2026 F1 car rendering - side above

The FIA’s ‘Nimble Car concept’ needs to set a new trend for F1

Formula 1

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The new technical rules for the 2026 Formula 1 season, which were revealed in detail by the FIA today, were always going to present a difficult compromise.

Having already set out its plan for the next generation of power units due for introduction the same year, F1’s new chassis rules were always going have to work around them.

The scale of the change involved in the 2026 motors is easy to underestimate as the combustion engine part, which until now has provided by far the majority of the power, will change little. However its contribution to the total output will fall to little more than half of the total.

With no more energy recovery through heat due to the removal of the MGU-H, an uprated MGU-K will instead supply as much as 350kW. This is significant for the chassis rules as that power needs to be generated as the car circulates.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Zandvoort, 2021
The 2026 cars will still be heavier than those of 2021
This created a need to significantly reduce the drag of the cars. The FIA’s solution to this was to increase the use of active aero beyond the familiar Drag Reduction System and allow drivers to use it all the time. This has had other knock-on affects.

There were other points the FIA wanted to achieve with the new rules such as making it easier for cars to follow each other closely. This was a major focus of the last new set of chassis regulations, only two years ago, but remains a work-in-progress as drivers’ complaints over the negative effect of ‘dirty air’ have only increased this year. Naturally, safety remains a priority and a prerequisite.

Then there is the question of weight. For years, drivers have urged the FIA to reverse the trend towards increasingly heavy cars.

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F1 be nimble…

The FIA refers to its new 2026 regulations as a “‘nimble car’ concept”. Single seater director Nikolas Tombazis describes this as being “smaller in all dimensions and also a bit lighter.”

The latter point, lightness, has been a recurring theme among drivers for years. The FIA has announced a headline weight reduction of 30 kilograms, down from the current 798kg. However it noted this is partly based on the estimate that Pirelli’s new, narrower tyres will add 46kg.

As recent history has shown, F1 has had difficulty preventing car weight from creeping up. But it can’t afford to water down this modest reduction in weight.

A 30kg trim will still leave F1 cars weighing more than they did just three years ago. And F1 figures raised concerns over rising car weights long before that. “It’d be nice to get, somehow, 100 kilos out of them,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner in 2016, when cars weighed 66kg less than they will in 2026.

NB. Separate minimum weight limits were enforced for turbocharged and normally-aspirated cars in 1987 and 1988.

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Cutting the weight by 30kg is a step in the right direction. But last year the FIA said it wanted “a significant reduction in the size and weight of the cars,” and this falls short of that.

…F1 be quick?

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monza, 2020
Hamilton set F1’s fastest-ever lap in 2020
One of the biggest unknowns about the new regulations is what they mean for car performance. No estimates for the performance of the cars compared to the current levels have been supplied.

How far this is a concern is up for debate. F1’s overriding priority in recent years has been to improve the quality of racing.

However if lap times rise significantly it may find junior series such as Formula 2 become uncomfortably close in terms of performance – a concern which has been raised in the past. Don’t be surprised if we start to hear that teams’ simulated lap times for 2026 are quite a bit slower than today.

But rapid lap times needn’t mean less competitive racing. One reason drivers feel the current cars race poorly is because they lack nimbleness in slow corners because of their size and weight – the very problem the FIA hopes to tackle with these rules.

This has been partly achieved by reducing the physical size of the cars. The FIA has cut the maximum width of the cars from two metres to 1.9m and reduced the wheelbase proportionally to 3.4m.

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The FIA’s single-seater technical director Jan Monchaux said the smaller dimensions was key to bringing the weight down.

2026 F1 car rendering
Report: FIA reveals new 2026 F1 rules to create slimmer, lighter cars
“It was a key target of the new regs to hopefully reverse the ever increasing minimum weight of the cars over the last 20 years and make a step in a good direction by reducing the weight,” he said. “We’ve done that primarily by moving to a smaller dimension. A smaller car in length and width is less material, so less weight.”

The rules also introduce “a simplification of the aero concept, so that some parts which currently are quite complex and quite heavy will be a lot simpler,” he added. “And that will also come with some automatic weight reduction.”

