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F1’s 2026 active aero plan set for change after alarming simulator findings

Formula 1’s active aero plans for 2026 are set for a revamp following some alarming findings in simulator running of an early car model, Autosport has learned.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

As part of the effort to increase car performance to help accommodate the characteristics of the new turbo hybrid engines that feature a 50/50 power split between the internal combustion engine and battery, the new cars are going to have moveable aero.

The idea is that the car’s wings will be able to run in a high-downforce configuration in corners to help deliver grip, before shifting to a low drag configuration on the straights to help boost straightline speed.

One path being explored was for only the rear wing to be moveable, as it could then work easily in conjunction with DRS and would be the least complicated solution.

But it is understood that work has also gone into working out a way for the front wing to be active too, in a way that the elements help stall the aero – thereby reducing downforce and drag.

However, with some teams having recently been evaluating what is known as the baseline ‘Fangio’ car model in simulators to try to understand how this would work, some concerning characteristics emerged.

According to sources, when the rear wing was in its most low-drag configuration and the engine was at full power, the car was almost undriveable – with multiple examples of drivers spinning on straights under acceleration or being unable to take the smallest of curves without the rear stepping out.

This was triggered by a shift in aero balance that was estimated to be three times as much as is currently experienced when DRS is open.

One insider even suggested that the only way to prevent the cars spinning was to drive so conservatively that the lap times ended up being slower than current Formula 2 machinery.

It is understood that FIA representatives visited team facilities recently to get a better understanding of what is going on and what can be learned from the simulator findings.

And FIA sources have revealed that the conclusion has been reached that the moveable aero plan will not work with the way things have been tested at the moment.

Instead, the FIA has decided that the 2026 aero plan will need to incorporate both the front and rear wing working more in conjunction with each other if the cars are going to deliver the performance characteristics hoped for. This likely means something extra at the front.

By ensuring that the two wings work together, it should help reduce the aero balance offset that has been causing trouble in the simulator.

As efforts continue to frame the aerodynamic regulations before the end of June, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said he welcomed the FIA listening to team concerns about what they were finding out.

He famously warned last year that there was a risk of F1 being left with ‘Frankenstein cars’ because of the way that the chassis rules had to fit around the choice of power unit.

“I think there's been some good progression,” Horner told Autosport. “I think that the FIA have taken on board some of the feedback and some alterations have been made.

“We're waiting for the chassis regulations, which will be a fundamental part of the 2026 package now and how that interacts with these power units.

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“The various working groups are working hard on that and it's important that we conclude something in the near future.”

Asked if the simulator findings from teams had been a cause for concern, Horner said: “The rules are the same for everybody at the end of the day.

“So, it's how you apply them and translate them. I don't think we're afraid of whatever the rules will be, as it's the same starting point for everybody.

“When they're finalised, that's when we'll no doubt discover whatever issues there are with the rules, but that's no different to any other regulation change.”

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