Max Verstappen has echoed his Red Bull team principal Christian Horner’s warnings over the problems they believe the 2026 Formula 1 rules will create.
Verstappen also claimed the new regulations will place too much emphasis on the importance of power unit design over other aspects of the car.
Red Bull’s rivals Mercedes have already dismissed some of their concerns. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff accused Horner of “doom mongering”, rejected claims drivers will have to downshift on the straights, and claimed Red Bull’s comments shows they are concerned about the state of their engine development programme.
F1 last changed its engine rules when it introduced its current V6 hybrid turbo regulations in 2014. Mercedes dominated that season and the two years after it thanks largely to the performance of their power unit.
Verstappen warned the new engine rules risk creating another situation where one team has a significant advantage and will increase costs.
“For me, the problem is, it looks like it’s going to be an ICE [internal combustion engine] competition, like whoever has the strongest engine will have a big benefit. But I don’t think that should be the intention of Formula 1, because then you will start a massive development war again, and it will become quite expensive to find probably a few horsepower here and there. I think it actually should be the opposite.”
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The two-times world champion said his first impression of the impact the new rules will have is not positive.
“I’ve been talking about that with the team and I’ve seen the data already on the simulator as well. To me, it looks pretty terrible.
“I mean, if you go flat-out on the straight at Monza, I don’t know what it is, like four or five hundred [metres] before the end of the straight, you have to downshift flat-out, because that’s faster. I think that’s not the way forward, [but] of course, probably that’s one of the worst tracks.”
F1 intends to shift the balance of power generation in its next generation of motors so that the internal combustion engine and electrical systems each provide around 50% of the total power output. In order to do that while retaining current performance levels, F1 plans to introduce active systems to reduce drag.
Verstappen believes that will make it harder to overtake and said the systems should be driver-controlled, rather than automatic.
“The cars probably have a lot less drag so it will be even harder to overtake on the straight,” he said. “You have the active aerodynamics, which you can’t control, the system will control it for you.
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“Which then I think makes it very awkward to drive, because I prefer to control it myself. Of course, when you’re behind someone, maybe you need more front or more rear. These kind of things. If the system starts to control that for you, I don’t think that’s the right way forward.”
While the 2026 chassis regulations have not yet been finalised, the new power units will be heavier. F1 is already trying to reverse a succession of increases in the minimum weight limit over the past decade and a half, and Verstappen believes the new rules will make things worse.
“The weight is going up again, so we have to seriously look at this because ’26 is not that far away. At the moment, to me, it looks very bad from all the numbers and what I see from the data already. So it’s not something I’m very excited about at the moment.”
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