The envisioned surge in electrification, entailing an equal power contribution from the battery and combustion engine, has raised doubts about vehicles depleting energy during straight paths and necessitating gear reductions to recharge.
However, away from public scrutiny, F1 leaders and the FIA have been diligently developing designs robust enough to allay these fears.
This is why F1’s Chief Technical Officer, Pat Symonds, recently refuted the notion that F1’s 2026 car initiative is headed for trouble. He stated that the current behind-the-scenes work far surpasses the level of the teams’ ongoing simulations.
“The simulated performance trajectory of a 2026 car doesn’t look drastically different from 2023,” he noted.
Symonds explained that concerns about reaching peak speed mid-straight aren’t valid anymore.
F1 and the FIA’s confidence is anchored in the powerful computing capabilities driving the CFD simulations that help shape new regulations. This forms a part of F1’s partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), which played a crucial role in the inception of the all-new ground-effect cars launched in 2022.
By leveraging AWS’s servers and cloud infrastructure, F1 gained access to CFD performance on par with cutting-edge supercomputers, but at a fraction of the cost.
Reflecting on the development of the 2022 cars, Symonds explained that F1’s confidence is fueled by the success of the AWS collaboration.
“With the transformational alliance with AWS, we had to undertake significant work to get it functioning optimally. However, it endowed us with the capability to run incredibly complex models,” Symonds told Motorport.com.
Leveling the Playing Field
What AWS has brought to F1 and the FIA is the ability for their relatively small group of engineers and aerodynamic experts to match the vast team resources that other teams possess to decipher regulations.
While pitlane teams are strictly capped in their computing capabilities due to the aerodynamic testing limitation rules, there’s virtually no limit for F1 itself in harnessing AWS’s colossal computing power.
As Dr Neil Ashton, Principal CFD Specialist Solution Architect at AWS, elucidated, AWS aims to provide them with the necessary resources to create a level playing field.
Using AWS’s servers and cloud computing capabilities, F1 was able to perform the highest quality CFD simulations.
Dr Ashton also highlighted how AWS’s resources allow F1 to run multiple simulations simultaneously, thereby accelerating their research process.
Dr Ashton emphasized how analyzing two cars running close to each other was a game-changing approach in understanding the physics at play in close racing.
He asserted, “Without AWS’s resources, they would have really struggled to run such a big model.”
Symonds also pointed out that while creating cars that don’t lose performance when closely following is practically impossible, the current generation maintains good balance even in another car’s wake.
Symonds declared that the most critical lesson F1 learned through AWS collaboration was to focus on how car designs impact trailing cars, as it is vital for racing.
However, he stated that rules shouldn’t be too restricting for teams, as they need to have leeway to chase performance. Looking towards 2026, he hopes that rule creators’ and competitors’ ambitions can be in harmony.
Symonds reflects on how technology used in evaluating rule changes today is a world apart from the past.
Reminiscing about the 2009 rules’ failure, the last time F1 radically overhauled the car design to enhance overtaking, he noted that today’s process is far more sophisticated.
“There is no comparison to the sophistication of what we did for 2022 compared to 2009. One was prehistoric,” he concluded.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about F1 Car Design Simulations
What changes are planned for F1 cars in 2026?
The 2026 plans for F1 cars include increased electrification with a 50/50 power split from the battery and the combustion engine. This move has raised concerns about energy depletion during races and the need for gear changes for recharging.
Why are F1 and the FIA confident about the 2026 car plans?
F1 and the FIA’s confidence about the 2026 car plans stem from their use of Amazon Web Services (AWS) for computer processing. The robust and cost-effective CFD simulations made possible by AWS have enabled high-fidelity testing and design of the new set of regulations.
How has AWS helped F1 with their car designs?
AWS provides F1 with cloud infrastructure and server capacity that is equivalent to that of a state-of-the-art supercomputer. This has facilitated efficient and high-fidelity CFD performance for F1’s car design, reducing a single run from 60 hours to just 10 and enabling multiple simultaneous runs.
What is the ‘gold standard’ in F1 car design testing?
The ‘gold standard’ in F1 car design testing refers to the comprehensive simulation of two full cars running one behind the other in a cornering situation with completely unsteady flow. This complex simulation allows for a deeper understanding of the physics at play in close racing.
How have the F1 2022 cars performed and how does this influence the 2026 plans?
Despite inevitable performance tweaks by teams, the 2022 cars have shown significant improvement in terms of wake control and downforce compared to the previous designs. These advancements and the lessons learned in their development form a crucial foundation for the F1 2026 plans.