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Newey: Monaco example shows why F1 2026 will be a “strange formula”

Adrian Newey thinks Formula 1’s 2026 rules will take some getting used to when they appear because of the "strange" way power units will have to behave.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

F1 manufacturers are now hard at work in developing their next-generation turbo hybrids, which will feature a 50/50 split in power between the internal combustion engine and battery.

The nature of what is coming has opened the door for what could be some unique characteristics because there will be a premium on energy recovery.

Newey has revealed that effectively turning the ICEs into generators means there could even be the need for weird traits, like needing them to run at full revs through tight corners such as the hairpin in Monaco.

“It's certainly going to be a strange formula in as much as the engines will be working flat-chat as generators just about the whole time,” he told Autosport.

“So, the prospect of the engine working hard in the middle of Loews hairpin is going to take some getting used to.”

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Engine first formula

The unique characteristics of the engine have been a cause of intrigue for a while now, as F1 chiefs are having to create the chassis rules around them.

And that has active aerodynamics a necessity to help deliver more downforce in the corners and then reduce drag on the straights.

Not everyone is happy about the way things have been done, with world champion Max Verstappen thinking that it was a mistake to have made the engine rules first and then try to mould the car regulations around them.

“I think they realised that on the engine side, not everything is as efficient as everyone thought after all,” said Verstappen in Japan about progress on the 2026 regulations.

Newey concurs that the situation is unusual, as it has made creating the chassis regulations much harder.

Asked for his views on the argument that the aero rules were now a sticking plaster for an engine that was not delivering all that had been hoped, Newey said: “I think that's fair comment, and probably one that even the FIA would acknowledge - that only the engine manufacturers wanted this kind of 50/50 combustion engine with electric.

“I guess it is what their marketing people said that we should be doing and I understand that: it's potentially interesting because F1 can be a fast-track developer of technology.

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“The problem potentially on the battery and electric side is the cost currently, certainly of electric motors to F1 standard, plus inverters and batteries. It is very high, but perhaps production techniques in the future will help to bring that down.

“The other problem is the battery. What we need, or what the F1 regulations need out of the batteries in terms of power density and energy density, is quite different to what a normal road car needs. And that in itself means that the battery chemistry, and possibly battery construction is different. So, there's a risk that it won't be directly road-relevant.

“But perhaps that's not the key aspect anyway. The key aspect, certainly for the manufacturers although they will never admit it, is the perception of relevance in the showroom.”

Active aero a “difficult” challenge

Newey also thinks Formula 1 chiefs face a “difficult” challenge in coming up with the right solution for active aero in 2026.

The FIA is scheduled to finalise F1’s 2026 aero regulations by the end of June and has been spending recent weeks fine-tuning some of the design elements.

More work is needed on the active aero elements, especially after some teams experienced alarming characteristics of the new cars being virtually undriveable under full acceleration when put through their paces in the simulator.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

A push is now being made to come up with a solution that delivers a better aero balance across the whole car, which likely means ramping up the moveable elements on the front wing to complement what is planned for the rear.

Asked about the challenge of getting active aero to be the right fit, Newey said: “I think it is going to be difficult.

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“It is fair to say that the engine regulations were created and pushed through without very much thought to the chassis side of it, and that is now creating quite large problems in terms of trying to come up with a solution to work with it.

“But I think the one good thing out of that, is that it does promote efficiency. And I think anything that does that, and promotes that, has to be in line with what I said earlier: of trying to use F1 to popularise a trend.”

Verstappen himself has shown little enthusiasm for the idea of active aero in F1 – as he thinks cars should be simpler, not more tech-heavy.

“On the contrary, we should not get into active suspension, active aerodynamics and things like that,” said the Dutchman.

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“That makes it all much more complicated, and that's where some teams are going to excel again, to do a better job than others. You have to keep it as simple as possible.

“I don't really see that happening at the moment with the 2026 regulations, but maybe I'll be positively surprised.”

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