The new regulations on the 2026 power units have also triggered a dispute on the chassis and aerodynamic side, however still far from finding its final form. The controversy starts from the initial project according to which the new cars should complete the race distance with just 70-80 kg of fuel on board, as compared the current 100 kg. In fact, the idea of the organizers was to leverage aerodynamically more efficient single-seaters, capable at the same time of recharging a greater quantity of energy under braking thanks to the MGU-K electric generator whose power will go from 120 to 350 kW, which will therefore almost triple.
However, the plan is not easy to implement, because the new power units will be devoid of an important source of energy recovery such as the MGU-H, which recharged the battery by means of exhaust gases. Furthermore, to take advantage of a more powerful MGU-K, in some contexts the internal combustion engine will have to be used as a generator, burning excess fuel to supply energy to the hybrid, a much less efficient process than if the fuel would be used to produce engine power directly. The same alternative fuels will also be energetically less dense than the current ones, thus forcing to take on board more liters of fuel for the same energy.
As reported by the editorial staff of the German site Auto Motor und Sport, the initial intention of adopting smaller tanks seems to have been abandoned. While previously there were discussions on how to improve weight and aerodynamics to contain fuel consumption, the same problem having been partially solved by taking on more fuel, attention now shifts to performance.
Again according to the German newspaper, the teams are apparently pushing towards a significant reduction in the minimum weight, a proposal which, however, would meet with disagreement by the FIA. Lighter cars could in fact go faster in corners while preserving lap times, but they wouldn’t avoid the risk that straight-line distances could be drastically reduced. With the need to exploit the internal combustion unit also as a generator for the battery, the scenario is in fact that in the middle of the straight the cars can give up part of the power of the combustion engine, thus struggling to keep up with the current speeds.
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For this reason, the Federation would like to concentrate mainly on aerodynamics, a parameter that even more than weight would help improve straight-line speed. There is talk of a shortening of the wheelbase from 3.6 to 3.2 meters and a narrowing of the track from 2 to 1.9 metres, thus reducing the frontal section, a strategy also adopted by Formula E for similar reasons with the new generation of cars.
Then there is the debate about active aerodynamics and how it could be implemented. Last December Nikolas Tombazis had ruled out the hypothesis of a return of active suspensions, however effective they would have been for the purpose. The use of mobile airfoils is highly likely, with the rear wing, front wing, beam-wing and diffuser among the main suspects, as explained by Carlo Platella for formulapassion.it.
In theory, however, we could go further, replicating something similar to the 2010 F-Duct concept, which through a system of internal ducts stalled the entire rear wing. The idea was banned at the end of the year but nothing would prevent it from being dusted off, perhaps with a hydraulic or mechanically controlled system that does not force the driver to take his hands off the wheel. However, first the teams and the Federation will have to find an agreement, with the FIA which would like to proceed independently given the tight deadlines, which obviously does not seem ideal for the teams.
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