Red Bull wants a more generous concession for new Formula One engine makers from 2026, but rivals are more concerned about how an unprecedented Volkswagen Group entry plan could materialize.
Following the successful introduction of the team budget cap in 2021, F1 plans to cap spending on engine manufacturers along with the new technical regulations in 2026.
There is a June target for the completion of the first draft of these regulations, but by then a first framework has been drafted.
This is said to include concessions for “new” manufacturers, which would be Red Bull Powertains and possibly Porsche and Audi from the VW group.
The current frame is said to give the new manufacturers an additional $10 million for their first two seasons and $5 million in the third, plus a $15 million allowance for capital projects and extra dyno time.
Red Bull believes the concessions should go further, especially in relation to investment projects.
“I think the framework that actually exists within the powerplant regulations is appropriate from a newcomer status perspective, which is obviously what Red Bull Powertrains will be for 2026,” said Christian Horner, CEO of Red Bull Racing when speaking from The Race was asked about the proposed concessions.
“It’s modest hours, and I think it’s a modest $10 million in the first two years and $5 million in the third year as an allowance for a freshman.
“The most restrictive thing to look at is from a CapEx perspective because essentially only $15 million in investments in equipment is allowed from the time the cap is implemented.
“Now when you look at our competitors who in some cases appear to have invested 70 years on the engine side, it is unrealistic to think that within the next eight months you can have a fully operational and equipped facility.
“I think that’s something to watch.”
Red Bull is just weeks away from moving workers to its new Milton Keynes factory, where dynos and other equipment have been installed in recent months.
It is already planning an expansion of the new building after realizing the need for more space and intends to add more manufacturing facilities.
In addition, Red Bull is expected to sign a deal with Porsche to collaborate on the Power Unit 2026. And this is where the argument brews.
F1’s existing manufacturers are already wary of giving Red Bull, Porsche and Audi more resources for the new engine rules.
They believe that the elimination of the MGU-H from the complex energy recovery systems has already leveled the playing field and therefore fear that a competitive advantage will be given to new manufacturers.
More worrying are the remaining question marks over how exactly Porsche and Audi, which may enter F1, will work in practice and what the regulations will allow them to do.
While Red Bull is likely to work with Porsche, Audi could enter F1 with its own standalone project.
If both Porsche’s and Audi’s plans come to fruition, a pair of engine projects within the same group is an unforeseen and unusual challenge for the rulemakers to contend with.
“It is not yet clear who will actually become a supplier of aggregates and who will declare themselves a newcomer,” said Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff.
“It may well be that three companies from the same group join as new entrants.
“The picture is still very unclear, and whether or not $15m CapEx is enough, there are much bigger issues that we need to agree on — which we don’t have.”
The concern is that when manufacturers have to meet test bench limits and a budget cap, a joint project could benefit from the combination of two permits – either intentionally or accidentally if the rules are unclear or not effectively monitored.
For example, Red Bull and Porsche could both be considered new manufacturers and therefore each receive full compensation even though they may be working on the same project.
The race was told that this arrangement, which would give the engine project more than double the initial resources of existing manufacturers, is a possibility.
Then there’s a separate issue of Audi, which may run its own engine separately based on the discontinued V6 that Porsche developed before scrapping a potential F1 entry plan in 2018.
This means that the VW Group would have knowledge of two different engine projects.
There is broad agreement on the importance of ensuring segregation of intellectual property, but again there is concern as to how this might be properly monitored.
“We are very pleased that Porsche and Audi are joining Formula 1,” said Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto.
“This is great for F1. It’s also really great for us to compete with these brands.
“In terms of regulations, we know the aim is to try and complete them by June.
“There are no new discussions [but] there are still open points overall, namely financial regulations.
“We have to think about what we define as a newcomer and what advantages a newcomer has. All of this needs to be clarified and defined.
“There is also IP transmission. IP transfer should not be possible, that was agreed. How we translate that into a wording has to be decided.
“On the technical side, there are still open discussion points, many things that still need to be pushed and analyzed.
“Time is certainly very tight, so we have to work on it with high priority.”