F1 risks repeating mistake with new 2026 regulations announcement

Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez and Oscar Piastri gave their verdict the F1 2026 regulations

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Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali unveiled the sport’s much-heralded new era of racing in 2026 promising “a new generation of car and power unit that aims to give our fans closer and exciting racing”.

Of course, we’ve heard this all before. F1‘s 2022 regulation changes were created to usher in closer and more exciting racing, taking effect after the most nailbiting and controversial season in at least a generation.

With Red Bull finally having caught up to Mercedes, 2021 saw six drivers take victory with no team winning the majority of races, culminating in that famous and infamous winner-takes-all showdown in Abu Dhabi.

So how did the new regulations stack up? By precipitating 43 Red Bull wins in 52 races, an average Max Verstappen championship-winning margin of 218 points and six drivers tasting grand prix victory a third of the way through the third season.

But those statistics would’ve looked even worse just three races ago, before Lando Norris made his maiden trip to the top of an F1 podium and Red Bull had been denied victory twice in three races for the first time since the start of 2022.

Ahead of the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix, the F1 grid has bunched to the point that debate over who will win the race finally feels like non-fiction literature again – for really the first time in almost two years.

But that also raises the question of whether the F1 grid will be shaken up at the worst possible moment. 2022 was the biggest change the sport had seen since at least 2014, the start of an era where Mercedes were only denied a perfect sweep of 16 championships in eight seasons by that 2021 title decider.

in 2024, after three years of stable regulations, it’s easier for the chasing pack to take a step closer to the front than it is for Red Bull to take a step further away – compared to the differences in performance that can be achieved when there’s no benchmark to aim at.

That’s something that Sergio Perez knows all too well, having scored four of his six grand prix wins since the latest F1 revolution:

“There’s always a potential that someone is going to get it very right,” Perez told select members of the press, including Total-Motorsport.com, in Montreal.

“We’ve seen some other teams have done that in the past and then it’s really difficult, it takes few years to catch up. So I do expect that to happen in 2026. As always, I think the best for the sport will be to keep the rules as consistent as possible.”

In an F1 career of just 30 grand prix, Oscar Piastri‘s already seen a hyperspeed version of that, with McLaren rooted to the back of the grid when he made his debut but having delivered him three podiums and a sprint race win in just 450 days since then.

He and Lewis Hamilton were asked whether the 2026 overhaul risks creating bigger gaps again in F1, and if it would be better to leave a bigger gap between regulation changes:

“I kind of agree with both points, Piastri said. “I think every time the regs have changed it’s led to a pretty big spread, especially with engines, 2014 being the last time with that and kicking off a really long period of dominance. And I think we’ve seen even with these regs, we’re only just starting to catch up to Red Bull week-in, week-out now.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the teams separate a bit more in 2026, both with different aero rigs and especially the engine regs. There’s a very big chance that the teams are going to be more spread out than what they are now. But we’ll have to wait and see.”

Hamilton agreed: “Probably similar to what Oscar said, I think it’s difficult to say, but more often than not when they’ve done the changes. Some teams do better than the others and there is a bit of a difference early on.

“I hope that with this new regulation change, that everything’s a bit closer and the engines aren’t a complete revamp, it’s not like moving from V8 to V6. So hopefully through that, that doesn’t make too big a difference. And then it’s just about getting the cars right.”

F1 pushing the boundaries

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

But Piastri also hit on another important part of the regulation change that F1 has already nailed, two years out.

“I think we have an important place in society I guess, to be at the forefront of technology and innovation,” said the McLaren man. “And that’s always what F1’s been about in some ways. And I guess you could argue that sometimes that does come at the cost of the racing, which is always a shame. But I think both points are kind of separate really.”

The simplified engine regulations that are more applicable to life outside of F1 have already brought three manufacturers into the sport and made it eminently more relevant to the general public.

And regardless of what’s to come, there’s still 40 races to go before attention switches to 2026 – starting with Canada. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has produced some absolute barnstormers in recent memory, with the basic layout often proving a simple but effective recipe for entertainment – most recently Sebastian Vettel v Hamilton in 2019 and Carlos Sainz v Verstappen in 2022.

That 2019 season was fantastic despite no championship battles to speak of because so many grand prix were unpredictable and closely fought, especially the streak of Austria, Britain, Germany and Hungary that produced four successive classics.

That’s what 2024 could still be while Verstappen and Red Bull have far from wrapped up the drivers and constructors crowns this season, and it’s certainly way too early to write off a genuine fight for both world championships in 2025.

“We’re here, we’ve got to enjoy the year and a half that we got left with this regulation and this very close racing,” Perez said in Montreal. Amen to that.

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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