Verstappen: Simulator shows 2026 F1 rules will produce “terrible” cars

2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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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.

Following tests on the team’s simulator, Verstappen listed a series of concerns over the consequences of the planned changes to the engine regulations, which were agreed last year. He warned the new rules will make overtaking harder, create heavier cars and even force drivers to change down gears at the end of long straights to maximise performance.

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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2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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53 comments on “Verstappen: Simulator shows 2026 F1 rules will produce “terrible” cars”

  1. The same rules Red Bull and Red Bull Jr. backed? Why didn’t they speak up then? Sounds like making their own engine with a partner that hasn’t been in F1 in earnest in decades is proving more challenging than anticipated.

    That said, automated systems aren’t cool. Leave it to the drivers.

    1. Exactly those rules, yeah. But I guess now they found something that will lessen their advangates, or which they do not know how to best capitalize on (with Ford), so they are trying to change it.

      I do agree with you that having driver controlled systems feels more fitting to a sport, although it might well be that the adjustments made will be so quick that and often to work that we cannot rely on humans to be making them? Or maybe just it is easier to check team SW for exploits than to have to police the drivers?

  2. I invite Red Bull Racing to release their data, or a simulation thereof, to the public as part of this discourse.

    They’re not the only ones looking at the rules, and others may choose to agree or disagree with RBR’s current judgment. At least having more comments on record, and maybe even more data published would provide a basis to compare things to when the new rules are introduced and we can see their effects on the track.

    1. Ha, that is a really good point there @proesterchen!

    2. That cars will be heavier is already troublesome and automatic systems… just let drivers handle those moveable aero parts it saves weight.

      1. @macleod how do you know that the cars will be heavier?

        Firstly, given the FIA has not published the chassis or aerodynamic regulations for 2026, it begs the question of how Red Bull can simulate what the car will behave like when most of the regulations do not yet exist.

        Secondly, Keith has made a mistake about the 2026 engine regulations in this article, since the overall weight of the power unit is not increasing. The FIA has also stated that their goal is that the 2026 cars will be no heavier than they are now, and if anything Tombazis thinks that the minimum weight might actually go down, not up, in 2026 – indicating the FIA has pretty much the polar opposite view to Red Bull.

        Thirdly, why would a manually operated aero part be any lighter than an automatically operated one? It’s the difference between a driver flicking a switch in the cockpit versus a piece of software doing the same task – the actual mechanism is identical in either case.

    3. Charlie Racing
      5th July 2023, 6:34

      @proesterchen in another article RB is saying they have been talking to the FIA about this and that they are taking their concerns seriously. Even said there are other teams that feel the same. Not naming them of course and it will definitely won’t be MB looking at Toyo’s reaction to similar words from Horner a few days ago.

  3. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
    3rd July 2023, 9:47

    I’ll believe this when a couple of non-dominant teams not affiliated with a dominant team release the same statements.

  4. Pjotr (@pietkoster)
    3rd July 2023, 9:54

    One: Changing rules to get close racing will not work. One team will dominate again and the rest (fi. developing a bad car, like Mercedes did) will have no chance to catch up because of the budget cap. Maybe an option to release the budget cap in the first year. Second: Verstappen is going to do something he likes. Then, maybe in 2027 Hamilton get his WDC again.

    1. Budget caps in a sport like F1 makes no sense whatsoever, should be scrapped yesterday.

      I long for the days when a car could crash and the driver could jump on the spare and finish the race!

      1. I think the budget cap is exactly what F1 needs, it’s already been heavily influential in keeping some teams on the grid and boosting the interest for new ones to join. What is silly, is that even if they operated within the cap they are not allowed to jump in a spare car. Those are exactly the sort of rules that should have been freed up once the budget cap was introduced.

        1. Alan S Thomson
          4th July 2023, 20:15

          “boosting the interest for new ones to join”

          Completely pointless, given the fact the teams and FOM do not want any new teams. See Andretti’s struggles to get on the grid.

  5. Translation: The team which shines with aero-dominant regulations doesn’t want regulations which reduce the aero-dominance…

    What a shock!

    1. Exactly! Verstappen is worried he may not have the strongest engine in 2026. Well, in his own words: “Life is never fair”.

