As Formula 1 prepares for major alterations in both power unit and chassis regulations, there is a growing apprehension about the potential impact on the sport if the new set of rules fail to deliver as intended.
Sources report that during the standard team principals’ gathering at the Canadian Grand Prix, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali was faced with new concerns, particularly regarding the already established power unit rules.
Red Bull team chief Christian Horner, known for previously discussing this issue at F1 Commission meetings, voiced doubts over the need for a reevaluation of the proposed 50/50 power generation split between the internal combustion engine and the battery. Instead, he suggested, there should be a shift away from heavy reliance on the electrical element to prevent potential complications.
Concerns Over Straightline Speeds
Preliminary analysis conducted by teams have sparked fears that battery power depletion could be an issue on some circuits due to the electrical systems’ inability to adequately regenerate energy from the MGU-K. This could lead to peculiar driver behavior in attempts to generate more energy on corner entry, sudden speed loss on straights, and forced gear shifts on the straight if the 350kW (equivalent to 470hp) battery-allowed boost is lost.
One team leader stated, “Thorough analysis is needed. If we get it wrong, it could seriously dampen the spectacle. We might end up with drivers excessively preserving their batteries or even forced to change gears on the straights.”
The team principals’ concerns have been amplified by their lack of knowledge regarding the potential drag profiles of the 2026 cars, which are expected to feature active aerodynamics to flatten wings on straights. Increased drag could escalate the risk of inadequate battery power.
Another team chief stated, “We need more insight into the effect of these changes to avoid drivers unexpectedly slowing down mid-straight. If there are any issues, they need to be addressed now rather than after the rules have been finalised.”
According to sources, multiple teams are requesting that FIA intensify its assessment of the impact of these regulations for a clearer depiction of the 2026 expectations. Teams are keen to have a better understanding of the future power units’ behaviour across all circuits.
The worry extends beyond just overall lap times, with the goal being for cars to maintain similar performance levels as currently seen. The focus is also on understanding how and where power is produced throughout the lap.
Despite simulations suggesting that the new engines will operate efficiently at power regeneration-friendly circuits, there is no assurance that their performance will suit every track.
FIA Stands by 2026 Changes
In the midst of these concerns over engine changes, the FIA continues to refine the chassis regulations, required to incorporate active aerodynamics due to the power characteristics shift from the engines necessitating significant straightline drag reduction.
The FIA has affirmed its commitment to the 2026 regulation changes, expressing confidence that F1 will continue to provide an exciting spectacle. The process of finalizing the car concept is still ongoing, with no significant concerns emerging yet.
An FIA spokesperson told F1 Flow.com, “The power unit regulations for 2026 and beyond are well-defined and approved, aligning with FIA’s and Formula 1’s vision of pioneering technologies for a more sustainable future while ensuring an exciting sports spectacle.”
He added, “We are developing a comprehensive package that will allow cars to run at speeds comparable to what we see today, but with far greater efficiency. Of course, the competitive nature of Formula 1 will encourage teams and power unit manufacturers to develop innovative ways to unlock the last bit of performance from their designs.”