Formula 1 Racing

The FIA’s ‘Nimble Car concept’ needs to set a new trend for F1 · RaceFans

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Zandvoort, 2021

The new technical rules for the 2026 Formula 1 season, which were revealed in detail by the FIA today, were always going to present a difficult compromise.

Having already set out its plan for the next generation of power units due for introduction the same year, F1’s new chassis rules were always going have to work around them.

The scale of the change involved in the 2026 motors is easy to underestimate as the combustion engine part, which until now has provided by far the majority of the power, will change little. However its contribution to the total output will fall to little more than half of the total.

With no more energy recovery through heat due to the removal of the MGU-H, an uprated MGU-K will instead supply as much as 350kW. This is significant for the chassis rules as that power needs to be generated as the car circulates.

The 2026 cars will still be heavier than those of 2021

This created a need to significantly reduce the drag of the cars. The FIA’s solution to this was to increase the use of active aero beyond the familiar Drag Reduction System and allow drivers to use it all the time. This has had other knock-on affects.

There were other points the FIA wanted to achieve with the new rules such as making it easier for cars to follow each other closely. This was a major focus of the last new set of chassis regulations, only two years ago, but remains a work-in-progress as drivers’ complaints over the negative effect of ‘dirty air’ have only increased this year. Naturally, safety remains a priority and a prerequisite.

Then there is the question of weight. For years, drivers have urged the FIA to reverse the trend towards increasingly heavy cars.

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F1 be nimble…

The FIA refers to its new 2026 regulations as a “‘nimble car’ concept”. Single seater director Nikolas Tombazis describes this as being “smaller in all dimensions and also a bit lighter.”

The latter point, lightness, has been a recurring theme among drivers for years. The FIA has announced a headline weight reduction of 30 kilograms, down from the current 798kg. However it noted this is partly based on the estimate that Pirelli’s new, narrower tyres will add 46kg.

As recent history has shown, F1 has had difficulty preventing car weight from creeping up. But it can’t afford to water down this modest reduction in weight.

A 30kg trim will still leave F1 cars weighing more than they did just three…

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