2026 F1 car rendering - front

The seven concerns Formula 1 teams raised over new rules for 2026

Formula 1

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Formula 1 teams believe there is much room for improvement in the planned new rules for 2026 announced this week.

While team bosses expressed support for the goals behind the changes, they see many potential problems with the draft regulations revealed by the FIA.

The regulations must be approved by the end of the month in order to be introduced in 2026. But after seeing the first version of the rules Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack believes they are “quite far away still from the final one.”

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella said his team also “are in agreement and we support the intent and the objectives at high level that were stated in the press release.

“However, if we look at the regulations in the draft form that has been circulated, they are still far from being able to achieve those agreeable objectives and intent.”

He said the teams and the FIA, as well as Formula One Management need to “contribute to form a solution that will allow the sport to meet those objectives.”

The four team principals in yesterday’s FIA press conference described seven problem areas with the rules.


Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Monaco, 2024
Teams have removed paint from their liveries to reduce the weight of the cars

F1 cars in 2024 are almost 200 kilograms heavier than they were 15 years ago, albeit including an 80kg allowance for drivers which was added five years ago. Even without that, the cars of today are 17% heavier than their predecessors from 2009.

2026 F1 car rendering - front
Analysis: Z-mode and X-mode – How Formula 1’s new active aero will work in 2026
The FIA intends to partially reverse that in 2024. It has set the minimum weight limit at 768kg, down from 798kg. But teams believe even this modest reduction will be hard to achieve.

“I don’t think anyone will hit that weight target particularly,” said Williams team principal James Vowles, whose 2024 car began the year over the minimum weight limit. “It’s going to be incredibly difficult.

“I think that needs reviewing because, as someone that spends their life going through marginal gains, taking weight out of a car, it’s not a fun thing to do.”

Car weights have risen due to several reasons including the introduction of hybrid power units in 2014, the addition of stronger impact-resistant structures such as the Halo in 2018, and the move towards the greater use of standardised components.

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Power unit use

Mercedes PU106C power unit, 2016
Changes to the power units for 2026 have prompted new chassis regulations

Formula 1 agreed its next set of power unit regulations two years ago. The key changes include a less powerful combustion engine and much more powerful electrical motor, meaning each contributes roughly 50% of the total power output. The new rules will come into force in 2026 and have been credited for enticing new manufacturers to enter the sport, including Ford and Audi (as well as potentially Cadillac).

The chassis regulations announced this week are intended to ensure F1 cars continue to deliver high performance while also allowing them to race close together. But some teams feel too many compromises have been made on the chassis side to accommodate the power units, and some alterations are needed.

“The way in which the power units are planned to be used needs to be adjusted,” said Stella. “We can still achieve a 50-50 concept, which is a nice concept, but it can be achieved in a way that doesn’t put so much of our requirement on the chassis side, which then is difficult to meet.

“So I think from a power unit point of view, likewise from a chassis point of view, it’s time that all parties understand that they need to contribute to the success of the sport.”

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Speed balance

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2023
Some drivers have warned the 2026 rules will make top speed dangerously high

In order to maintain current performance levels with the new hybrids, the FIA will allow teams to use active aerodynamics from 2026. The cars will have two states: A high-downforce ‘Z mode’ for cornering and a low-downforce ‘X mode’ where the front and rear wings are lowered on the straights to reduce drag.

The aerodynamic surfaces of the cars are also being reduced, including the floor, which will be simplified compared to the current versions. This has raised fears among some teams, as well as drivers who have tested the rules in simulators, that straight-line speeds will hit dangerous new highs while cornering performance will be too poor.

“The cars are not fast enough in the corners and too fast in the straights,” said Stella. “So these two aspects need to be rebalanced.”

Different rules for different tracks

Monza, 2023
The new rules may have to be altered for some tracks

Although it was not stated by the FIA in their announcement this week, there are concerns the new rules may not work as desired at every track on the calendar, and different restrictions may have to be imposed at some venues.

The rules will limit how quickly teams can draw power from the MGU-K on straights. However on tracks with a higher proportion of flat-out sections and a lower proportion of heavy braking areas this could lead to drivers running out of electrical power too early. This was behind the warnings from some teams last year that drivers may have to down-shift on the straights.

Reportedly, the FIA is considering reducing the rate at which teams may use their electrical boost at tracks such as Monza, Spa, Baku, Silverstone, Jeddah and Las Vegas.

Krack acknowledged this possibility exists and pointed out it will be difficult to explain this variation to fans. “If we have different energy management from track to track or constraints on the car that makes one car maybe go to the front, one to the back, and then how to explain this?” he said. “So I think that is something that we really need to keep in mind.”

