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Formula 1 Canadian GP

How F1's new active aero will work in 2026

Formula 1’s active aero plans for 2026 have been finalised – with a new dual state system replacing the current DRS.

As part of the rules overhaul for the next generation of grand prix cars, the FIA has been working on all-new active aerodynamics that feature moveable front and rear wings.

The moveable rear wing will have three elements, while the front wing will have two active flaps. The two wings will work in conjunction to ensure the cars are well balanced whichever mode they are in.

F1 has settled on a plan for there to be two modes for the aero. There will be a standard high-downforce Z-mode, which is used for cornering, while on the straights drivers will be able to switch to a low-drag configuration, called X-mode, which will help boost top speed.

The idea is for its use to be very different to DRS, which is only activated on specific straights when in close proximity to other cars, and is primarily aimed at overtaking.

As the FIA’s head of aerodynamics Jason Somerville explained: “The difference between the DRS on the current car and the plans for the 2026 car really comes down to the use around the lap.

“Typically, DRS is an overtaking aid, and you grant DRS when you're within one second of a lead car at specific points.

“With the 2026 car, we'll be giving the drivers the ability to switch between the high-downforce and low-drag modes irrespective of any gaps.

“So, at pre-defined points around the lap, a driver will be able to switch to a low-drag mode to give them the performance down the straights where they're not grip limited.

F1 2026 FIA car renders

F1 2026 FIA car renders

Photo by: FIA

“Then, as you approach the braking zone, you'll switch back to your high-downforce mode.

“Each car would have the ability to switch between these two modes, entailing moving the rear wing and readjusting the front wing, and any following car would do the same.

“This is an active system that's controlled by the driver, although he will get a trigger, in the same way that he gets a trigger now, to indicate when he can activate the low-drag mode. And the system will switch back to high-downforce mode either under driver control or via brake pressure.”

One similarity to the current DRS use is that specific X-mode zones will be set up around the track – although the exact details of this have not yet been settled on.

Somerville added: “We have these two modes that would be set up in terms of zones around the lap, and the drivers would be able to switch between these two modes when permitted.

“There may be sporting regulations, that for example prevent use in wet conditions, but otherwise we would expect the drivers to have access to both modes around the track for every lap.”

With DRS use gone, the FIA’s response to still opening the door for overtaking opportunities is through a manual override engine mode.

F1 2026 FIA car renders

F1 2026 FIA car renders

Photo by: FIA

This will help deliver an extra boost of power that should give the following driver a chance to pass the car ahead.

While the energy deployment of a leading car will taper off after 290km/h, reaching zero at 355km/h, the following car will be able to benefit from an MGU-K override that provides 350kW at up to 337km/h with +0.5MJ of extra boost.

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The FIA’s single-seater technical director Jan Monchaux said about the new override system: “Right now with the DRS you are behind a car, within a second, that ticks a box, and you are allowed to open your DRS in a straight line. This will not be the case anymore.

“However, the logic will be the same: I'm close enough to another car, I am given an extra amount of energy for that one lap, which I can deploy any way I want.

“The extra amount of energy is defined and that will give that boost of energy to eventually give the following car a chance to overtake by the end of the straight.”

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