Newey, Verstappen and Wolff: F1's key figures on 2026 rules so far


More than a few F1 figures have weighed in on the 2026 rules so far – here's what the main players have had to say

Adrian Newey Sketching

Newey and others have had their say on the 2026 regulations over the previous months

Formula 1 has now unveiled its 2026 technical regulations, introducing some of the significant changes ever seen in the world championship’s history.

Active aerodynamics, engines consisting of 50% electric power and 50% internal combustion, plus cars which are both lighter and smaller are just a few of the alterations.

However, in a sport made up by powerful personalities, such profound changes were never likely to pass without comment – as has been seen in the build-up to the announcement.

2026 prototype F1 car

Cars set to be significantly changed


Matters haven’t been helped by rumours of simulations in which cars spin out on the middle of a straight, downshift at top speed and run at full RPM through the slowest of corners – despite the FIA’s attempts to quell such fears.


Adrian Newey – F1’s most successful designer

From drivers to team bosses and technical directors, several have given their in on the subject, few words carrying more than that of legendary engineer Adrian Newey.

With 12 constructors’ titles and 13 drivers’ crowns to his name, Newey is the most successful F1 designer of all time, beginning his creative engineering journey with an IMSA sports car in the early 1980s.

In design terms, he’s almost seen it all and then some, and so has been forthright in his view on the 2026 rules.

“At the moment, they look a slightly strange set of regulations but to then write them off and say therefore they won’t be good, it’s way too premature,” he told Autosport in April.

“There comes a point where always as a designer you first look at what they might be and you might then have an opinion ‘are they good or are they bad’ but at some point you have to ignore that and just get on with the challenge of it.”

Newey has also addressed what appear to be some of the more unusual aspects of the regulations – also highlighting what he perceives as an over-emphasis on the new engine regulations.

Adrian Newey with red notebook in 2024 Japanese Grand Prix pitlane

Newey believes too much priority has been given to attracting new manufacturers, and not the interests of fans or the sport’s core teams

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

“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 said.

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

“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 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.”

“The reality is manufacturers come and go – I’m not sure it’s worth the compromise” Adrian Newey

Speaking in Motor Sport’s 100th anniversary edition on the future of F1 technology further opened up on what he’s sees as a potential mis-step by the world championship.

“We’re facing another generational change in 2026,” he says. “We know the rough principles of what the FIA is trying to achieve, which was initially a desire for a 50-50 combustion engine-electric mix. Whether that’s a good direction or not, it’s probably best I don’t comment. There is a drive to make the cars a bit lighter but the reality is it’s a heavy power unit, so there is only so far you can go.

“There is also a drive to make the cars more aerodynamically efficient, which I totally agree with and support. Unfortunately we suffer the same problem in motor sport as the industry: we end up working to a very prescribed and prescriptive set of regulations. In general, the drive is for zero tailpipe emissions by… well, whenever the moving target settles. It seems the wrong thing to me.

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“This is the approach I’d prefer: we want to make the automobile less damaging to the planet, this is what you need to achieve, prescribe the make-up of the damage to the planet, set a broad set of limits and off you go – instead of zero tailpipe emissions which effectively means it’s either battery or hydrogen, neither of which currently reach the levels of performance we expect for grand prix racing’s format.”

The groundbreaking designer is strong in his views on where the championship’s priorities lie.

“The FIA appears to be heavily influenced by one or two manufacturers, in the hope they will appease those manufacturers but also perhaps attract others in. I suppose since Audi are coming in for 2026 there has been a partial success in this regard, but I’m not sure it’s worth the overall compromise of what could be achieved. The reality is manufacturers come and go, with the exception of Ferrari.

“It’s the teams that are core to the business and then of course the big actual core is the viewing public. So it’s essential we provide a good show and as part of that variety is proven to be well rewarded.”


Christian Horner – Red Bull F1 team boss

Newey is now set to depart Red Bull after an unprecedented period of success, but his soon to be ex-team boss Christian Horner is aligned with his designer in feeling there’s too much emphasis placed on attracting car manufacturers via an extreme engine formula and not on the championship’s backbone of core teams.

Christian Horner Red Bull 2024 Bahrain GP

Horner is aligned with Horner on several issues surrounding the new rules

Getty Images

“[It’s] probably one that even the FIA would acknowledge,” Horner said, “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.

“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 key aspect for the manufacturers is the perception of relevance in the show room” Christian Horner

“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 show room.”


Toto Wolff – Mercedes F1 team boss

Wikipedia Wizard Wolff

Wolff has dismissed Horner’s concerns

However Horner’s long-time rival team boss Toto Wolff struck back in response, the Mercedes principal suggesting the Red Bull man has been trying to influence the direction of the rules due to worries over the new Milton Keynes Ford power unit – its first in-house design.