      1. I really do not think that’s the case. If the cars increase in weight, again, it will be a mess
        But let’s wait for more data from teams. The way toto polarised this discussion is not the way to go

        1. I don’t see why the cars should increase in weight, at least by much. The maximum energy storage is the same (4MJ). They may increase the size of the battery pack a bit to allow faster charging/discharging without affecting lifespan, but that’s not going to be massive. On top of this, they’ll be reducing the weight by removing the the ERS-H. Overall, this should balance out IMHO.

          Looking at the regulations, I can see a couple of potentially-problematic elements:
          – The MGU-K power output is limited further above 300kph, such that at 340kph and beyond there’s a maximum of 150kph. This will likely reduce top speeds on the very fastest circuits, though that’s probably by design. I doubt we’ll see Monza top speeds beyond 320-330kph, rather than the 350+ we see with the current cars.
          – The maximum power recovery from the MGU-K is also 350kW. So you basically need to be recovering for as long as you are deploying to be able to use it. In circuits like Monza, where full throttle is 80% of the lap, they will be well short of that and, consequently, the power available will fall well short of where we are today. If we generously assume they can recover at full rate everywhere they are not at full throttle, we’re looking at only 25% maximum MGU-K output on average around the lap, or something like 63% maximum power unit output (assuming a 50/50 split).

          In other words, they will be slower at a track like Monza. But it will be the same for everyone, within a reasonable margin. Some may do a better job than others, of course, but that’s F1.

          Personally, I don’t like some of the details. I would have allowed a larger energy store and more energy recovery, while maintaining the same or lower minimum weight. Allow teams to chose a larger battery pack and more time at full power but heavier car, or a lighter car, smaller battery pack but less time available at full power. I’d even allow it to be customised per track, so you could run a bigger battery at Monza but a smaller one at, say, Monaco…. Only my opinion though. The regs themselves are sound, IMHO, and it’s up to the teams to do the best they can with it.

          1. such that at 340kph and beyond there’s a maximum of 150kph

            should be “such that at 340kph and beyond there’s a maximum of 150kW

          2. I suspect the weight limit going up is to lessen the pressure to go for more exotic materials to make the engine and the batteries and motors work @drmouse.

          3. Hmmm… I’m still not quite sure this is needed. The MGU-K will be slightly heavier, and as mentioned they may opt for a slightly larger battery to account for higher charge & discharge rates, but there is no MGU-H, the turbo will likely be lighter without that, and the control electronics will be simpler.

            If they want to stop the chase for “exotic materials to make the engine and the batteries and motors”, surely it would be easier to just specify the materials allowed for the construction of the engine/motors/etc? Batteries are a bit different, really we want them to be developing newer/better battery technology…

          4. The 4 Mj isn’t the issue here, it is the electric 350kW. That means larger motors, control electronics, energy store, cables and cooling system.
            All of these add weight, While the gain from the reduced turbo is small-ish.
            Possible Workarounds: higher voltages, liquid or phase changing cooling, exotic materials.

          5. Thanks for filling in some detail on what stuff is extra for the larger electrical component.

            The thing is, they probably don’t want to be too prescriptive in things like battery materials/architecture since that is the part where the car companies are looking to learn something, so then it is better to just allow for a certain amount of weight.

        2. osnola, the minimum weight of the cars is not supposed to be increasing under the 2026 regulation package – the FIA have stated that their objectives for the 2026 regulation package is that, at worst, the minimum weight would be the same, and the more probable situation is that the minimum weight should be decreasing.

          The article appears to make a mistake, as the weight of the power units is not increasing in 2026 – it’s actually remaining the same – and Tombazis has stated that he thinks the restrictions on overall car size would result in a net decrease in weight of the car.

    2. Coventry Climax
      3rd July 2023, 17:19

      The team that dominated for seven years through their engine and then seriously co pu la ted up their chassis development wants that dominance back….

      What a shock!

      1. Of course we should take Mercedes contents with a pinch of salt, too. All teams will push for regulations which suit them more than their competitors. Taking any of their comments, especially those of the “top” teams, is foolish. But certainly a team currently dominant with a formula which is entirely dependent of aero, whose specialty it’s aero, is not going to want anything else to become important.

        However, I do think we want a balance in the regulations. We don’t want a purely aero formula, nor a purely engine formula. Ideally we’d want an even helping of both, so a team with a weaker engine could make up for it with aero and vice versa.

  6. OK, so it’s an aero-series now.. Going to an engine-series… With Verstappen contracted to RBR, will we see a Ferrari #1??
    Or Alonso with Honda?
    It could happen!

