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F1 will usher in the era of driver-operated KERS (Kinetic Energy Recycling System) supplementation from 2026 by allowing a high-speed 'override mode' function into the energy distribution power unit map.

Caterham CT01 Steering Wheel

Despite the elimination of the MGU-H, the turbocharged, 1.6-litre V6 internal combustion engine element of the power unit will be reduced from 550-560kW to 400kW (542 hp) and the battery will increase from 150kW to 350kW (476 hp) to compensate for this power loss. It was previously announced.

The latest draft of the 2026 power unit regulations announced by the FIA introduces some new functions for the more powerful hybrid system to help improve wheel-to-wheel racing.

The desire to have the ability to switch with the incoming power unit rather than having all the energy distributed by the systems during a lap has been known for a long time.

However, the details of such a system have not yet been officially announced. Although this final draft of the Regulations is not all-inclusive, Article 5.4.8 sets out some of the framework.

The first part of clause 5.4.8 provides for energy distribution up to 345km/h from the ERS-K hybrid system.

The second part includes a mode called 'override mode' by the FIA, where the vehicle can use additional power to accelerate to 355km/h.

This secondary function will give a more strategic aspect to energy delivery, requiring the driver to decide if and when to use it once it becomes available. The similarity of this concept to the KERS function that F1 had between 2009 and 2013 is observed.

Given how much reliance is placed on the hybrid aspect of the power unit from 2026, it means drivers won't always be able to use 'override mode'. If they do this, they may risk putting themselves in an energy deficit later in the round or for the next few rounds.

Going wheel-to-wheel with a driver will be just one aspect of how this new system will be used by drivers and engineers alike. Because they will try to get the most out of the car throughout a lap, during challenges and over a race distance.

The 2026 engine regulations bring together the most manufacturers on the grid since 2008, while the four existing engine suppliers will be joined by Audi and Ford (via Red Bull Powertrains).

Another step change over current cars will be the addition of extra-action aero to help reduce drag on the straights.

Text and Photos.


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