Much-criticised DRS is here to stay with ‘active aerodynamics’ in 2026

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton opens his DRS at the Spanish Grand Prix. Barcelona, May 2022. Credit: Alamy
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton opens his DRS at the Spanish Grand Prix. Barcelona, May 2022. Credit: Alamy

Formula 1 chief technical officer Pat Symonds has said the next generation of cars “won’t lose” DRS, due to how their aerodynamics will be set up.

Symonds acknowledged that the opening of the rear wing, the Drag Reduction System used as an overtaking aid in Formula 1 since 2011, still has its detractors – given long-standing criticism that it can make racing artificial by giving a chasing car an advantage over a car in front.

But the rear wing concept maintained its presence in Formula 1 after the mass reset of regulations for the 2022 season, and the next set of technical regulations are currently being drawn up by Symonds and his team.

He confirmed that DRS is most likely going to remain on the cars when they undergo their next transformation in 2026, while acknowledging that there is a balance to be found with its use.

“To us, overtaking is the end of the battle, it’s the battle that’s interesting, it’s the unpredictability, ‘is he going to get past?’” Symonds explained at the Autosport International Business Forum.

“And I know a lot of people criticise DRS, and that is the trouble with DRS, it can make the pass too easy.

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“Conversely, if you don’t have it, you know, during the Imola race where the FIA were very reluctant to enable the DRS, you do get some dull races.

“It’s a matter of getting it right. And I think for ’26, we’ve learned a lot from ‘22.

“We won’t lose DRS because there’s totally active aerodynamics on the ’26 car.”

Symonds also confirmed a meeting will be taking place about the new power unit regulations for 2026 later in January, but when it comes to the technical side of things, the former Williams and Renault technical chief hopes to see the next generation of cars follow the lead set by 2022 in reducing the amount of downforce lost when following another car, but to an even greater degree in future.

“DRS is drag reduction, and what I’ve always felt we should do is we should have downforce augmentation,” Symonds added.

“Because what does the car behind do? Yes, it loses some drag, but you work really hard to extract this lost downforce. So our idea now is to make the downforce back to where it should have been if the leading car wasn’t there.”

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