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Too slow overall

Kush Maini, Invicta, Imola, 2024
Formula 2 could end up almost as quick as Formula 1 in 2026

Despite the potential for the cars to be much quicker on the straights, the loss of performance through the corners is potentially so great the current cars will become a lot slower. Lewis Hamilton said other drivers have warned him the new cars will be “pretty slow”.

Vowles said he also has concerns over “physically how fast the cars will be” in 2026 and stressed “it’s imperative that we are still the leading series in motorsport.”

“The performance difference to an F2 car could be as small as a few seconds,” he said, “and that’s starting to get a little bit tight, especially when you compare it to the other series around the world.”

Limits on design

Ayao Komatsu, Haas, Silverstone, 2024
Komatsu is keen to ensure teams still have room to innovate

New regulations are often greeted with warnings that they will take away designers’ freedom and make cars look too alike. The 2026 rules are no exception.

Haas team principal Ayao Komatsu said he was concerned about the “freedom of design, especially on the aerodynamic side” under the new rules.

“At the moment in the draft regulations, I’m not sure if that balance is hit right in terms of how things are prescribed.”

F1 is one of few remaining forms of motor sport where teams are required to design and build their own cars. Komatsu said it’s important to the sport’s identity to allow some freedom for designers.

“All those philosophies, how we present ourselves as the pinnacle of motorsports, in terms of engineering as well, to have some freedom or probably a bit more increased freedom in aerodynamics, that is important as well. So again, there’s various aspects we need to look into to make it really represent the pinnacle of motorsport.”

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Mike Krack, Andrea Stella, Ayao Komatsu, James Vowles, Montreal, 2024
Not all team principals are concerned the rules will become too complicated

The new regulations will usher in several new concepts. The Drag Reduction System will no longer exist, but the new ‘Z mode’ and ‘X mode’ philosophy means active aerodynamics will remain. DRS will be replaced by a new means of artificially handicapping the leading car by allowing its pursuer to use more power.

Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2024
Analysis: DRS out, “Manual Override Mode” in – F1’s new overtaking aid explained
Krack is concerned this means F1 will have too many complicated concepts to explain and that will put fans off. “I think it’s a lot of engineering language,” he said.

“It’s like ‘Z mode’, ‘X mode’, energy management and so on. In terms of complexity, I think we need to focus on the product and the fan, and the spectator.

“I’m a bit scared that in 2026, we will have driver press conferences or driver interviews speaking about all these technicalities that a lot of people will not understand and lose interest just because of that. So that is something that I think we need to be really careful.”

However Stella believes followers of the sport will quickly get used to the new terminology. “I think some part of the complexity is more in the language than in the substance,” he said.

“The concept of opening DRS is very well established. And also I think that some of the complexity that is still lingering on and I think still especially on the power unit side, is because of the immaturity of the regulations.

“I think once they mature, they will become even simpler. Or at least I would hope that we can achieve both things through the work of development and collaboration.”

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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 seven concerns Formula 1 teams raised over new rules for 2026”

  1. This a great article. While I would like to sit here from my armchair and dispute what the TPs are saying, it would be ridiculous of me to do so. However, over the years, we have always seen teams push their own agendas when it comes to rules changes, whether its to point out how current rules benefits the team out in front, or whether its based on teams that are struggling with money, it has always been the way in F1. I’ll take the comments from the TP’s with a little grain of salt.

    In addition, the flexi wings are a little bit of a concern to me, as previously they have been unable to test them effectively. In the current rules, RBR seems to get more from DRS than other teams, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that at a certain load the rear wing deforms in a way that allows the gap to be either less draggy or have a larger gap when deployed at speed, despite the fact that they pass the scrutineering tests currently when the car is at rest.

    1. The test is all that matters – if it fails the chosen test, then it is illegal. If it passes it is legal.
      I doubt that Red Bull’s aero advantage is coming from excess flexibility that other teams haven’t figured out themselves – and it is known that they are using other means to advantageously disrupt airflow at higher speeds.

      Anyway, it’s unfortunate that the competitors have more control over what F1 is than the viewers do. The teams will benefit no matter what – their collusion with Liberty has ensured that – and it usually comes at a cost to the viewer in terms of competition and unpredictability (specifically, the lack thereof).

  2. Has there ever been a larger rule change where many teams and drivers warned for the worst, only for them to be proven wrong?
    The rules were drafted by FIA, they obviously took some time to come up with them and test them on simulations etc, they didn’t just decide on them over a random coffee break. Teams (and drivers) obviously have the urge to lobby the rules in their favor, hence all this drama before we see them live.

