How F1 plans to use mobile aerodynamics without DRS in 2026

The next revolution of Formula 1’s new rules is just three years away, with the 2026 regulations built around the new power units, but also including greater use of what is called active aerodynamics.

Mobile aerodynamic regulations are still in the discussion phase, but are primarily motivated by the desire to reduce the cars’ drag to achieve efficiency targets.

By reintroducing active aerodynamics, which has been banned since 1969 except for the short-lived 2009-2010 adjustable front wing and DRS, downforce levels can be preserved and resultant drag reduced.

F1 Monaco GP 2009

“We want to have more basic energy savings during the lap,” explained the FIA’s head of single-seater technical affairs, Nikolas Tombazis, in an interview on the latest episode of The Race F1 Tech Show podcast.

“We don’t want to burn as much fuel to go around. And we are working on the engine side of the regulations more with electric and less ICE [internal combustion engine].

“But in general, for a car to use less energy, it must also waste less energy pushing air out of the way. So reduce resistance, in other words.

“And equally, we don’t want to fully compromise cornering speeds, so the obvious effect is going into an area, a moving rear wing or something like that, which would allow the cars on the straight to have higher drag figures. low”.

Such active aerodynamics would be distinct from the DRS, in whatever form it exists in 2026.

Mexican GP F1 DRS

The goal is that there are effectively two versions of the car, one for cornering and one for straights, which could be switched for efficiency reasons.

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These would be accessible to teams at all times rather than being contingent on being a second from the car in front and in a DRS zone.

“This would be [useable] 100% of the time,” Tombazis said. “We are looking for solutions that go above that, that are equivalent to DRS.

“So it’s a bit more elaborate, because there would be two performance states of the car, plus DRS.”

While there was hope that the new F1 regulations might have paved the way for DRS to become obsolete, the gains in following other cars and the ease of overtaking have not been enough.

Tombazis believes that DRS is likely to remain a part of F1 in the long term due to problems caused by turbulent air. The exact form that the DRS rules will take for 2026 has yet to be finalized and there have been suggestions that it could even be used to slow down a leading car, although the convention of the last 12 years is more likely to stick, it is say, that the car behind gets some assistance. But F1 is evaluating a wide range of different potential applications to improve the effectiveness of the DRS.

“I think it will probably continue to exist,” Tombazis said of whether it’s realistic to expect the DRS to be phased out in the future.

Nikolas Tombazis FIA

“We also need to consider that by ’26 we’re likely to have, or want to have, much lower-drag cars overall. So we’re doing a lot of drag reduction as our drive towards greater efficiency.

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“And that involves some mobile aerodynamics out of necessity, which is a bit like a DRS in a way. So I don’t think we’re going to see cars without DRS anytime soon.”

While mobile aerodynamics will be part of the new regulations, there are currently no plans to reintroduce active suspension for the first time since late 1993.

Australian Grand Prix Adelaide (aus) 05 07 11 1993

F1 has considered such a move in the past, potentially with a spec system with limited functionality, and ride height adjustment could be used to reduce drag. There were also suggestions that active suspension could be a solution to F1’s porpoise problems earlier in the year.

But Tombazis thinks this would go against the desire to make the cars as challenging to drive as possible and avoid opening up other ways in which active driving could be used.

He also says that the drag-reducing impact of active driving would be much less powerful than the aerodynamic opportunities.

“It does have an effect, but it’s not as big as the wings,” he said.

“And active suspension can have other problems. You can open all sorts of other loops to control the platform for the teams.

“We also want the cars to remain challenging for the drivers, we don’t want them to be able to adjust the balance of the car so easily to make it less of a challenge for the drivers. So we want to keep it challenging.”

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