F1 reveals 2026 cars – everything worth knowing


The FIA ​​has revealed the first official look at the rules for Formula 1 cars for 2026, along with several key new details including dropping the drag reduction system as we know it.

As expected, the next-generation car will be slightly shorter, slightly narrower, with the aerodynamic profile tweaked from front to rear to create more efficient cars with less drag, with the aim of making it easier to follow each other.

The reduced dimensions are part of an attempt to begin to reverse what bloated F1 cars have become, having ballooned in mass over the past few rule changes, most notably in the V6 turbo-hybrid era that began in 2014.

The DRS system, which has been used in Formula 1 since 2011, will be replaced by active aerodynamics at the front and rear wing to create a 'low drag mode', along with an MGU-K bypass system that will give the chase cars additional electric power to assist. Get past them.



There are also changes to the front wing, side skirts and floorboards to build on lessons learned from the 2022 rules era.

Major changes

the structure

  • The FIA ​​calls this the “smart car” concept. The total mass of the cars will decrease by 30 kg, the maximum wheelbase will shrink by 200 mm, the overall vehicle width will be compressed by 100 mm, and the maximum floor width will be reduced by 150 mm.
  • The wheels will remain 18 inches but the width of the front tires will decrease by 25 mm and the rear tires by 30 mm.
  • The front and side impact structures and roll collars will be revised to improve safety – without adding weight.

Aerodynamics

  • Downforce levels will be reduced by 30% and drag levels by 55%.
  • Active aerodynamics will replace the DRS with movable front and rear wings. Drivers will be able to switch from the standard “Z” mode (higher downforce) to “X” mode (lower drag) for increased straight-line speed.
  • The front wing will be 100mm narrower with a two-component active flap. A three-element active rear spoiler will be adopted, with the lower beam spoiler removed and the end flaps simplified.
  • Teams' ability to “wash” the airflow and disturb following cars will be limited to bodywork pieces that “wash” the airflow instead.
  • The floors will become partially flat and the force of the diffuser will be neutralized, reducing ground effect and the cars' reliance on low, high-stiffness settings.

engine

  • MGU-H will be eliminated. ICE power will drop from 550-560 kW to 400 kW. MGU-K power will increase from 120 kW to 350 kW.
  • The amount of energy recovered will double during braking, resulting in a total recoverable energy of 8.5 MJ per lap.
  • The 'manual override' mode will reduce the lead car's reclaimed energy deployment after it reaches 290 km/h, dropping to zero at 355 km/h, while the following car will benefit from an MGU-K override that delivers 350 kW up to 337 km/h and +0.5 MJ of additional energy.
  • The 2026 engines will run on fully sustainable fuel, which is the main reason why Honda returns to Formula 1, Audi returns and Ford joins Red Bull engines.

Rationale

The FIA ​​devoted a lot of research and development time trying to improve the wake characteristics of existing cars, so the chase car retained more downforce to make it easier to follow.

But rule makers quickly realized that the development of team cars since 2022 had eroded those gains, and the FIA ​​chose to wait until the 2026 rules to address this.

Even FIA aerodynamics head Jason Somerville claims that “re-establishing the next car's performance” was the main goal of the 2026 aero rules package.

The desire for such low drag is partly because it is more sustainable – it requires using less energy and fuel – but also because the characteristics of the 2026 engine are such that current drag levels result in what the FIA ​​calls a “sharp drop in speed” on the straights.

The narrower front spoiler with a distinctive new end panel arrangement goes much further than current cars in trying to eliminate exterior wash – forcing airflow around parts like the front wheels, to avoid directing annoying airflow across the rest of the car.

The FIA ​​sees this as crucial to improving wake characteristics and making it easier to follow, in simple terms, teams like to create an outside wash for performance reasons but it is deadly to the race.

The fact that an overtaking function is introduced to boost the electrical energy spread at the end of the straights by the car behind you compared to the car in front of you – provided (as is the case with the current DRS) that you are within a certain unspecified distance of the car in front – suggests that the profile For new cars it will still inherently make overtaking difficult.

The focus on cars with much less drag than before will create a much lower slipstream effect, so what the new car and engine registrations are trying to achieve, together, is a focus on energy management and deployment that compensates for this – to ensure that overtaking is still possible, but not Very easy.

Next steps

More details will be shared later on the Canadian Grand Prix weekend. However, the full regulations are not expected to be published until later in June, as the FIA's World Motor Sports Council still has to sign off on them.

The finalization of the car's rules means that other key details will soon be locked in, such as the use of a new 'manual override' system that will provide a boost of electric power at high speed.

The overtaking function will only be available at certain points on the track, in specific conditions, but we still don't know how long the overtaking function will last or how many times a driver can use it per lap or per race.

The engine mounts themselves have been locked for several years. The move from about 80/20 to something closer to a 50/50 split between internal combustion engine power and electric power from the updated MGU-K has been a source of contentious debate over the new rules.

Red Bull, which is preparing to run its own in-house Formula 1 engine for the first time in collaboration with Ford, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the package.

It has been said that a significant increase in the importance of the hybrid component would lead to bizarre tactics and the use of the V6 engine essentially as a generator to charge the battery, while violating chassis rules to try and make the car workable around this. However, this has been conclusively refuted by the FIA.



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