FIA president responds to Christian Horner’s ‘Frankenstein’ car concerns

Thomas Maher
Spa-Francorchamps: FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem in attendance.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem is not afraid to speak his mind.

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has responded to Christian Horner’s concerns about the 2026 power unit regulations.

While there are no immediate plans to dramatically alter the 2026 power unit regulations, the governing body have indicated an openness to tweaks to the formula, provided sufficient justification.

Recently, Christian Horner warned of fears of F1 becoming ‘Frankenstein’ cars as a result of the increased power from the electrical components versus the power supplied from the combustion components – leading to the potential of drivers needing to shift down the gears towards the end of long straights in a bid to keep electrical boost.

What are Christian Horner’s concerns?

Earlier in the summer, Horner said: “I think that one of the big issues, and one of the big impacts for 2026 is weight.

“You’re looking at pretty much a 30-kilogramme swing on cars are already approaching sports car type of weight through the cooling that’s going to be required and so on.

“I think there are some very positive things about 2026 and the sustainable fuel and so on is extremely positive but I think that perhaps where we need to pay urgent attention, before it’s too late, is to look at the ratio between combustion power and electrical power to ensure that we’re not creating a technical Frankenstein which will require the chassis to compensate to such a degree with movable aero and to reduce the drag to such a level that the racing will be affected, that there will be no tow effect, there will be no DRS because effectively you’re running at that at all points in time.

“And that the characteristics of these engines are just not… the combustion engine just doesn’t become a generator to recharge a battery.

“That could easily be addressed with just tuning the ratio between combustion and electrical power. And because the engine regulations… We still have two and a half years, and I think if there is a slight redress it would then create potentially a better platform for the chassis because otherwise the chassis regs that are undefined yet and uncommitted, we’re going to be trying to cater for those compromises and so I think you’ve got to look at the thing holistically from both a technical point of view but the most important thing is: what is Formula 1?

“F1 needs to be wheel-to-wheel racing. We can’t afford to lose that challenge of drivers downshifting on straights to regenerate batteries. So I know the FIA are taking it very seriously, and they’re looking at it very closely as the simulations become more advanced.”

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Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s reaction to Christian Horner’s argument

Since the 3rd of March this year, the ratified Sporting Engine Regulations for 2026 have been published by the FIA, while the Technical Engine Regulations for 2026 have been live since the 20th of June.

While the regulations are signed off, Ben Sulayem said there is room for tweaking, provided consensus is reached.

“We deliberated for 18 months, but in the end everyone signed off,” he told Motorsport-Total.com.

Explaining that there had been some resistance amongst the teams, he said: “I even understand their position. But they also have to understand the FIA’s position. We want to make motorsport sustainable and the only way to make motorsport sustainable is with more OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] than power unit manufacturers and teams.

“The new regulations are the reason why new OEMs are coming in. Audi, for example.”

While Horner has suggested that the chassis rules be written in a way to reduce the reliance on the proposed active aerodynamics and movable, complex, diffusers and wings, Ben Sulayem isn’t being triggered into taking immediate steps for change.

“At the end of the day, that’s his opinion. I respect what Christian says. But for me, it is more important: What is good for the majority of the teams? What is good for the sport as a whole?” he said.

“I spoke to him in Hungary. I always listen to the opinions of the stakeholders. He didn’t seem to care much about the percentage distribution. Whether that’s 60:40, 45:55, or 52:48. At the end of the day, it’s about why we’re doing this – which is because we want to reduce emissions by 80 percent.

“Maybe we are a bit too optimistic. But we’re aiming for an 80 percent redesign, which should come from lighter cars, from the combustion engine, from the battery, from aerodynamics, from less petrol. Everything together makes a difference. If we slack off on just one sub-area, we won’t reach the target.”

But Ben Sulayem does agree with the desire for lighter cars, a turnaround from the ever-increasing weight over the last decade.

“I have driven rallies myself. Give me everything, but please no heavy car! That always bothered me,” he said.

“Lighter cars are better, and I know what I am talking about. If the car is heavier, the suspension is affected, the brakes work worse, the tyres wear faster. And in an accident, more weight is more dangerous.

“I have already spoken to my team at the FIA. We want lighter cars, and we want a better sound. At the end of the day, that’s up to the FIA. If Stefano [Domenicali, F1 CEO] wants that too, fine, we agree on that point. But it’s up to the FIA to decide. We implement it. Not because the FOM or a team wants it that way. But because it is the right thing for the sport.”

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