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How F1’s new active aerodynamics will work in 2026

As part of its revision of the rules for the next generation of Grand Prix cars, the FIA ​​has been working on all-new active aerodynamics with movable front and rear wings.

The movable rear wing will consist of three elements, while the front wing will have two active flaps. The two wings will work together to ensure that the cars are properly balanced regardless of the mode they are in.

F1 has drawn up a plan to create two modes for aerodynamics. There will be a standard high-downforce Z mode, used for cornering, while on the straights drivers can switch to a low drag configuration, called X mode, which will help increase top speed.

The idea is that its use will be very different from DRS, which is only activated on specific straights in close proximity to other cars, and is mainly aimed at overtaking.

As FIA 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 usage around the lap.

“Normally DRS is a passing aid, and you give DRS when you are within a second of a leading car at certain points.

“With the 2026 car we are giving drivers the option to switch between high downforce and low drag modes regardless of any gaps.

“So at pre-defined points during the lap a driver can switch to a low-drag mode, allowing him to deliver the performance on the straights where grip is not limited.

F1 2026 FIA Car Views

F1 2026 FIA Car Views

Photo by: FIA

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

“Each car would have the ability to switch between these two modes, meaning moving the rear wing and re-adjusting the front wing, and each subsequent car would do the same.

“This is an active system controlled by the driver, although just as he gets a trigger now, he gets a trigger to indicate when he can activate low-drag mode. And the system switches back to high downforce mode, either under driver control or via brake pressure.”

One similarity with 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 determined.

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

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

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

F1 2026 FIA Car Views

F1 2026 FIA Car Views

Photo by: FIA

This provides an extra boost of power to give the following driver the opportunity to overtake the vehicle in front.

While the energy input of a leading car decreases after 290 km/h and reaches zero at 355 km/h, the following car will benefit from an MGU-K override that delivers 350 kW at up to 337 km/h with +0 .5MJ of extra momentum.

Jan Monchaux, FIA Single-Seater Technical Director, said of the new override system: “Currently, with the DRS, you are behind a compliant car within a second, and you can open your DRS in a straight line. This will no longer be the case.

“However, the logic will be the same: I’m close enough to another car, I get an extra amount of energy for that one lap, which I can use in any way I want.

“The extra amount of energy is defined and that will give that energy boost to ultimately give the next car a chance to overtake at the end of the straight.”