Christian Horner and Toto Wolff trade barbs over the upcoming 2026 F1 rules

Christian Horner and Toto Wolff are at it again.

The two team bosses are locked in an escalating war of words over the 2026 rule changes that are coming to Formula 1. As part of F1’s “net zero” push towards 2030, new regulations that go into effect for the 2026 season will see an increase the amount of power generated from electric components, with F1 aiming for an even split of combustion and electrical power output.

In recent days, both Red Bull Team Principal Horner, and driver Max Verstappen, have raised concern about those incoming regulations.

Speaking at the Friday press conferences ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, Horner talked at length about the upcoming regulations, and his concerns about the impact the new rules would have on the sport:

I think there’s some very positive things about 2026 and the sustainable fuel and so on is extremely positive but I think that perhaps where we need to pay urgent attention before it’s too late, is to look at the ratio between combustion power and electrical power to ensure that we’re not creating a technical Frankenstein which will require the chassis to compensate to such a degree with movable aero and to reduce the drag to such a level that the racing will be affected, that there will be no tow effect, there will be no DRS because effectively you’re running at that at all points in time. And that the characteristics of these engines are just not… the combustion engine just doesn’t become a generator to recharge a battery. And I think that could easily be addressed with just tuning the ratio between combustion and electrical power. And because the engine regulations… We still have two and a half years, and I think if there is a slight redress it would then create potentially a better platform for the chassis because otherwise the chassis regs that are undefined yet and uncommitted, we’re going to be trying to cater for those compromises and so I think you’ve got to look at the thing holistically from both a technical point of view but the most important thing is: what is Formula 1? And Formula 1 needs to be wheel-to-wheel racing. We can’t afford to lose that challenge of drivers downshifting on straights to regenerate batteries. So I know the FIA are taking it very seriously, and they’re looking at it very closely as the simulations become more advanced.

For his part Verstappen blasted the incoming rules following his win in the Austrian Grand Prix, describing his experiences with them in the simulator as “terrible:”

Yeah, I mean, I’ve been talking about that as well with the team and I’ve seen the data already on the simulator as well. To me, it looks pretty terrible. I mean, if you go flat-out on the straight at Monza, I don’t know what it is, like four or five hundred before the end of the straight, you have to downshift flat-out because that’s faster. I think that’s not the way forward. Of course, probably that’s one of the worst tracks. But for me, the problem is, it looks like it’s going to be an ICE competition, like whoever has the strongest engine will have a big benefit. But I don’t think that should be the intention of Formula 1, because then you will start a massive development war again, and it will become quite expensive to find, probably a few horsepower here and there. I think it actually should be opposite. Plus, the cars probably have a lot less drag. So, it will be even harder to overtake on the straight. And then I think yeah, you have the active aerodynamics, which you can’t control. Well, it will be… I don’t know… the system will control it for you. Which then I think makes it very awkward to drive, because I prefer to control it myself. Of course, when you’re behind someone, maybe you need more front or more rear. These kind of things. If the system starts to control that for you, I don’t think that’s the right way forward. Plus, the weight is going up again. So yeah, we have to seriously look at this because I mean, ’26 is not that far away. And at the moment, to me, it looks very bad from all the numbers and what I see from the data already. So, it’s not something I’m very excited about at the moment.

Those comments, and in particular the ones from Horner, prompted the Mercedes boss to share what he thinks is the real motivation behind Red Bull’s thinking.

“I think what frightens him more maybe is that his engine program is not coming along, and then maybe he wants to kill it [the proposed rules] that way,” said Wolff following the Austrian Grand Prix. “So you always have to question what’s the real motivation to say something like that.”

“It’s doom-mongers,” added the Mercedes boss. “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?”

Of particular note is that Red Bull is beginning a partnership with Ford to manufacture their own power units starting with the 2026 season. In a way, that partnership may determine what Verstappen does at the end of his current contract with Red Bull. The driver has already outlined that it would be hard to walk away from the team if they were still putting him in a dominant car.

Now Horner has fired back, dismissing Wolff’s comments as “typical Toto.”

“Unfortunately that’s typically Toto where he’s just focused on self-performance,” said the Red Bull boss to Sky Sports. “My interest is actually about the sport rather than self-gain.”

“It’s still way too early to say who’s going to have a competitive or uncompetitive engine in 2026 … for me the most important thing is from a sports point of view, that we all have a collective responsibility to work with the FIA and the commercial rights holder to ensure that the product is as good as it can be, otherwise we’ve all failed,” added Horner.

There is certainly no love-loss between the two team bosses, who are among the sport’s most-dominant personalities. The two opened up about their relationship — and rivalry — in a documentary on leadership that aired last week on Sky Sports.

”Toto I have a huge amount of respect for everything that he has done and achieved,” said Horner. “But we’re competitors. I’ve never been a believer that you can be the best mate with your competitor. I think it’s dishonest.”

“I want everybody in my team to see that whoever we’re racing against is the competition, that’s who we’re there to compete with and as a team that we’re united,” added the Red Bull boss in the “Secrets of Success” documentary on Sky Sports.

Horner also blasted a recent iconic moment, when Wolff smashed his headset after Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen collided in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in 2021, a year which came down to the final lap between the two drivers.

“Any sport is a mind game but when you see a camp part losing it and smashing a set of headphones up you think ‘OK, you’re feeling the pressure’. And if he is feeling the pressure, then everybody else around him is feeling the pressure, because pressure permeates from the top,” said Horner. “I would never smash a set of headphones up.”

“Internally I would have smashed mentally those headphones just as hard as him but I just wouldn’t have done it physically,” he added. “I just think everybody is different.”

As for Wolff, he pointed to a difference in personalities.

“He’s a good team manager,” said Wolff of Horner. “But it’s very different personality and very different values to what we have here in the organisation. But he’s still successful.”

Those personalities are now clashing yet again, both on the track, and over the future of F1.

This post was originally published on this site