The power unit regulations for 2026 have already been approved and published, but the chassis and aero regulations are still being debated, and it is curious to see how those who negotiated on the engines are no longer interested. Porsche would have changed its mind after Red Bull’s refusal to reach an agreement, and it is that the German manufacturer and the Austrians did not reach a point where they benefited.
The Germans are looking for another way to enter the Great Circus, but with the frustration of not arriving with those from Milton Keynes, those of the Volkswagen Group have thought about it again due to the budget limit.
The current single-seaters with ground effect are huge, weighing 798 kilos, two meters wide and five long, but the idea is that with the new rules cycle that begins in 2026 the size will be significantly reduced. For this reason, a debate has been opened that should lead to having a written regulation by the end of 2023 so that the teams can start the investigation of the basic solutions as of 2024.
It should not be surprising that it has been proposed to make a compact car with an endothermic engine with only four cylinders and, in addition, mounted transversely, like the transmission. That was a concept that was quickly discarded by Ferrari when they saw that they could use their famous veto, but even the other constructors did not welcome that idea, because a much later mechanics would cause many problems with the balance in the front of.
So it might be interesting to try to outline what could be the cornerstones of Formula 1 for the 2026 season , given that the power units will be very restrictive and that will lead to everyone having a similar level.
The introduction from next year of a budget limit on engines of about 95 million dollars [about 98 million euros at the current exchange rate] forces a simplification that will tend to have simpler and less extreme endothermic units than those of now with a fixed wheelbase 6-cylinder 90-degree V-architecture, plus matching pistons.
The research will end up in the combustion chamber to develop biofuel [synthetic low-emission gasoline], which will be one of the most important factors for performance, as well as the hybrid part, whose role will be to help produce half of the power with electrical energy.
With these premises, it will be useful to direct the regulations towards the chassis and aerodynamics , which can be very attractive areas. The first information we managed to obtain is that the wheelbase could be reduced by about 300 mm, and if we take into account that the single-seaters with ground effect have between 3,400 and 3,600, since before there were many excesses [Mercedes dominated with up to 3,738 mm of wheelbase ], the 2026 car will be much more compact.
The wheelbase of the 2016 Mercedes F1 W07 was 1,800 mm
The idea of reducing the wheelbase [until 2016 it was 1,800 mm] is not ruled out, and that would make some more aerodynamic single-seaters, but it is not only that, but the debate is reopened on giving more importance to that aspect to reduce fuel consumption [the minimum weight must also be lowered], with less capacity tanks, far from the current 110 kilos.
The subject will trigger strong discussions, since on the one hand there is the need to develop technology in the automobile sector, and on the other the fear of taking advantage of the talent of the pilots to create electronically controlled solutions.
It is clear that we are going back to a period similar to that of 1992 when active suspension dominated, but we are still in the gestation phase of the regulation, so we must not move away from the pillars. However, letting engineers’ imaginations run wild to see innovative things might not be a bad option.
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