‘Worrying news’ emerges for F1 2026 as simulator data raises active aero concerns

Thomas Maher
The race start of the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix.

Simulator data regarding the F1 2026 chassis regulations could be cause for concern.

Recent F1 simulator sessions seem to indicate that all is not well when it comes to the 2026 chassis regulations.

Work on honing the 2026 chassis regulations in light of the already existing power unit regulations continues apace in the background, but recent simulator sessions are causing alarm.

F1 2026 power unit regulations causing ethos change

2026 marks a major regulation change, with the power unit regulations already decided. While sticking with a 1.6-litre turbocharged V6, the new power units will see an increase in electrical output to create a 50/50 split between the internal combustion engine and the hybrid components.

With such an increase in electrification, the chassis changes required to make the formula work without a major compromise on performance have seen the introduction of the idea of moveable aerodynamics.

This idea will see the car’s wings adapt to a given scenario on track, moving from high-downforce configurations through corners to utilising a low-drag setup down the straights in order to produce strong lap times.

According to a report in Motorsport.com, some of the teams have begun simulator testing the base-spec car, dubbed the ‘Fangio’ and the tests have not resulted in positive situations.

The report asserts that sources say when the “rear wing was in its most low-drag configuration and the engine was at full power, the car was almost undriveable – with multiple examples of drivers spinning on straights under acceleration or being unable to take the smallest of curves without the rear stepping out.

“This was triggered by a shift in aero balance that was estimated to be three times as much as is currently experienced when DRS is open.”

This scenario was triggered when the movable aero was applied to the rear wing only – which is seen as the most simple scenario for introduction at present.

The report claims that suggestions have been made that the only way “to prevent the cars spinning was to drive so conservatively that the lap times ended up being slower than current Formula 2 machinery.”

As a result, following FIA representatives being presented with this information, the moveable aero plan will now have to incorporate both front and rear wings moving in collaboration with each other in order to deliver the performance characteristics desired, as this will reduce the aerodynamic imbalance.

With the regulations yet to be fully determined, as work continues to try moulding the chassis around the power unit rather than vice versa, it’s led broadcaster and former F1 driver Karun Chandhok to express concerns with how the rulebook is being approached.

“Worrying news on 2026 rules…” he said.

“As far as I can recall, this is the first time ever that the engine rules seem to dictate the chassis rules in F1.

“Done to entice Audi and Honda, it’s too late to change the PU rules now so what do they do?? Moveable aero / DRS is bad for overtaking!

“For the past few years I’ve been saying that I wished 2026 would go to a V10, non-hybrid car on sustainable fuels. Smaller, lighter, noisier, more challenging cars. Road car companies are investing in ICE programs again. FIA seems to have missed the boat with F1 IMO…”

PlanetF1.com recommends

Key technical details reported for new-look F1 2026 challengers

Revealed: FIA unveil F1 2026 weight reduction target as cars set to go ‘on a diet’

Christian Horner: The FIA is taking on board the feedback

Last year, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner warned that F1 risks introducing “Frankenstein” cars based on the proposed regulations, and said he’s pleased to see the FIA taking on board the learnings of the current simulator work.

“I think there’s been some good progression,” Horner told Motorsport.com.

“I think that the FIA has taken on board some of the feedback and some alterations have been made.

“We’re waiting for the chassis regulations, which will be a fundamental part of the 2026 package now, and how that interacts with these power units.

“The various working groups are working hard on that and it’s important that we conclude something in the near future.”

The teams are prevented from carrying out any aerodynamic CFD or wind tunnel testing based on the 2026 regulations at present, with the restriction on this testing lifting in January 2025.

For now, the work being carried out is simulator-based only, and Horner said the findings aren’t yet a cause for concern.

“The rules are the same for everybody at the end of the day,” he said.

“So, it’s how you apply them and translate them. I don’t think we’re afraid of whatever the rules will be, as it’s the same starting point for everybody.

“When they’re finalised, that’s when we’ll no doubt discover whatever issues there are with the rules, but that’s no different to any other regulation change.”

Read Next: How Daniel Ricciardo actually helped Max Verstappen to easier win in Japan