F1 2026 Regulations: The key changes to F1 rules

F1 introduced its fourth change of rules in four years ahead of the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 will make drastic changes to all of its cars for 2026 with adaptions to the engine, chassis and aerodynamics but what are the reasons for the switch when the ground effect rules appeared to be working so well?

F1 adopted the ground effect rules in 2022 aiming to reduce the impact of dirty air on the tyres and chasing cars behind, and they worked well with drivers applauding them as an improvement on the previous generation, despite there being some hiccups such as porpoising.

Although Max Verstappen thoroughly dominated 2022 and 2023, the gap between the slowest and quickest car has got smaller and overtaking has increased on balance so it’s a curious thought as to why the rules will now significantly change.

But change they will, so with more electrical power, active aerodynamics, smaller and lighter cars and the abandonment of DRS, the sport looks to push itself into both a greener and more appealing era of the sport for spectators and competitors alike.

Render of the 2026 Formula 1 car after regulation changes | FIA
Render of the 2026 Formula 1 car after regulation changes | FIA

“These regulations mark a significant moment in the future of our sport,” F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said. “As we look forward to a new generation of car and power unit that aims to give our fans closer and exciting racing, the new sustainably fuelled hybrid power unit presents a huge opportunity for the global automotive industry.

“The drop in fuel has the potential to be used by cars around the world and dramatically cut emissions. Its potential is one of the key reasons why we will have a record number of engine suppliers in Formula 1 in 2026.

“We enter this new regulatory cycle with the sport in the strongest position it has ever been, and I am confident that the work done by the FIA to create these regulations will further strengthen the position of the sport around the world.”

How will those changes look?

Closer racing, sustainability and a desire to attract more car manufacturers to the sport is the agenda, as outlined by Domenicali in what serves to be an evolution of the aims of F1 since they debuted the turbo-hybrids engines back in 2014.

So, what might those specific changes look like, in order to bring F1 closer to the shared goals of the FIA and Liberty Media? What will the result of the new regulations and rules be and what will they demand of the drivers as a result?

“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,” the FIA’s Single Seater Technical Director Nikolas Tombazis said. “Cars that are light, supremely fast and agile but which also remains at the cutting edge of technology and to achieve this we worked towards what we called a ‘nimble car’ concept.

“At the centre of that vision is a redesigned power unit that features a more even split between the power derived from the internal combustion element and electrical power. On the chassis side we have managed to reduce the size and weight of the car by 30kg resulting in a much more dynamic car.”

There will also be more demand on the driver, asking them to make the difference instead of relying on the speed of the cars or the physics involved with following too closely. One example the key FIA figure explained was an emphasis on the lightness of the cars requiring extra control from the drivers.

“In addition, we are introducing two exciting new features to enhance racing,” Tombazis added. “Active aerodynamics to achieve very low drag on the straights and the Manual Override system that will provide drivers with an on-demand burst of battery power when close enough to the car ahead of them.

“Lighter, more powerful and more focused on driver skill, the 2026 FIA Formula One Technical Regulations have been designed to provide closer racing among drivers, increase the competition between teams and to improve the spectacle.

“In addition, we have opted for a higher electrical component of the power unit, a more efficient car overall, and fully sustainable fuels, as part of our drive towards a more sustainable future for our sport.”

Render of the 2026 Formula 1 car after regulation changes | FIA
Render of the 2026 Formula 1 car after regulation changes | FIA

What are the key F1 2026 rule changes?

With this being the biggest shake-up of the sports’ regulations since 2014, there is a lot of information to dissect and breakdown and a lot of technical jargon to sift through in order to figure out just exactly what the drivers will be jumping into from 2026.

So, here is a quick summary of the key points to make it nice and easy without needing a physics degree to understand the car of the future.

  • Active aerodynamics: Front and rear wings will be able to move to reduce drag and retain downforce, creating better following and more overtaking.
  • Push to pass button: Drivers gain extra energy to attack another car, which seems to be replacing DRS.
  • Less ground effect: F1 will introduce flat floors again to allow softer suspensions and raised ride heights, reducing bottoming on kerbs.
  • Lighter cars: Cars will be reduced by 30 kilograms in weight to 768kg.
  • Smaller width and length: Cars will be reduced by 200mm in wheelbase length and 100mm in width. Floors will reduce by 150mm, costing around 30% downforce.
  • Carbon-free fuel: Aiming to hit the 2030 Net Zero target, F1 fuel will be able to work in all ICEs and will be 100% sustainable and carbon-free.
  • Greater electrical power: Electrical power (MGU-K) will count for 350kW of the car’s performance (300% rise), whilst the internal combustion engine will make up 400kW. This is a 47/53 split in favour of the ICE. Additionally, the MGU-H (heat) is abandoned.
Brandon Sutton
Brandon Sutton
Brandon is an alumni of an NCTJ and BJTC Liverpool John Moores University course, and has been with Total-Motorsport.com for over a year now. He enjoys covering all forms of motorsport but particularly focuses on Formula 1, and Brandon loves to debate various topics of the sport and other interests, especially if that topic doesn't have an open/shut answer such as the GOAT debate.
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