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Wolff: 'Frightened' Horner's 2026 fears prompted by Red Bull F1 engine concerns

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff suspects Christian Horner's concerns about Formula 1's 2026 rules have been triggered by him being 'frightened' that Red Bull's engine project is behind the curve.

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG, is interviewed on stage

Horner has voiced worries in both F1 Commission and team principal meetings that grand prix racing's chiefs need to be careful about how the 2026 rules package comes together, as there is a risk of them unleashing 'Frankenstein' cars if they get it wrong.

He suggests that with the combustion engine and battery configuration leaving open the door for power units to rapidly run out of electric power on the straights if the cars are not low-drag enough, then it could make a mockery of the spectacle.

But Wolff does not share Horner's fears about the matter, and he thinks there is a bit of politicking at play that could be related to Red Bull's own Powertrain development.

For the first time in its history, Red Bull is designing and manufacturing its own engine which, from 2026, will be done in conjunction with Ford.

Asked for his opinion about Horner's 2026 stance, Wolff said: "I think what frightens him more maybe is that his engine programme is not coming along, and then maybe he wants to kill it [the rules] that way.

"So you always have to question what's the real motivation to say something like that."

Horner wants to see the 50/50 split between combustion and electrical power shifted so there is less reliance on the batteries.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

However, Wolff thinks that with so much work having gone into the 2026 engine rules to attract Audi and convince Honda to commit once again, it is impossible there will be any going back on the plans.

"That's not going to happen. Zero chance: capital letters," said Wolff. "So I don't know why these things are coming up.

"We have developed these regulations over many years, with all the auto manufacturers being involved. It was a compromise that attracted Audi to finally joining the sport, and for Honda to stay in there. This is the best possible case that one could imagine for F1.

"Is it challenging? Are our chassis designers saying: well, how are we going to do this? Yeah. But super.

"These regulations are not going to change anymore. They're not going to be postponed anymore, because the world needs to show innovation around sustainability. We need to reduce emissions. And we're super excited."

And while there are challenges ahead to ensure the active aero planned for the 2026 cars does work in making F1 cars perform at a similar level to now in both corners and on the straights, Wolff thinks the problems are not insurmountable.

"It's doom-mongers," said Wolff about the claims the show will suffer because drivers will be changing down gears on the straight to recharge batteries.

"Do you think that in all reality, we are not innovative in this sport to come up with chassis/engine regulations that can avoid drivers shifting down on the straight?

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"It is real that when you take today's chassis and put the future power unit in it, there's a few tracks with very long straights (believed to include Monza, Saudi and Baku) where we would have massive derates in the power unit. But that's today's efficiency.

"We're not bolting on today's chassis, which are heavy, like a prototype, and big like an elephant. That's what we need to reinvent for 2026.

"And whether it is some retractable aerodynamic elements, or whether the shapes of the cars are going to change in order to meet the more sustainable world, more aerodynamic efficiency, I think that's great."

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