'Drastic change': Drivers weigh in on F1's 2026 regulations

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MONTREAL -- In the first 24 hours after they were announced, plans to overhaul Formula One's technical regulations in 2026 have received a mixed reception from drivers. Speaking during the media day for this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix, drivers raised questions over the performance of the proposed cars and their safety, although almost every answer was prefaced with the belief that it is too early to speak definitively on the impact the new regulations will have.

The 2026 rule book provides for a reduction in the weight and size of the cars, significant levels of active aero to reduce drag on the straights, and a push-to-pass-style energy boost that will replace the current drag reduction system (DRS) overtaking aid. The changes announced on Thursday have been written to work in tandem with F1's new engine rules, which will see 50% of the car's power output come from the electric part of the power unit and 50% come from the V6 turbo engine.

Following the announcement of the engine regulations in 2022, concerns were raised that the extra emphasis on electric power might result in cars running out of battery on the straights, forcing drivers to slow significantly and shift down a gear before braking zones. The new aerodynamic regulations have been written to allay those fears, with active aero on both the front and rear wings allowing for drag to be reduced by 55% -- significantly improving the efficiency of the car. But that reduction in drag has also come at the cost of downforce -- with a predicted 30% reduction, according to the FIA -- which in turn will reduce cornering speeds.

"I've spoken to some drivers who have driven it on the simulator -- I haven't -- but they said it's pretty slow," seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton said in Montreal. "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."

Williams driver Alex Albon also raised concerns about the overall speed of the cars in simulations, but said they would likely improve as the rules are tightened up and development under the new regulations kicks in.

"We've had our sim guys do some work, but myself I haven't done any work," he said. "I don't want to speak out of turn, but I think it's going to be very slow, extremely slow.

"I guess there is a lot of stuff being done around making sure the straight-line speeds are not tapering off at the end with all the MGU-K and whatnot being involved. I still think there needs to be some work done.

"But seeing some of the speed traces around the tracks, it's, yeah, erm, pretty slow, yep."

Haas driver Nico Hükenberg added: "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 we'll see what happens between now and in the one and a half years, if there might be some small adjustments or not with what's going on."

Reigning champion Max Verstappen said good progress has been made already in Red Bull's simulations and that the lap times relative to the current cars would largely depend on track characteristics.

"I've seen a lot of simulation within the team -- it's not like it suddenly came out now and now we start developing, it's something that has been around and fine-tuned of course," he said. "And I have to say from the first time I saw it to the latest updates that I've seen, I think they made really good progress on how the engine is working with the chassis and the relationship on the straights and stuff.

"Some tracks I think will be better than others, naturally, when you are more energy limited, but that's something that we have to deal with."

While the reduction in drag and downforce will result in reduced corner speeds, it will allow for much higher top speeds on the straights. Mercedes driver George Russell, who is also a director of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, said safety at speeds of more than 230 mph on straights is something the FIA would have to keep an eye on.

"I think when it comes to safety, unfortunately, history has told us that incidents need to happen before changes are made," he said. "Everybody needs to do a really thorough job ahead of these regulations, because the cars are going to be so quick and have so little downforce on the straights that it's almost going to feel like you are floating and flying through the air.

"If you can imagine in a race where it starts raining and you are on slick tyres doing 250 mph on a street circuit, that's going to be a bit of a sketchy place to be. These are questions that need to be answered, and to be fair to the FIA, they are fully aware of this and on top of this and looking at all of the possible scenarios of what could happen.

"Time will tell, but the cars are already bloody fast as they are and where are we going to stop? Are we going to get up to 400 kph [250 mph]? Do the fans really need or want to see that, and what is it that we really want to achieve?

"For me, it's good racing, I don't really mind how quick the cars are around the track, you want to have good racing, hard racing and strong competition, ideally between every team and every driver. "

Drivers have been pushing for a reduction in car weight for some time to improve handling characteristics, but under the new regulations the minimum weight will only drop by 30 kilograms. What's more, that figure will be dependent on whether teams can hit that target with the construction of their cars -- something Verstappen is not convinced about.

"At the moment [achieving the target weight reduction] is going to be very tough with how everything is," he said. "Even now, some teams are overweight, so to go even 30kg less, I know the dimensions [of the car] change a little bit, but losing 30 kilos will be the perfect scenario [for a team in 2026], let's say that."

Asked what kind of weight reduction would have a positive impact on racing, Verstappen said: "You need at least 100 kg or 150 kg, but at the moment with how everything is, for sure that's impossible. It's also to do with the engine and battery, which is very heavy and long and wide.

"At the moment that is wishful thinking, but that is definitely what we need to make it more agile and more fun."