    1. “For me, the problem is, it looks like it’s going to be an aerodynamic competition, like whoever has the most downforce 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 points of downforce here and there. I think it actually should be the opposite.”

  7. Facts&Stats
    3rd July 2023, 11:14

    Why would they have to downshift before at the end of a straight to go faster?
    The ICE will increase in revs, but as the MGU-H is gone this will only reduce overall efficiency.

    1. They may run out of electric energy (4MJ max storage, IIRC) before the end of the straight and with no MGU-H to recoup energy outside of breaking events, the ICE may end up powering the car by itself depending on deployment strategy.

      1. Plus the power output of the MGU-K is reduced above 300kph.

        That said, downshifting won’t really increase the available power output at that point. There’s still a fuel power input limit, so higher revs will not produce higher output from the ICE. Downshifting is only likely to occur if they start slowing down towards the end of the straight and so the revs dip below the ICE’s peak power point.

        1. SHR Modding
          3rd July 2023, 12:23

          Yes that’s the way u see it too. But it’s not far fetched at all, they derate at the end of straights currently too just not so severe. By the looks of what verstappen is saying, the new derate could be more severe than the previous lmp1 cars had

          1. There probably will be a massive de-rate if they try to use 100% MGU-K output all the time. They will, at best, be able to recover only a quarter of the energy they would use at that during a lap of Monza. This will mean they have to run at an average of about 63% of maximum total power output consistently during the “full throttle” parts of the lap. Obviously that’s a huge drop, from an estimated more than 900bhp to less than 650bhp average, or else being able to sustain 100% output for only 20% of the lap (a quarter of the 80% full-throttle sections). Some deployment and charging strategies will help with this, but it’s definitely significant.

            This could be partially mitigated by increasing the amount of power which can be recovered, but it’s not going to be possible to run flat out around Monza in the same way as it is today. That’s just a technical limitation of the engine regulations as they stand.

            But it will be roughly the same for everyone. Some may do a better job, some may drop the ball, but ultimately that’s F1 when there’s a regulation change. RBR are riding that wave right now, having done far better than anyone else with the aero regs under a completely aero-dominant regulatory period.

      2. Facts&Stats
        3rd July 2023, 12:45

        I wish they would’ve opted for the alternative once mentioned by a commenter here; leave the MGU-H but make it a standard item for all teams.

        1. They didn’t have to even make that change. All existing PU suppliers already have their own well-tested MGU-H designs, and the one brand the FIA, Liberty and the current suppliers wanted to attract by dumbing the PUs down, Volkswagen’s Porsche, didn’t commit to Formula 1 anyway.

          1. No but Audi instead though – different brand, same owner

          2. Indeed. I’m suggesting the existing PU suppliers wouldn’t have bent over backwards for Audi and its laughable ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ slogan.

    2. It’s as if there’s a company line to take and they’re all taking it in the same robotic fashion that they always do!

      1. Another interpretation is that they see the same data and draw the same conclusions and concerns from it.

        1. They’re both seeing the same interpretation of the same data, as both are looking at the RBR simulation data. As someone else has said, when we see a team that isn’t reliant on a single engine supplier that’s not run their first design in anger yet, we have something to discuss :D

  8. I’m reserved & skeptical about how much I buy into his & Horner’s words.
    Firstly just a thought, I don’t really get the desire for an increased battery power because of removing MGU-H because the current power level should be equally okay without it.
    Additionally, I wonder what was wrong with moving to a 4-cylinder engine or V6 but without extra PU components, etc.
    Still, shorter-narrower car dimensions, synthetic fuel allowing for a smaller tank capacity, & possibly also a smaller 5-speed gearbox which I saw mentioned once unless that isn’t on the table anymore, should decently compensate for the weight from increased battery power, although with matured hybrid technology, lighter batteries should be achievable anyway.

    1. I think the main “problem” here is that, with half of the power coming from the electric components, as soon as the battery runs out you’re at half power. We can get “derates” with the current engines which already have a significant effect, but that’s a much smaller proportion of the total power output. If they run out of battery down the straight with the new units, it’ll be like 3 cylinders suddenly cutting out. Their shoes would plummet.

      Now consider that even a full battery will only last about 11s at the motor’s full output, even if they charge for a lap beforehand they’ll drain the battery in less than the length of a single straight at many circuits. When that circuit is Monza, they’ll barely be able to add anything to it between straights, so they’ll spend the vast majority of the lap at well below maximum power output.

