Mercedes insist it was “well understood” that Formula 1 cars could use the combustion engine to charge the battery under the new regulations for 2026.
However teams have discovered this will mean the combustion engine has to be used to charge the battery in some circumstances, when the driver is not demanding full power for acceleration.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has urged changes to the regulations, which were first published in August last year. He said last week the rules should ensure “the combustion engine doesn’t just become a generator to recharge a battery.”
“I think that could easily be addressed with just tuning the ratio between combustion and electrical power,” said Horner. He proposed increasing the proportion of combustion power by up to 10%.
However the managing director of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains, Hywel Thomas, insisted this was not an unforeseen consequence of the new regulations. Thomas told media including RaceFans that using the engine to charge the battery was considered an acceptable change because F1 will introduce fully sustainable fuels at the same time.
Asked whether the engine will be used to charge the battery, Thomas said: “That will be a thing.
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“We will be running the engine when the driver is not asking for much torque in order to charge the battery. It was well understood when we were coming up with these regulations that was going to be a part of them.
“With the fuel being sustainable fuel, it was considered that that was an acceptable and relevant approach to that problem.”
A similar technique was used by some F1 teams in the early 2010s, in order to channel exhaust gases from the engine into the diffuser to generate more downforce. Max Verstappen, who has evaluated Red Bull’s simulations of the 2026 regulations, compared the feel of the 2026 engine to those cars.
“The way under braking it literally just almost stays flat-out I think it will just create a very weird atmosphere. It’s a bit like with the blown diffusers just being flat-out almost. For me it just looks very weird.”
Verstappen and Horner’s warnings over the implications of F1’s 2026 rules package has been met with scepticism from some rivals. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff accused Horner of “doom mongering”.
However Verstappen claimed some teams are playing politics by supporting the rules despite the problems he believes they will create.
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“I know that people think they will have an advantage so they will say that the regulations are good. I think from my side, just looking at it as a racing driver, it looks wrong. But you always have these politics in Formula 1 where one team thinks ‘ah yeah, I think we can take an advantage out of this and we will say it’s great’.
“But at the end of the day, we have to look into what is good for the sport. And I think at the moment with how it’s looking I don’t think it’s good for the sport.”
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