F1 cars in 2026 will be smaller, safer, more agile and more sustainable

Enlarge / By 2026, F1 cars will go on a bit of a diet.

International Automobile Federation

Today, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile set the direction for the next set of Formula 1 technical regulations, which will come into force in 2026. It will be the second major restructuring of F1’s technical regulations since 2022 and involves radical changes to the hybrid powertrain and a fundamental rethinking of how some of the aerodynamics works.

“With this set of regulations, the FIA ​​has sought to develop a new generation of cars that are fully in touch with the DNA of Formula 1: cars that are light, extremely fast and agile, but that also remain at the forefront of the technology, and to achieve this we are working towards what we call an ‘agile car’ concept. At the heart of that vision is a redesigned power unit that features a more equal split between energy derived from the internal combustion element and electric power. “Nikolas said. Tombazis, FIA single-seater technical director.

Didn’t we just get new rules?

It seems that F1 has just passed its last major rule change with the (re)introduction of ground effect cars in early 2022. Since the early 1980s, F1 cars have generated aerodynamic grip, or downforce , through the front and rear spoilers. . But drivers found it increasingly difficult to follow each other in corners, as dirty air from the car in front starved the front wing of the car behind, depriving it of cornering grip in the process.

The 2022 rules changed this, requiring cars to use a sculpted floor that generates downforce through the venturi effect. This reduced the importance of the front wing and, in fact, the cars were able to race very closely in 2022. Within two years, F1 cars will use less complicated floors with smaller venturis that generate a smaller ground effect, which, according to the FIA, it should mean that you will no longer have to run “ultra-stiff and low settings” to avoid the porpoise problem.

Overall downforce is being reduced by 30 percent, but there is an even bigger reduction in drag – the target is 55 percent, which is being done in part to accommodate the new hybrid powertrain.

More hybrid power

The V6 internal combustion engine is becoming less powerful, dropping to an output of 536 hp (400 kW), but the electric motor that also drives the rear wheels will now generate 470 hp (350 kW). That leaves the combined power output roughly where it is today, but only when the battery has enough charge. However, cars will be allowed to collect twice as much energy (8.5 MJ) per lap when braking as they do now.

And as Ars has covered in the past, the engines will run on sustainable fuels. New engine regulations have managed to tempt Honda back into the sport, as well as bringing in Ford and Audi, and possibly Cadillac in time.

Since cars will be less powerful when running solely on internal combustion, more than halving the amount of drag they experience means they shouldn’t be too slow on the straights.

When F1 first introduced its original hybrid, called KERS (for kinetic energy recovery system), the electric motor’s boost was something the driver could use on demand. But that changed when the current powertrain rules came into effect in 2014, and it was up to the car to decide when to use battery power to supplement the V6 engine.

In 2026, that changes again. The hybrid system is programmed to use less power from the electric motor as speeds rise from 270 km/h (180 mph), until reaching zero at 355 km/h (220 mph), relying only on the V6 by then. But if a car follows within a second, the pursuing driver can override that limit, allowing the electric motor’s 470 horsepower to reach speeds of up to 209 mph (337 km/h), with up to half a MJ of additional energy. . .

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