Narrower tyres have also helped to bring the weight down further. “The tyres, which will remain at 18 inches [wheel diameter], but will be 8% narrower, so also a weight saving there. We are hoping to have some weight saving on the suspension design and also on some other elements because if you are under much less aero, you don’t have to dimension your parts similarly to how you currently do. It really is the sum of reviewing every part of the car along with the new regulations.”

All of which begs the question, why not go further? The cars were just 1.8m wide as recently as 2016. The limit on wheelbase length, introduced in 2022, gives a useful means of constraining the dimensions proportionally to avoid creating the peculiarly long cars of a few years ago.

The more weight F1 can take out of its cars, the better it can expect its racing to be. The new rules are a step in the right direction – they need to be the first of several.

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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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23 comments on “The FIA’s ‘Nimble Car concept’ needs to set a new trend for F1”

  1. The much vaunted 2026 revamp is looking a bit of a pig in lipstick. Not impressed.

    1. Oh, and the 10cm and 37kg reductions are pointless. Take 150cm or 200cm off. And 100kg

      as the comment of the day stated… indeed

  2. Coventry Climax
    6th June 2024, 18:45

    The scale of the change involved in the 2026 motors is easy to underestimate as the combustion engine part, which until now has provided by far the majority of the power, will change little. However its contribution to the total output will fall to little more than half of the total.

    Nope, not true. It’s further reduced to being a range extender, an electrical powerplant. ICE running a a constant rev and load can be tuned the most efficient, but whatever it is they do with it, it’s still the fule and the ICE that generate the electricity to run the electric motors on. So it (or the fuel actually) will still contribute a 100% to the total energy output, it’s just that (they intend) less of the power it generates is to be wasted. (Which, by the way reveals an idiocy, as all of the energy that is wasted, gets wasted in the form of heat -inherently through combustion and also through a myriad of types of friction. Now guess which part it is they’re ditching.)

    Commented on this twice already, apparently it’s a concept that’s hard to grasp, or people just don’t want to know about reality anymore.

  3. Coventry Climax
    6th June 2024, 18:51

    Ridiculous they even dare to use the term for these obese cars.

    A 200BHP, 500kg Caterham; now that’s a nimble little car.

  4. 30 kg is already quite a lot, although having the electric to ICE power ratio more towards the latter or removing hybrid stuff altogether but keeping the synthetic fuel type would give even more flexibility, as would reducing the wheel rim dimension as was initially planned.
    However, lighter doesn’t automatically mean better racing, as the more distant past shows.
    I don’t wish to nit-pick but concerning the minimum car+driver weight history chart, 595 kg was the minimum requirement for both 1995 & 1996 (& ofc, throughout the former), with 600 coming for 1997 & staying in effect until 2003, while the 2014, 2017, 2018, & 2019 equivalents were 691, 728, 734, & 743 kg, respectively, just to be fully precise.
    As for lap times, if F1 wasn’t the outright fastest circuit series, it couldn’t really be considered F1 anymore despite being a world championship series, unlike Super Formula, the world’s second-fastest, which would automatically inherit the #1 status if F1 ended up being slower than F2.

    1. I forgot that of course heavier than everything pre-2022 rather than only compared to 2021.

  5. Active aero sounds like a recipe for making it even more difficult to race close to the car in front! May go faster but that in itself isn’t exciting…

  6. Coventry Climax
    6th June 2024, 19:06

    Let’s try again:

    The scale of the change involved in the 2026 motors is easy to underestimate as the combustion engine part, which until now has provided by far the majority of the power, will change little. However its contribution to the total output will fall to little more than half of the total.

    Nope, not true. The ICE’s function is further reduced to being a generator creating electricity, but it’s still the fuel, burnt in the ICE, that provides ALL of the POWER (the term used above) to propel these cars.
    It’s just that more of the energy from the burnt fuel is recuperated, and used by the electric motors. But there would not even be any energy to recuperate, and no electricity, if it weren’t for the ICE.

    All energy (=100%) from the fuel is converted to heat.
    But some of that is not put to ‘good use’ (propulsion) along the conversion-way.
    That’s the concept of inefficiency.
    So all of the energy lost due to inefficiency, is through some form of heat as well. (Exhaust gases plus a myriad of types of friction.)
    Now guess which part of the energy recuperation these brilliant minds have ditched.

    Commented on this twice already. Must be hard to grasp.

