Charles Leclerc has challenged Formula 1 to strike a compromise between making the next generation of cars lighter whilst retaining the “very impressive” downforce levels of the current machines.
New regulations were introduced last year intended to improve the ability for cars to follow each other better and therefore increase overtaking opportunities.
However, the return to ground effect aerodynamics in 2022, alongside bigger wheels and wheel covers, resulted in the minimum weight limit rising massively from 752kg in 2021 to 798kg, making the current formula of cars the heaviest in F1 history.
Leclerc, who conducted a demo run in Michael Schumacher’s 2003 Ferrari in Abu Dhabi last year, sides with Verstappen but admits he wants the 2026 regulations to maintain the downforce the current cars produce in higher-speed corners.
“I arrived in 2018 and the cars were already quite heavy,” Leclerc told Autosport.
“I drove a 2004 car in Abu Dhabi with 50 kilos of fuel, but you can definitely feel the difference with today’s car.
“I don’t like heavy cars. I think for the agility of the car and for also the slow speed corners, now you can really feel the weight.
“But I have to say that what we are experiencing in medium to high speed with the downforce we have today is incredible compared to 12 or 13 years ago, and this is very impressive.
“So, I think it’s a balance. I wouldn’t want to go higher than the weight we have now, that’s for sure.
“But also going very light compromises also the aero that we have because the car is huge, and that produces also a lot more aero compared to 12 years ago.”
Leclerc admits it remains a challenge to get on top of the current crop of F1 machinery, but the Monegasque driver suspects teams will continue to unlock further gains the further this regulation cycle progresses.
“They are run a very different way compared to the last era,” he acknowledged. “The last 10 to 15 years the cars were more or less run in the same way. Now it’s a very different philosophy.
“For all the teams, it’s still quite a new philosophy, because it’s only been a year and a half, so there’s still a lot of margin to improve.
“And these cars are also a lot more sensitive to all the changes you do, and you can go from very good to very bad, with a very small change. So, this makes things a bit more unpredictable.’”