Tombazis gives insight into "nimble" 2026 cars


The FIA's head of single-seaters, Nikolas Tombazis has revealed that the 2026 breed of F1 cars will be light and nimble compared to their predecessors.

One of the biggest complaints about the current cars is their sheer size and weight, which makes them harder to drive and tough on their tyres.

While the sustainability-friendly engine formula for 2026 has already attracted Audi to enter the sport, it is hoped that in making the cars more 'driver-friendly' the quality of the racing can be improved also.

The width of the 2026 cars will be 10cms down on the 2025 version while the wheelbase is expected to be reduced from 3600mm to 3400mm. With a 10kg weight reduction also planned, Tombazis is confident this will improve the racing as cars will be able to follow more closely... though surely this was the intention of the 2022 rules overhaul.

"We aim to have a significantly lower weight limit and we are looking to reduce the weight limit by 40 to 50 kilos in 2026," the FIA's head of single-seaters explained. "The way we want to do that is related to what we've termed the 'nimble car' concept.

"We basically feel that in recent years the cars have become a bit too bulky and too heavy," he continued. "This lower downforce means that a lot of the loading on components, such as suspension, will reduce and that will enable the teams to reduce the weight consequentially."

No sooner has the sport introduced 18-inch wheels than Tombazis admits that the aim is to go even smaller.

"We are tentatively aiming for wheels that are 16-inch wheel rims, with smaller wheel diameter and smaller width both front and rear," he reveals. "All of these things we believe are pushing towards a significantly lower weight.

"The 2023 season had a small worsening of the close racing features," he admits. "The cars had degraded a bit in their ability to follow each other closely. We think we understand why, how and what we need to do. We believe that the next round of rule changes will achieve a much more robust, close racing solution."

One of the more controversial changes is moveable aero that would help reduce drag on the straights. However, Tombazis plays down fears that this could compromise the benefit of DRS and talk of a 'reverse DRS' whereby the car in front would have to run a more aggressive wing angle.

"There will definitely be a change of incidence of the wing on the straight to achieve the low drag," he admits, "but there will definitely not be any slowing down of the front car by some means. That simply wouldn't work.

"There will be something equivalent to the current DRS, which will basically enable the following car that is within a certain limit to potentially get in a position to attack.

"What form this will take is still open," he insists, "whether it will be an additional change of an aerodynamic component on the straight, or an additional change of the aerodynamic component in the corner, or part of the energy of the engine.

"Which of the three, we're still doing our best simulations to arrive to the best possible solution. What we don't want to have is cars basically diving past each other on the straight. We want cars arriving close to each other at the braking point and there being a fight, and drivers having to use their skill. We never want to make it too easy, but we also don't feel we can say DRS is not needed anymore.

"We can't risk arriving into a situation where overtaking becomes impossible again, so we want to have it in the pocket and to use it moderately, but not highly."

Asked about fears that these changes, combined with the ICE output being reduced from 550-560kw down to 400kw and the battery element increasing from 150kw to 350kw, could affect the overall speed of the cars, the Greek insisted: "It's going to be very close to now.

"I think we're going to be within a couple of seconds or something like that. Even if it was five seconds slower, we're not going to be sweating too much.

"The combination of low drag on the cars, with the way that energy can be recovered or deployed, achieves a speed profile of these cars which is very similar to the current cars.

"So the cars won't be reaching the top speed in the middle of the straight and then degrading or anything like that, that's not going to be the case. There's some tweaks on the energy side of the engine that will achieve the correct characteristics," he added.

As for whether we can expect the cars to look radically different, he said: "Somebody who knows about it will be able to see the differences, but they will look like F1 cars. On that there shouldn't be any doubt."

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Published: 14/12/2023
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