Adrian Newey opens up on ‘strange formula’ around 2026 engine regulations

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton on track during the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix.

Adrian Newey believes the new engine regulations in F1 in 2026 will lead to strange scenarios at slow corners like Monaco's hairpin.

Adrian Newey believes the new engine rules for 2026 will lead to unusual scenarios while negotiating slower corners on the F1 calendar.

F1 introduces very different engine and chassis regulations in 2026, with the sport moving towards introducing a 50/50 split between the internal combustion engine and electrical output, meaning an increased focus on energy recovery.

Adrian Newey: Engines will be working hard in Monaco

The engine regulations, which still focus around the core of a 1.6-litre V6 turbocharged unit, will mean the units will effectively become electrical generators that feed back into their hybrid systems in order to re-harness energy.

This means that, at low-speed corners, such as the hairpin at Monaco – the slowest corner on the calendar – the engines will be heard at full revs despite the low speed.

Speaking in an interview with Motorsport.com, Red Bull’s chief technical officer Adrian Newey admitted it’s going to be a very strange scenario to adjust to.

“It’s certainly going to be a strange formula in as much as the engines will be working flat-chat as generators just about the whole time,” he said.

“So, the prospect of the engine working hard in the middle of Loews hairpin is going to take some getting used to.”

While the engine regulations have been defined, the chassis regulations that are being moulded around them have yet to be fully nailed down as the teams work with the FIA to figure out how best to approach the issue of active aerodynamics.

In order not to encounter too large a performance drop, the cars will need active aero to work with the new engine rules, and the initial simulation work done on this has suggested a more complex front-and-rear wing approach will be needed in order to ensure car stability.

With the cars proving near undrivable under the original plans to only run with active rear aerodynamics, further tweaking is necessary – and Newey explained the challenge facing the teams isn’t a small one.

“It is fair to say that the engine regulations were created and pushed through without very much thought to the chassis side of it,” he said.

“And that is now creating quite large problems in terms of trying to come up with a solution to work with it.

“But I think the one good thing out of that, is that it does promote efficiency. And I think anything that does that, and promotes that, has to be in line with what I said earlier: of trying to use F1 to popularise a trend.”

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The new regulations are aimed at introducing power units and hybrid systems which lend themselves to the automotive sector’s quest for greater sustainability and road relevance – also a major focus in F1 as part of the push to become net carbon zero by 2030.

But, last year, Red Bull boss Christian Horner warned the regulations are in danger of creating “Frankenstein” cars and, while Horner has since said the planned regulations have shown progress to reduce those concerns, Newey said it would be a “fair comment” that the proposed aerodynamic regulations are a ‘sticking plaster’ for engine rules that are not delivering upon what had been hoped.

“[It’s] probably one that even the FIA would acknowledge,” he said, “that only the engine manufacturers wanted this kind of 50/50 combustion engine with electric.

“I guess it is what their marketing people said that we should be doing and I understand that: it’s potentially interesting because F1 can be a fast-track developer of technology.

“The problem potentially on the battery and electric side is the cost currently, certainly of electric motors to F1 standard, plus inverters and batteries. It is very high, but perhaps production techniques in the future will help to bring that down.

“The other problem is the battery. What we need, or what the F1 regulations need out of the batteries in terms of power density and energy density, is quite different to what a normal road car needs. And that in itself means that the battery chemistry, and possibly battery construction is different. So, there’s a risk that it won’t be directly road-relevant.

“But perhaps that’s not the key aspect anyway. The key aspect, certainly for the manufacturers although they will never admit it, is the perception of relevance in the show room.”

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