F1 Active Aero Will Turn DRS on Its Head in 2026

Formula 1 has been struggling with providing overtakes and close racing for a long time, but things are supposedly going to change in 2026 with the introduction of more active aero components.
Red Bull Racing / Instagram 20 photos
Photo: Red Bull Racing / Instagram
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When it comes to the fact that cars cannot really race wheel to wheel and battle it out as they used to anymore, there is no point of contention. Both new fans of the sport and long-time viewers agree on this topic.

And F1 is not trying to deny it, with Pat Symonds admitting what fans have criticized for a while now. The drag reduction system (DRS) is an artificial way to create more overtakes and it does so in a boring way. The wheel-to-wheel battle between the two cars is the most entertaining part, and DRS completely removed it, making overtakes fairly predictable.

This is a promising start and we even got a taste of the new direction the sport is heading with the ground-effect cars. Despite the challenges faced by the teams, racing improved. While this is not as exciting as the older eras of Formula 1, it's at least better than the past few years.

What is even more promising is the new elements of active aero that the sport plans to introduce in 2026. We first learned about this when Ross Brawn gave a hint of this coming.

However, today we get a few more details about how this is going to work. When the idea was first mentioned, things were uncertain. Fans of the sport were quick to point out how without proper thought it could create more problems than it solves.

But Formula 1 did put some good thought into it. They have come to the conclusion that reducing drag incurred by the following car does not achieve the desired outcome. So the new aero should supplement the downforce lost by being close to the leading car, resulting in on-track duels.

While we don’t exactly know how this will be accomplished, we can be certain it will be interesting and innovative. Symonds revealed that “when we studied the ’26 project, we did have another clean sheet of paper, and we investigated all sorts of things. We looked at fan cars and all sorts of weird things.”

No matter how the final design is going to end up working, there’s one more key reason why this is such a big deal. Unlike DRS, which is not allowed by race control during damp sessions due to the risk of losing control, this new active aero could be.

Providing an increase in downforce would allow cars to keep engaging in close battles without inducing an additional risk. On top of that, a feature like this could even help on street circuits, removing the ridiculous dance of backing off, cooling the tires, and trying another DRS pass on the main straight.

So we can now rejoice at the idea that close racing might return to Formula 1 if the active aero concept ends up working as intended.
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About the author: Bogdan Bebeselea
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As a kid, Bogdan grew up handing his dad the tools needed to work on his old Citroen and asking one too many questions about everything happening inside the engine bay. Naturally, this upbringing led Bogdan to become an engineer, but thanks to Top Gear, The Fast and the Furious series, and racing video games, a passion for automotive entertainment was ignited.
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