it shows that F1 has expectations for prospective entries and that it has likely already fielded questions from some prospective entries about what rules they should follow.


So, What Does It All Mean for F1?

The updates to F1’s 2026 power unit regulations can seem both very vague and also overly descriptive all at once—but we can condense them down into two bigger points. 

First, F1 understands that it’ll be broaching brand-new territory with these upgrades, and it intends to navigate this new path with ample record-keeping and the ability to make changes on the fly if something isn’t working. 

Second, F1 understands that it needs to look beyond its current horizons if it intends to grow. Maybe that means adopting a different series’ in-race procedures to spice things up a little bit. Maybe that means creating a rulebook that can be as useful to prospective teams or parts suppliers as it is to current ones. 

As we draw closer to 2026, we’ll definitely see more additions and changes being made to the PU regulations. Each change will bring the future of the sport into sharper focus, and we’ll have an increasingly better idea of just what we can expect.

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