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F1’s 2026 car plans look “pretty terrible” says Verstappen

Max Verstappen has warned that Formula 1’s 2026 rules look “pretty terrible” based on what he has seen and heard from his engineers.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, in the Press Conference

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Autosport revealed over the Austrian Grand Prix weekend that concerns have emerged about the danger of F1 making a mis-step with the rules if it does not perfectly marry the chassis regulations to planned all-new engines.

With there being an equal 50/50 split between internal combustion engine power and electrical power, concerns have emerged about drivers running out of battery power halfway around laps – or needing to operate the cars in weird ways like changing down gears on the straights.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner warned at the Austrian GP that there was a very real risk of F1 unleashing cars that did not produce a good spectacle.

“Perhaps where we need to pay urgent attention before it's too late, is to look at the ratio between combustion power and electrical power to ensure that we're not creating a technical Frankenstein which will require the chassis to compensate to such a degree with movable aero and to reduce the drag to such a level that the racing will be affected,” he said.

World champion Verstappen says he has seen simulation traces of how the 2026 cars perform, and his first impressions are far from good.

“I've been talking about that as well with the team, and I've seen the data already on the simulator as well,” he said. “To me, it looks pretty terrible.

“If you go flat-out on the straight at Monza, and I don't know what it is, like four or five hundred [metres] before the end of the straight, you have to downshift flat-out because that's faster. I think that's not the way forward. But of course, probably that's one of the worst tracks.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Beyond the pure driving aspect, Verstappen fears that the regulations will put too much of an emphasis on engine performance, which could split the field up and ruin racing.

“For me, the problem is it looks like it's going to be an ICE competition, so whoever has the strongest engine will have a big benefit,” he said.

“I don't think that should be the intention of Formula 1, because then you will start a massive development war again, and it will become quite expensive to find, probably a few horsepower here and there. I think it actually should be opposite. Plus, the cars probably have a lot less drag. So, it will be even harder to overtake on the straight. “

The way that F1 plans to ensure cars have minimal drag on the straights is through the introduction of active aero systems – which could include moveable wings or retractable parts.

While in theory this sounds cutting edge, Verstappen is sceptical about that being the right direction for F1.

“You have the active aerodynamics, which you can’t control, and the system will control it for you,” he said. “Which then I think makes it very awkward to drive, because I prefer to control it myself.

“Of course, when you're behind someone, maybe you need more front or more rear. These kinds of things. But if the system starts to control that for you, I don't think that's the right way forward.

“Plus, the weight is going up again. So yeah, we have to seriously look at this because I mean, ’26 is not that far away. And at the moment, to me, it looks very bad from all the numbers and what I see from the data already. So, it's not something I'm very excited about at the moment.” 

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