F1 warned against repeating ‘one of worst decisions ever made’ with F1 2026 regulations

Thomas Maher
2023 Monaco Grand Prix race start, Turn 1.

Concerns over the timeline and impact of the F1 2026 regulations have been raised.

The ongoing development of the 2026 F1 engine regulations has resulted in concerns that the sport could be making an error in direction.

F1 is introducing vastly different regulations for 2026, with a change to the power unit rules resulting in very different chassis regulations which have not yet been fully firmed up.

F1 chasing chassis regulations definitions ahead of F1 2026

F1 sticks with 1.6-litre turbocharged V6s in 2026, but sees an increase in electrical power to create a 50/50 ratio between the hybrid side and the internal combustion engine.

However, the nature of the engine rules means the chassis regulations require comprehensive thinking as the sport looks to introduce moveable and dynamic aerodynamics in order to ensure the outright performance of the cars doesn’t take too much of a hit.

But, with those rules not yet firmed up, recent simulator sessions have suggested the cars could be highly unstable with just active rear wings – meaning a more complicated front and rear wing solution will be needed. But, with just 20 months until 2026, the rules are not yet solidified.

Speaking on the Sky F1 podcast this week, Karun Chandhok and Martin Brundle both expressed concerns about the fact the teams don’t yet know what they’re supposed to be working with, and that the regulations themselves could be a step in the wrong direction.

“Well, first of all, the regulations haven’t fully been defined yet. What we do know is that the internal combustion engine – the amount of power from that will be reduced compared to the battery,” Chandhok said.

“F1 has been hybrid since 2014. The amount of hybrid power from the electric side is going to be now equal to the amount of power from the ICE. So 50/50, which is a big change to the power unit side.

“Now, from what we understand, there are still a lot of conversations going on about how they’re going to make that work.

“Because, in order to harvest the amount of energy and to get the amount of energy you need to deploy, you have to take a significant amount of drag off the car.

“So there are a lot of conversations going on between the teams and the FIA and F1’s technical department on just what the best way is for that. So, at the moment actually, there’s a lot of conversation but no definition yet in terms of what the chassis rules are going to be.”

The situation with the rules is an unusual one. Usually, chassis rules come first, with the engines being largely inconsequential to that. However, Chandhok pointed out that, in this situation, the chassis rules are being dictated by the engine regulations.

“I think this is the first time I could recall where the chassis rules are being dictated by the engine rules,” he said.

“We’ve been used to, in the last 75 years of the World Championship, the engine is the engine – it is whatever it is, plugged into the back of the regulations designed for the chassis with aero, wings, and active suspension coming and going and all that sort of stuff.

“But this is the first time where the PU rules have been defined, and then they’ve gone ‘Oh, hang on a second, we’re going to have to adapt the chassis rules to make sure that the cars aren’t lifting and coasting halfway down the straight’.

“So there’s still a lot to be defined.”

Martin Brundle’s hopes F1 2026 won’t repeat mistakes of 2014

Brundle agreed with his fellow broadcaster, with the former F1 racer saying the tasks facing the teams at this point are piling up – all without any clear route or advice on where to proceed.

“You have to be really concerned about this, because here we are, 22 months away from these cars running, and it’s not defined,” he said.

“It’s going to have active aerodynamics as well, with a lot more wing movement than we currently see with the DRS Drag Reduction System and a lot more battery power.

“So the cars are probably going to be heavier, and more complex. They’ve got to get the harvesting and deployment sorted out. It feels to me like these regulations should have been cast in stone a good year or so ago.

“Then you’ve got a new team coming in, Audi, that is aiming at them, and Red Bull Powertrains is a start-up, albeit with Ford assistance.

“But there’s a lot of unknowns. I hope we were getting that right.”

Brundle also said he hopes a similar situation to 2014 doesn’t arise, in which one manufacturer steals a march on the rest with an advantage that proves difficult to close down for years.

“I expressed in commentary recently that I felt these hybrid engines were perhaps the worst decision that Formula 1 ever made in terms of the cars have become so big and so complex but, my goodness, they’re fast and impressive,” he said.

“We’ve kind of sorted it out now but, in the early days, it was a pain. We don’t want to go through that again, like we had in 2014, where one power unit was massively dominant, or maybe one team with the aero gets it absolutely right. It’s a shame.

“I think what that also means is, what you’re seeing in 2024, will be largely locked in for 2025. Because who’s going to have the resources, the budget, and the time to do a lot of work on that 2025 car and update that through the season, when it’s such a set change for 2026?

“The teams will be getting quite edgy and angsty about ‘What are we aiming at? What are the regulations? We need to start putting some things to bed’.

“But, luckily, with the incredible resources and ingenuity in F1, they’ll sort it out, they will get it sorted out. In the pandemic, it was F1 who came up with the ventilators – designed and created and got them out to market faster than anybody else could even dream up.

“So we have the capability to do it. But I don’t know why we put ourselves under so much stress here.”

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Karun Chandhok: F1 teams want rules locked in by June 2024

While the power unit regulations are now defined in the FIA’s rulebooks, the chassis regulations are not yet available. Chandhok revealed that, to his knowledge, the teams are eager to have them nailed down by June of this season – just a few short weeks away.

“I think there’s a balance there,” he said when asked how long teams would like to know about regulation changes in advance.

“Because, if you give them too much time, then they simulate everything to death and spend a whole lot of money on it.

“So we do want some sort of control over that. But we’re getting to a point now where it has to be defined. The teams have all, from what I understand from everyone I spoke to – some of the technical people in the teams in Jeddah – they were hoping for the rules to be locked in 100 percent by June.

“But the feeling from the paddock is that they’re not going to get that and this conversation could rumble on into later this year. They think that’s just a bit too late.

“They would like a solid 18 to 20 months before the start of the first test to have the rules set in stone. Then there’s going to be some clarifications, there’s going to be some amount of questioning along the process.a

“But you want to have the bulk of it sorted out, which is getting tight. Now we’re in early April already, you’re only talking six to seven weeks away. And they still haven’t got any firm clarity in terms of what these mobile aero bits are going to be and how they’re going to make it all work.”

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