‘Big meeting’ looming in January with new PU regulations being ‘tidied up’

Jamie Woodhouse
Action at the 2022 British Grand Prix. Silverstone, F1 points July 2022.

Action at the 2022 British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2022.

F1’s chief technical officer Pat Symonds confirmed that a meeting will soon take place with the teams as the F1 2026 regulations take shape.

From that year on the new generation of Formula 1 power units will come into effect, ones simplified with the axing of the MGU-H element, while the reliance on electrical power increases and a fully-sustainable fuel is introduced for use with the Internal Combustion Engine.

The power unit regulations are already out and published, with FIA approval, though work is still ongoing with the manufacturers to fine-tune the details, and in a January meeting, the teams now will be brought into the mix to start discussing the chassis regulations.

“The power unit regulations are out and published, they’re not finished, we’re now really tidying up,” Symonds told PlanetF1.com and other F1 media outlets at an Autosport International Business Forum.

“The chassis regulations we have been working on for a while now, a couple of years on some basic layout, but on January 25 we’ve got a big meeting in Geneva with all the teams, and that’s the first sort of real interaction where we sit down with the teams and we say ‘here are the concepts we want to bring into ’26’ and we start getting their views on that.

“End of January is when we really turn our attention to spending a lot more time with the teams themselves.”

When asked to give a timeline for how far in advance work begins on a new regulation set, Symonds explained that it is a case of the earlier the better.

And as for what the teams need, he explained that a one-year period is required, though used 2017 as an example of why that figure is “give or take”.

“The earlier you start the better the job is done, because it never finishes,” he said. “Every year I’ve designed a car I think it’s the best it can be, but next year it goes quicker, so the earlier you start, the better.

“The real thing is the t-zero, the time when you have to freeze your design. You need to give them a year, the last big change was for 2017, and those regulations weren’t actually ready until February of 2016. So you can do it in less than a year, the year is give or take.”

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While the teams and power unit manufacturers are very much involved with this upcoming new set of rules, Symonds explained how a “quite dictatorial” approach was taken with the 2021 Technical Regulations overhaul and also the budget cap. The new cars were delayed until 2022 due to the global pandemic.

Symonds explained that this approach came about because the previous Concorde Agreement has actually expired, Symonds saying that offered a “pretty free hand” and a way of pushing through regulations in a manner that he felt “was a good way to be”.

However, he said it is the wish of the FIA for a much more collaborative approach to be used to determine the final details of the 2026 cars which will run with these new power units.

“I think with the ’26 power unit, we’ve been very, very collaborative with the main manufacturers,” said Symonds. “And with the ’26 car, I think the FIA do want to be more collaborative than we were on ’22.”

Symonds explained though that the series will not compromise on the alterations for 2022 that allowed for closer following, thus increasing overtaking opportunities, which was the main aim of the new ruleset.

And he also predicts that the 2026 cars will be able to follow even closer than these early models of this new era of ground-effect aerodynamics.

“Where do we go from here? It’s more of the same,” he said. “We’re working on the 2026 car now, we mustn’t lose anything that we’ve found about the overtaking, about the close following.

“And in fact, not only will we not lose that, but we’ll improve on it because any engineering project is never finished to the point when you have to actually terminate it, you’ve still got a million ideas, and I think the 2026 cars will be able to race even closer.”