The fact that Formula 1 will increase the reliance on active aerodynamics with the 2026 regulatory reset has left the likes of Max Verstappen wary, but Red Bull’s design guru Adrian Newey has no problems with it.
The current F1 rules are stable for the coming two seasons, but for 2026, there will be a fresh reset as a new generation of challengers and power units hit the track.
And among the alterations for these new-look challengers, which the FIA has named the ‘nimble car concept’, is the expected increase in reliance on active aerodynamics, which allows the shape of certain parts to move based on the conditions.
Adrian Newey sees future relevance in active aero
Not everyone is sold on this, including Red Bull’s three-time World Champion Max Verstappen, who is not comfortable with the idea of not being in full control of his car aerodynamically.
“Then you have the active aerodynamics, which you [the driver] can’t control, the system will control it for you,” he said looking ahead to the 2026 regulations.
“It makes it very awkward to drive because I prefer to control it myself.
“Of course, when you are behind someone maybe you need more front or more rear, this kind of thing. If the system starts to control that for you, I don’t think that’s the right way forward.”
However, Newey, who is set to design the 2026 Red Bull which Verstappen will compete with, does not share his driver’s concerns when it comes to the expanding role of active aero in F1.
The new generation of power units are set to be cheaper and feature a higher reliance on electrical power, Newey arguing active aerodynamics are needed to compensate for a reduction in power output from the engine.
“It doesn’t concern me,” he told Motorsport.com.
“The more active aero is really to try to make up for a power unit that’s lacking in energy.
“The active aero becomes essential to make up for the power unit that’s lacking in energy. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.”
Newey expanded on that idea, highlighting that active aero is present in the road car sector, while also dispelling any safety concerns.
“Trying to drive for greater aerodynamic efficiency of the vehicle is clearly a good goal,” he continued.
“And why should active aero not be part of that? After all, it’s become a part of it in road cars.
“There’s a huge amount of cars you see with spoilers lopping up and down on the boot lid and so forth.
“So, why not have that in racing? Active aero only got a bad name when wings were falling off back in the ’60s. We’re well beyond that now.”
F1 has a proud history of being a key technological innovator for solutions which then filter into the road car division, so Newey believes the series going further down the active aero route opens up further opportunities for F1 to continue its role as the creator.
“F1 typically has been a good way to popularise things on road cars,” Newey stated. “If you look way back, things like disc brakes.
“But then [also] slightly more recently carbonfibre sportscars – fake or real carbonfibre trim etc.
“All those things that a buyer in the high street wants an association and manufacturers of course provide that association.
“So, active aero has to be the future of road cars, so I think it’s appropriate that Formula 1 should be showing, displaying the power of it.”
Red Bull has been schooling the field in this current era of F1, winning a remarkable 21 of the 22 grands prix held in the 2023 campaign.