Norris fears 2026 changes will reopen 'big gaps' in F1

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL38. 19.05.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 7, Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Imola, Italy, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images
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Lando Norris is worried that the next round of major changes to Formula 1's riles and regulations will only serve to reopen the big gaps between the teams and end up reducing competition.

Traditionally, gaps between the teams on the track have been at their biggest just after changes have been made to the rules, with some teams exploiting the new advantages better than others.

Brawn GP was able to use a loophole in the rules to win the 2009 championship with Jenson Button. A few years later the dawn of the hybrid engine era gave Mercedes an unassailable grip on F1 lasting several years.

The reintroduction of ground effect aerodynamics helped bring Mercedes' reign to a close and replaced it with the current Red Bull dominance. But three seasons on, the gaps are closing again and Ferrari and McLaren are catching up.

However the next big overhaul of the rules will come in 2026 and Norris fears that a move back to lighter and smaller cars could lead to another period of one-team dominance just when things are getting exciting again.

Last weekend’s final round of qualifying in Montreal saw George Russell and Max Verstappen locked in a dead heat for pole position and less than three-tenths of a second covering the top seven.

Norris doesn't see that happening when the new rules come in. “I think you’re not going to have days like [Montreal] again," the McLaren driver sighed.

Second placed Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren in parc ferme. 09.06.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 9, Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, Canada, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Charniaux / XPB Images

“Always at the end of these regulation changes, we see days like [this] and we see closer battles, and now Mercedes up here as well. “That’s four teams who are fighting towards the top

"That's eight cars [so] you’re going to see different winners, and I think that’s exciting for people watching. You’re definitely not going to have that in ‘26.

“You’re not going to have days like the last few weeks probably in ‘26, ‘27, ‘28, or pretty much like ‘28, ‘29," he continued. "It’s how it’s always been. Every time there’s a regulation change, there’s big gaps.

"Even at the end of the last era, ‘21, things were getting closer again. You still had Red Bull against Mercedes, and everyone was getting closer, and then everything spread out again.

“Now Red Bull have had their time and it seems like we’ve been able to catch up," he continued. “I think probably looking ahead to next year already, next year should be an exciting year for everyone, just from first to last.

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL38. 07.06.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 9, Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, Canada, Practice Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

"I think it’s going to be exciting but then that’s all going to go in ‘26," he lamented. "Just as we’re getting there."

Norris raised the possibility of leaving the rules unchanged for longer than originally intended as a way of maximising competition and on-track excitement, rather than prioritising making changes to address car concerns.

“There might be some benefits in the race for those [new] regulations, there might be some things that are worse,” he said. “The type of racing you’re going to get is probably quite different, so it’s complicated.

“It’s not a simple answer," he acknowledged. "I don’t know the answer. At the same time I don’t think anyone knows exactly how it’s going to pan out.

"It depends if you want to keep this excitement and keep this challenge that we have now, or if you want to change everything again and have another few years where it’s far apart.”

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