    In 2014 there was so much moaning about the new engines, especially from Ferrari and Red Bull who lost status quo, about how slow the cars are, almost as slow as F2… and by 2016 they were almost beating some track records.
    In 2022 there was so much drama, how restrictive the rules were going to be, and how we would end up with cars looking 100% exactly the same… and as soon as we saw the cars, the top-3 teams had completely different concepts… hell even this year, Red Bull threw a curve ball and caught everyone by surprise by altering their 21/22 winning formula.

    Can we just wait calmly for once and see how the new rules will play out?

    1. even this year, Red Bull threw a curve ball and caught everyone by surprise by altering their 21/22 winning formula.

      Which isn’t winning by as much, nor as often….

      Can we just wait calmly for once and see how the new rules will play out?

      Some of us can, but Liberty and the teams can’t. They’ll be deep into their private meetings getting things changed as always.

    2. @black I tend to agree but ironically, last year most fans might have said to bring the new rules later than later to stop the RedBull runaway show, but seeing how it evolves this year and the promises it brings for the coming season, I wouldn’t be against pushing it further by a year or two.

      Not sure Audi lobbyists will agree though.

    3. @black The halo was an example where many teams and drivers hated the original concept (not helped by a botched FIA presentation) but were eventually proven wrong. An earlier example was the 1998 changes (both technical and commercial) that 3 teams heavily opposed but resulted in in F1 successfully riding the wave of interest generated in the mid-nineties and also was the beginning of teams entering the big time commercially.

      However, the teams and drivers have been proven right on multiple other occasions, including 2009 (the budget cap there was very badly conceived, to the point where “meekly accepting it” would almost certainly have resulted in no F1 in 2010) and 1993 (active aero bans were opposed by several teams and resulted in many accidents in the first part of 1994). Most of the 2022 objections proved to be correct – a health hazard had to be corrected quickly, while 3 options were presented, only 1 was anywhere near correct, and anything diverging from it (including Red Bull itself in its latest iteration) got punished for such creativity.

      The FIA, drivers and most teams agreed to the 2014 regulations relatively peaceably (it’s never 100% smooth because they’re all negotiators at heart), with mixed-to-negative results, although the worst part of it was the changes to the expected response to certain flags instituted by the FIA alone after the season started, without permitting the teams any opportunity to provide meaningful feedback. The changes agreed unanimously in 2020 were successful, albeit basically forced by circumstances.

      Some of what was said in this conference was the product of having less than 48 hours to consider what is likely to happen. (Speeds, for example, should be assumed to be where the cars would be if the teams had to materialise them today based on their current evaluations). Some objections that reasonably exist for this have not been voiced (safety in particular). However, this should be regarded as a reasonable estimate of what the teams think are the negative elements of the 2026 technical regulations, the challenges they will need to meet in order to succeed.

      The FIA did not follow the standard process for this sort of change, so of course teams are going to be extra-sceptical. Especially since paddock trust in the FIA’s competence at unilateral technical decisions has not been this low since 2009.

      Remember, too, they are all – teams, drivers, FIA senior staff – lobbyists at heart. Caution is advised on all angles.

  3. The teams never want change. This has been a constant refrain for decades now. It can be big (like the move to prioritize underbody downforce around 2012 or so) to essentially meaningless (like the recently withdrawn ban on tyre warmers). They are always complaining about everything.

    It’s rather tiresome, and just another argument – alongside the perennial uncompetitiveness of at least half of them – why they shouldn’t be listened to. Why should they suddenly be an expert on 2026 regulations when they’re spending 100+ million on cars that aren’t even close to exploiting the room of the current regulations? Some of these guys haven’t won a race in decades, but they’re to be trusted to explain how the 2026 regulations will work in great detail, right down to laptimes? Yeah… no thanks.

    1. As long as you accept that the teams objecting to FIA policies at certain points are the reason we have the possibility of F1 in 2026 in the first place…

  4. Everybody having no wings on the straights due to the active aero will ruin every last bit of whatever is left of slipstreaming in F1.

    1. will ruin every last bit of whatever is left of slipstreaming in F1

      I may be wrong, but whilst the slipstreaming effect will be reduced (perhaps even enough to prove the principle of what you are saying), the cars are still physical masses moving through the air at high speed, so I’m doubting the ‘every last bit’ assumption.

  5. Why is it a problem that they won’t be able to reach minimum weight limit initially? That’s part of the engineering challenge Komatsu is talking about.