      Even if this wasn’t the case, electric power is reduced after 300kph anyway.

      Which even way we look at it, the new engines will not perform anywhere near as well as we’ve become used to at the most power hungry circuits. It’s likely to show will reduce significantly and lap times will be much slower.

      Now, I’m not saying this is a bad thing. But it’s pretty much impossible to get the same performance from the new engines as currently specified as we’ve become used to. They’ll have to run the electrical systems at very low power at many tracks, and as that’s such a large proportion of the total power, it’s likely to look very slow in comparison.

      1. @drmouse I suppose we’ll have to wait and see how it works out, but it seems the rule makers wanted to limit the output of the electric motor precisely to avoid the “running out on the straight” issue. Thus effectively forcing the teams to deploy that power earlier on and rely more on the ICE to keep the speed up on longer straights. But still, in 2026 the electric motor can still give the same 150kW at speeds over 340km/h as it can currently.

        Monza might be bit of a problem, but at other tracks they’ll probably be fine with the vastly increased (to 9 MJ) input. That’s 2,25 times the total ES they can charge in a single lap.

        1. I assure that on most tracks it won’t be a problem, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it works out.

          If nothing else, it will be interesting to talk about something other than magic, I mean aerodynamics, again lol.

          1. *agree

  9. Horner and now verstappen going out of their way to complain is a good sign.

    It’s not like the current cars are any good anyway.

  10. And in 2026 complaining about dominance and deficits will still continue because of changing technical regulations that stop cars from converging.

    Keep these rules with automatic diminishing returns for top teams stable for a decade and see what happens.

  11. What do terrible cars have to do with anything? We watch racing. If all cars are “terrible”, the racing could be quite good. It is all about the racing. It is called F1 Racing not F1 Non Terrible Automobiles.

    1. Coventry Climax
      3rd July 2023, 17:28

      It’s a driver’s as well as an engineering championship you’re watching.
      Going a step back engineering-wise is not my cup of tea, and no, I’m not the only one.

    2. If you want to watch good racing in terrible car, watch Indycar. Excellent races, lots of actions, but fugly and relative low tech car. F1 should be about the fastest, high tech, and good looking cars. Current cars should loose weight, and get wider tires.

      All teams will whine about new regulations until they have found an edge for themselves. Nothing to get wound up about.

  12. Verstappen: Simulator shows 2026 F1 rules will produce “terrible” cars”

    Should someone point out to RBR (Max is just a mouthpiece for stuff he doesn’t understand here) that the simulator data said that the Mercedes design for 2022 was over second faster?
    Best check the simulator and reality divergence factor and then add the possible “oops Ford electric ain’t much good factor”

  13. He’s not wrong. With increased deployment the MGU-K will burn through the battery before the end of long straights; without the electric motor’s power the ICE’s revs would then drop forcing a down-change. Similar effect to driving up a hill that’s getting steeper.

    FIA might make this auto-DRS thing more powerful instead I guess.

    1. The target they need to hit is about 25 seconds, which is the Baku “straight”. The current 120 kW electric motor can drain the 4 MJ Energy Store in about 33 seconds. The bigger 350kW motor will do so faster (just over 11 seconds), but that’s where the speed-relative limitation comes in. They cannot use 350kW at all times. The 2026 rules state:

      5.4.7 Additionally, the electrical DC power of the ERS-K used to propel the car may not exceed:
      – P(kW)=1850-5* car speed (kph) when the car speed is below 340kph
      – 150kW when the car speed is equal to or above 340kph

      So below 300 km/h they can use all 350kW, but then it drops quite steeply to 150kW by 340km/h and stays there.

      In the case of Baku, it seems (the video isn’t that great) that Leclerc’s pole lap from this year shows him hitting 300km/h before he goes through the final bend unto the actual start/finish straight. That’s about 12 seconds from the braking point. So say roughly half of the full throttle segment. Presumably they’ve worked it out so that the ES will probably be depleted just at the end of that straight. And the new aero rules will probably help bring the cars up to that 300km/h speed earlier, thereby limiting the output from the electric motor sooner.

  14. Lets just put some V10’s in the back ditch the electric motors, drop the weight limit by 150Kg and have one last hurrah for motorsport for a decade. Maybe add refueling for the giggles.

    1. no refueling that is in F1 dangerous but a v10 with turbo :)

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