New details have emerged regarding the regulations that will come into effect in 2026, significantly altering the current Formula 1 cars.
2026 appears to be a year of radical change in F1 with the introduction of new regulations. These regulations encompass not only changes to the engines but also the shapes and aerodynamics of the cars. The rule change might be even more profound than what was witnessed in 2022. The FIA is considering reducing the car dimensions, making them lighter, and limiting the effects of aerodynamics.
Currently, Moving at Two Speeds
While the rules on the engine side are mostly known, the same cannot be said for the chassis side. What is known is that all the major components of the Power Unit will have a minimum weight. Specifically, 130 kg for the ICE, 12 kg for the turbo, 16 kg for the MGU-K, and 35 kg for the battery. This will result in a minimum PU weight of 193 kg, 23% higher than the current weight. Furthermore, the MGU-H will no longer exist, and the electric power produced will increase from the current 120 kW to 350 kW.
Changes in the engines will naturally affect the chassis and the internal arrangement of components. However, the teams’ engineers have not yet received precise indications regarding this part of the regulations. This could be problematic because designers are already in the development phase of engines that will need to be mounted on cars that have not yet been designed. The FIA is still considering numerous ideas and does not want to make hasty decisions, although some leaks seem to be emerging.
Will the Minimum Weight be Eliminated from F1?
The increase in weight of the Power Unit suggests that the overall car weight may also increase. Current cars are already close to 800 kg, and increasing this limit further could lead to many controversies in F1, both from the drivers and fans. For this reason, the FIA intends to reduce the car weight by at least 20 kg initially, eventually reaching a 50 kg reduction.
Additionally, there is the idea on the table of completely eliminating the minimum weight rule. Both the FIA and Formula 1 seem to be in agreement, acknowledging that the cost cap and load tests should prevent teams from pushing too far. They want to avoid excesses that could lead to reduced safety and increased costs. If this decision is confirmed, it will be interesting to see how the teams choose to allocate their resources: whether to reduce weight or focus on aerodynamic improvements. Striking a balance will be essential, and this could lead to different design choices. Reliability will also be crucial, as lighter components could result in various malfunctions. The idea is intriguing, but the FIA will undoubtedly set limits on certain parts to prevent any risks.
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The 2026 Regulations will Reduce the Size of F1 Cars
Another fundamental aspect that will be changed with the new rules is the size of the cars. The width should decrease by 10 cm, going from the current 200 cm to 190 cm. The wheelbase should also be reduced from 3.60 m to 3.40 m or possibly, although it is challenging, to 3.30 m. All of this will impact aerodynamics and the wings. Aerodynamic downforce is expected to be reduced by as much as 40% compared to current values. There is also talk of introducing active aerodynamics, which would further reduce drag on the straights and improve battery management. The main goal is to make it easier to follow the car in front and facilitate overtaking without artificial aids. Perhaps some concepts from the new generation of Formula 2 cars will be revisited.
The FIA’s goals are clear, and the design regulations are slowly taking shape. Making the cars smaller and lighter seems to be mandatory, also to enhance the spectacle on the track. However, a more defined set of regulations is needed to allow designers to begin sketching designs for the 2026 F1 cars, especially given the progress with Power Units.