    1. Yep. Why heat is considered a “wrong” energy to recover is beyond comprehension. I applaud the biofuel efforts, but the suppliers were going there already. The car is just too heavy and too big. The drivers have been saying it for years.

      Lighter, smaller, punchier. That was what was required. Not this

    2. I can’t wrap my head around this engine concept – it seems inefficient and totally irrelevant for any day-to-day applications. Cumbersome, expensive and heavy. A bit like Audi’s Hybrid Dakar cars. F1 should have stuck to combustion engines and make them relevant by making them super efficient – in light and nimble cars (like the 90’s)..

    3. Commented on this twice already. Must be hard to grasp

      Not for some, albeit that “some” isn’t as large a number as it really ought to be.

      Unfortunately, I think a large portion of your audience are only hearing white noise following the first comma.

  7. Coventry Climax
    6th June 2024, 19:19

    Hypothetic question:
    If my combustion engine were to run on water, H2O, it would produce a wast product consisting of H’s and O’s, which would probably combine to water again.
    Now that’s pretty sustainable and renewable, right?

    Rethoric question:
    Would there be a reason to limit the ‘fuel’ use, meaning water intake, of such an engine, for environmental reasons?

    Open question:
    Something just doesn’t add up with F1 powerplants running on “100% sustainable fuels”, while still in need of all sorts of fuel saving and recuperating gadgets and measures. Now what could that be?

    1. If my combustion engine were to run on water, H2O, it would produce a wast product consisting of H’s and O’s, which would probably combine to water again.
      Now that’s pretty sustainable and renewable, right?

      More incredible than anything else.

      2 * H2O ==> 2 * H2 + O2 is endothermic, you’d be wanting the exothermic 2 * H2 + O2 ==> 2 * H2O to release the energy to expand the combustion products and provide a drive on a cylinder.
      For the endothermic process, a large dose of sunlight on a solar cell is your renewable energy input.

      1. unless you are trying to create a vacuum chamber instead of a combustion type? but seriously a steam powered f1 car might be bad ass, and if we have to run batteries, why not.

        that said, the new fuels will probably require turbos, so any chance of NA motors coming back isnt sustainable.

      2. Coventry Climax
        6th June 2024, 23:29

        SteveP, look up the word hypothetic, please?

        1. Hey, I’m a techie, the process my way round actually works :)

          hypo – low
          thetic – bearing

          Low relevance? :)

  8. Paul (@frankjaeger)
    6th June 2024, 20:13

    100kg lighter, shorter total length wheelbase, it can be done surely. F1 always choosing reform lite

  9. Hear hear, that graph is so revealing. 200kg in 15 years! What the…

    1. Tristan, it’s a shame that the graph also provides misleading information by failing to make clear that, up to 1994, the minimum weight of the car did not include the weight of the driver, whereas all values after that date do include the driver.

  10. Monza will be pretty slow, I think. They’re already having problems keeping the batteries charged, and that’s WITH the MGU-H. A bigger MGU-K won’t matter if there’s no major braking zones.

    1. Exactly. It seems the ICE will be acting as a generator to charge the battery so there is power to propel the car. Is the fuel limit being increased from 100kg?

  11. Good! A step in the right direction, even if a small one….
    Give them a good 2 years of running with these specs and then slap a 700kg min weight for ’29, and for ’31 make it an even 650. Hell, why not make it interesting and provide a 640 – 660 kg range for 2031 and onwards. Make the fat engineers sweat!

    Cars should be the size of 2008 cars by 2031.
    Russian spy satellites are able to see far too much floor of these cars!

    Active Aero being a free use for all drivers is a good thing, let them fight. Should there be any concern for “ThE ShOw” make all the hidden/underbody active aero produce sparks as it’s activated, or perhaps activate a shark fin on the top of the car to make the activation more visible to spectators.

    1. below 700kg you can forget or you have to lose the 19″ tyres and the halo also. Problem is the crash structure is so compact (and heavy) which the 1990 models didn’t have…

      If they can reach 700kg would be super (which is a 100kg safe on current model) smaller is also hard wide possible length is rather difficult as the safety cockpit is the limit. So we want 1m less in lentgh but that is no possible as the car is nose (crashbuffer) then cockpit (also safety zone all around) then the engine and gear box which is very long. Even if you put a ‘old’ v10 you will safe almost nothing in lentgh of the car.

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