‘Nimble’ cars, override mode and adjustable wings: F1 unveils cars of the future for 2026

The new Formula 1 car concept to be introduced from 2026
Changes are coming for new Formula 1 cars - Formula One

The FIA, Formula One’s governing body, has announced a more “nimble” car concept for 2026, which will be 30kg lighter and 10cm narrower than the current machines. But Formula One drivers have already expressed some scepticism that the FIA has gone far enough, with Lewis Hamilton saying “it’s only 30kgs” and “still heavy”.

The seven-time world champion, speaking ahead of this weekend’s race in Canada, added that the sport needed, above all, to make sure the “racing is improved”.

Formula One had already announced the new engine concept for 2026, which will see the cars powered by a near 50-50 split between electric and internal combustion power – as well as using fully-sustainable fuels. Those changes have led to commitments from existing suppliers such as Ferrari, Mercedes and Alpine, the return of Honda as a manufacturer and the arrival of Audi and Red Bull Ford Powertrains.

But the announcement of the full technical specification, as the sport prepares for this weekend’s grand prix in Montreal, is a big moment, firing the starting pistol for a new era which could see a reshuffle in the pecking order.

Other major changes include the use of active aerodynamics, which will be used to optimise the use of the new engines.

Cars will have front and rear wings that open on the straights to reduce drag and increase speed, but then close to increase downforce for cornering performance. And overtaking will be facilitated by a power-boost system for a car following another, to be known as manual override mode. This is instead of the current DRS (drag-reduction system).

All teams will now be working towards these regulations, with some key personnel potentially making career decisions based on what they see.

Adrian Newey, the engineering guru whose designs have won championships for Williams, McLaren and Red Bull, is yet to announce his next move after announcing his decision to quit the current champions.

The British designer, 65, looks almost certain to join Ferrari, although McLaren, Aston Martin and Williams are also interested. 1996 champion Damon Hill, speaking on this week’s F1 Nation podcast, suggested his former teammate might be waiting to see the full 2026 regulations before making a firm decision one way of another.

Red Bull's Andrian Newey in Monaco
Adrian Newey's decision to quit Red Bull came as a shock - Getty Images/Emmanuele Ciancaglini

“There’ll be a certain person who’ll be eager to get his hands on the regulations and see what he can find,” Hill predicted. “That person of course has recently announced that he will be leaving Red Bull. And that is my old designer friend [Newey].

Asked whether he thought Newey had been waiting for the new regulations before making a decision, Hill replied: “Yeah. He’s able to see like Superman can see through steel. He can see through regulations.”

The new regulations will see the cars’ minimum weight reduced by 30kg to 768kg, and their width reduced by 10cm to 190cm.

Both front and rear tyres will also be narrower, while there will be a revised, partially flat floor to limit underbody aerodynamic ‘ground effect’ and reduce the need for the cars to be run very stiff and low.

Speaking in Montreal ahead of this weekend’s race, the drivers were all asked about the new regulations.

“I mean, it’s only 30 kilos,” Hamilton noted. “So it’s going in the right direction, but it’s still heavy. So, I’ve only just seen what you’ve all seen this morning, so… I don’t really have huge thoughts on it just yet. I’ve spoken to some drivers who have driven it on the simulator – I haven’t – but they said it’s pretty slow.

“So we will see whether it’s actually the right direction or not. But I think in terms of sustainability, particularly on the power unit side, I think that’s a really bold step and I think it’s going in the right direction. We’ve just got to make sure the cars are efficient, fast, and a natural step forward, and actually racing is improved.”

Nico Hulkenberg, the Haas driver, is one who has driven the car in the simulator. He agreed that the concept “needed further work”.

“Yeah, it’s certainly quite different,” the German said. “Some interesting areas and aspects. I think some that still need a bit further work. Like Lewis said, I think the weight reduction is good, but then 30 kilos is also… It’s not the world. It looks like a lot less downforce, especially high-speed corners. It will be quite a different scenario and characteristic to now. So, you know, there is going to be definitely a drastic change. And, you know, change is always… You’re not always so open to it. But, yeah, we’ll see what happens between now and, you know, in the one and a half years, if there might be some small adjustments or not with what’s going on.”

Hamilton’s teammate George Russell predicted the cars would be “very different” to today’s; faster on the straight and slower in the corners, adding there “has to be comprise some compromises along the way” to accommodate the new power units.

“We’re going more [towards] electrification and there has to be some compromises along the way,” he said.

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