    Why is it a problem cars will be slower? Of course they will be. Otherwise they’d always be faster and faster and faster, making racing less and less and less interesting as there would be even less opportunity to overtake.

    I agree with the complexity thing. X mode and Y mode? So are they related to energy use of just aero? Why do we need to artificially manipulate both? There is a good solution for overtake aiding in IndyCar: Push to pass. Everyone starts the race equal and it’s up to the drivers how they spend their Push to pass seconds.

    1. “There is a good solution for overtake aiding in IndyCar: Push to pass.”

      Indeed, the P2P is great, it’s simple and fair for everybody. But, I don’t know if you’ve noticed or realize, in every race, most drivers don’t use all of it, many don’t even use most of it, and that’s because the increased acceleration causes more tyre degradation, so they have to sacrifice using it all as not have to make an additional pit-stop, which sucks.
      So who knows, I’m sure F1 could make it suck even more.

    2. @f1mre It’s a problem because when this happens, safety-critical things get mined for the last gram. Last time it was the drivers. This time, don’t be surprised if it’s something structural (since the seat ballast rule limits what the drivers would sensibly be asked to lose in weight).

  6. What I don’t like about the new rules is that we have two systems which the FIA will have to regulate on each track. It is too restrictive and prescriptive, drivers should be able to use these systems as they wish.

    Z- and X-mode might sound great, but if the drivers are only allowed to use them in prescribed parts of the track, then it adds nothing to the racing and just makes it more obvious that this is a band-aid to cover up a performance problem. I don’t think this system has to be explained to the fans, because to a viewer it is totally irrelevant if all cars have their wings open or closed at the same time. It would be interesting, if the drivers could decide for themselves, but the FIA obviously does not think F1 drivers are capable of deciding how fast to go through a corner. I think the next step will be the FIA mandating corner speeds and brake points.

    MOM is the same as DRS and just as limited in it’s use. Just call it DRS 2.0, to a viewer it is totally irrelevant if the car goes faster because the rear wing opens or it gets to use more battery.

    I hope these systems become automated, because if not they would reduce the drivers to button-pushing automatons. No skill is required to push a button at a predetermined point on the track and it adds nothing to the racing having drivers do this manually.

    1. @uzsjgb The FIA has shown it cannot regulate what is currently under its control in a good manner. Automation would simply make the problem worse.

  7. silly rules for sport that is becoming increasingly silly

  8. I think it is for the better that the cornering speeds are down and straight line speed is up. This will make braking zones more important and therefore create opportunities for attacking. Maybe braking distance will go up due to higher top speeds? That would be positive

    1. And a suboptimal trajectory on corners may lead to more chances to close racing.
      Plus less dependence on aero to more stable cornering would bring car closer also.

  9. I see the “audiences would get confused” argument almost silly.
    At the race in Monaco, we had to be told that some drivers are going slower than possibly to avoid giving a pit stop advantage to the car behind – not a simple concept and even some professional commentator only perceived that after drivers interviews.
    Beyond that what is more complicated than today’s dependence on half square inch aero surfaces and appendices that wre barely visible on screen and that are almost arcane to engineers, as seen how they complain on how the computer simulation does correspond to on track perfomance.
    Call things complex and uninteresting to audiences but saying that a car lost .5sec per lap because at some random corner they damage tha car’s floor is not a reason to leave your house or even to tor on your TV.

    1. You’ve just confirmed the validity of the “audiences would get confused” argument. A lot of F1 fans only understand what they see as far as visuals and sound directly convey it. If the commentators are giving incorrect explanations because even they don’t understand it, those audiences have no chance (and even fans who should know better run the risk of getting confused about events and/or getting upset at knowing more than the commentators).

      1. I see, but I dont think F1 would get more complicated than it is now.
        And it is a good point that audiences need to see and be told about what is happening.
        But maybe it is a sign that F1 needs to refurbish their graphics.
        We are a few graphics from only see two pixels of the car in the screen and yet we cant get relevant information on the broadcast.
        For instance, the “striking distance” graphic is never accurate.

  10. It is a little harsh to call the changes silly, but two points definitely are:
    – the new regs are a push to reduce car weight by… 20 kilos.
    – the new regs are intended to abolish the DRS on the back wing by… adding another a DRS on the front wing (while keeping the on e on the back wing).

  11. Perhaps I am missing something, the ‘speed balance’ and the very aspect that Stella is bemoaning would surely mean a greater reliance on the drivers’ abilities to hit their marks in the braking zones. At least superficially this seems like a good thing.

    That said, I would hate F1 cars to appear to struggle in corners compared to lower formulae.

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