From the archive

“That is an exciting project to aim for,” said Wolff. “How does the modern Formula 1 car of 2026 look like? How can we make it aerodynamically so efficient and capable that it can compensate for the lack of combustion engine [output]?

“That should all excite us because we will come up with new concepts of Formula 1 cars that will be great.

“I think what frightens him [Horner] more maybe is that his engine programme is not coming along and maybe he wants to kill it that way.”


Max Verstappen – Red Bull driver and reigning F1 champion

Meanwhile F1’s current world champion has had his say too prior to the 2026 reveal – and his forecasts haven’t been all that positive.

“That’s not the way forward,” Max Verstappen opined on the prospective new engine rules and its influence on the car regulations. “It looks like it’s going to be an ICE competition. So, whoever has the strongest engine will have a big benefit.

“With the engine regulation that they went into, they kind of need to do that [use active aero] to create the top speed where the battery stops deploying and stuff.

Max Verstappen 2024 F1 Fantasy Australian Grand Prix

Verstappen unimpressed by new rules so far

Red Bull

“Some tracks will work a bit better, and some tracks probably it’s a bit more on the edge.

“Of course, people will try to counter my arguments, but I guess we’ll find out anyway in ’26.”

The Dutchman wants simpler cars in grand prix racing, not further intricacies with a split power unit and active aerodynamics.

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“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 a few horsepower here and there,” he said.

“It should be the opposite. Plus, the cars probably have a lot less drag so it will be even harder to overtake on the straight.

“We should not get into active suspension, active aerodynamics and things like that. 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.

“It looks very bad, from all the numbers and what I see from the data already. It’s not something I am very excited about at the moment.”


Carlos Sainz – Ferrari driver and F1 race winner

Verstappen’s on track rival Carlos Sainz has concurred with Verstappen, feeling the chassis and aerodynamic rules have been negatively influenced by the 2026 engines – but he’s reserving final judgement.

“I think it’s all a consequence of the engine regulations,” the Spaniard said.

Carlos Sainz in Ferrari F1 car cockpit

Sainz wants more thought given to driver safety


“In the end, if you have a lot more energy requested from the electric powertrain, you’re going to need to have, in a way, active aerodynamics to compensate.

“And this is where it all starts to get messy with the overtaking and the active aero, and how you can do that to help the car to go quicker on the straight and spend less time full throttle.

“Anyway, until we try them, it is I think unfair to criticise or to back the regulation change. And at the same time, if it has attracted manufacturers, big manufacturers like Audi, into the sport, I think it’s something that has to be appreciated and put into context.”

“Why not active suspension to protect drivers?” Carlos Sainz

Sainz also has his own opinions on what changes should be instigated at the sport’s highest echelon.

“If I would have to request something to the FIA for 2026, if we are going to have active aero, why not active suspension to protect the back of the drivers and to protect our own health and the safety of certain tracks?

“It’s clear that right now we are asking way too many things to the tracks and to the circuits, to the organisations, to change many small bumps that before we wouldn’t even feel with the ‘21 car, and now we just can spin or have a pretty big accident because of those situations.”

Despite all the opinion coming in from F1’s competitors, those in the FIA have been positive on the prospect of grand prix racing’s 2026 changes.

“A significant part of these regulations has involved thinking about the fans,” says FIA single seater technical director Nikolas Tombazi on release of the rules.


Domenicali is projecting a positive outlook on the new rules

Grand Prix Photo

“We believe we made a step towards closer racing in 2022, but there were also things we got wrong and we’re trying to get it completely right now. We believe the racing will be much more exciting and much closer between cars.

“With this set of regulations the FIA has sought to develop a new generation of cars that are fully in touch with the DNA of Formula 1 – cars that are light, supremely fast and agile but which also remains at the cutting edge of technology, and to achieve this we worked towards what we called a ‘nimble car’ concept.

“At the centre of that vision is a redesigned power unit that features a more even split between the power derived from the internal combustion element and electrical power.”

“These regulations mark a significant moment in the future of our sport as we look forward to a new generation of car and power unit that aims to give our fans closer and exciting racing. The new sustainably fuelled hybrid power unit presents a huge opportunity for the global automotive industry, the drop in fuel has the potential to be used by cars around the world and dramatically cut emissions. Its potential is one of the key reasons why we will have a record number of engine suppliers in Formula 1 in 2026.

“We enter this new regulatory cycle with the sport in the strongest position it has ever been, and I am confident that the work done by the FIA to create these regulations will further strengthen the position of the sport around the world,” added F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali.