Find out more about our subscriptions

Technical analysis of the Red Bull RB5

Red Bull RB5 detailAs the last of the major teams to unveil their car, Red Bull adopted a strategy to keep the design in progress until the last minute. Guided by tech chief Adrian Newey, this may be regarded as a risk, but the added design time has proven itself by the car appearing to be far more developed than most other launched cars.

Not only in the detail, but the whole layout of the car has been tackled in an innovative way. It's possible to say that the RB5 could be regarded as radical, but it's perhaps fairer to say the car throws away the book of contemporary F1 design and instead returns to some features discarded from F1 several years ago.

From the tip, its complex front wing to the tight waisted rear end, the new car employs some independent thinking. It appears that the design team have aimed for minimum cross section throughout the car, emphasising the importance of a good flow over the reduced diffuser and lastly lowered the centre of gravity where possible.

The first sign of innovation starts with the highly complex front wing. Its downforce-producing outer sections only feature a single flap, but this flap is split longitudinally, to only allow a small portion of the flap to move up and down. The area around the movable section is un-adjustable (even manually) and is well blended into the endplate and neutral middle section.

Additionally Red Bull have employed a cascade element above the wing, with the outer span forming two elements via a slot, and the inboard ends still forming an obvious aerofoil section. The endplates are a neat and simple solution which flare out to send flow around the front wheel.

Above all this the nose is high like the Toyota, but Red Bull appear to have a longer nose cone. The joint between the nose cone and monocoque is far more shapely in cross section than other teams, the lower portion tapering to meet the wishbone mounts and the upper section sunken to form bulges along the top corners. As this areas cross section is defined within the rules (300mm wide x 350mm tall) it's not clear if this shaping is outside this template or stretching the smallest possible cross section around it.

Red Bull RB5 detailAhead of the sidepods are a turning vane and pod wing, both forming quite large surfaces in comparison to their rivals, while the mirrors remain mounted to separate stalks and not the pod wings. This design of mirror has been introduced repeatedly by Red Bull but the drivers have always preferred the more conventional mounting for a better rear view from the cockpit. It will be interesting to see if they remain there after testing commences.

The rest of the monocoque's external features are similar to the McLaren. The steering arm now sits in between the upper and lower wishbones: this places the element lower in the airflow, and therefore closer to the lower front wing in order to have some conditioning effect on its wake.

The lower positioning probably also aids the car's centre of gravity. Again the sidepod inlets are wider and high as per the McLaren in 2008 - although this shape is less effective for cooling it works better for sending flow around the car. Equally the roll structure follows McLaren's 2008/9 practice of forming the lifting eye with two vertical supports to the inlet snorkel. But Newey hasn't followed the McLaren fins that sit behind these supports, suggesting the snorkel isn't as undercut as the McLaren.

A striking feature is the small size of the sidepods: these taper down and inwards far more than other cars, and neither are they undercut, instead flaring outwards at their base. Their small size appears to be largely as a result of Red Bull finding different places for cooling outlets, there being two removable panels each side of the engine cover to vent hot air, one being high up near the pointed section of the engine cover and the other being in the unpainted section of bodywork above the exhaust outlet.

These are rendition to the normal exit at the end of the coke bottle shape, which is correspondingly much smaller in order to send more flow over the diffuser and beam wing. The aim seems to be the overriding philosophy for the tail of the RB5, the conventional shape of this area and the mechanical parts it contains has been discarded in favour of far more innovative ideas.

For example, the rear dampers are now mounted to the side of the gearbox and operated by pull rod suspension (rather than push rod): the pull rod can be seen leading downwards from the wheel to an area between the engine and gearbox. This lower the car's centre of gravity and clears the top of the gearbox from obstructing the beam wing.

Red Bull RB5 detailEqually, the beam wing is now fully exposed, by lowering the rear crash structure, which points aggressively upwards from the rear of the gearbox. No doubt this will also form a complex diffuser extension as we have seen on the Toyota. The beam wing is also augmented by the clever shape of the upper wishbone, this now sits fully exposed above the gearbox. In doing this it forms a legal winglet, improving the flow towards the beam wing.

More conventional is the upper rear end in the upper parts of its endplates, but lower down. Newey has taken the wording of the rules literally and extended the endplates right down to the diffuser. Williams sported similar, but smaller, extensions to their rear wing.

Red Bull continue to be powered by the Renault engine. This year Renault were given dispensation to redesign elements of their engine to give it parity to its rivals in power output. In addition to this redesign, Renault have had to re-tune the engine to the new 18,000rpm limit.

With the short notice of the RPM drop, Renault engine man Rob White felt there was not a particular cooling benefit for the engine. Thus the aerodynamic work on the car's tiny sidepods is all the more impressive. In addition to the engine, Red Bull will also use Renaults KERS system, with an electrical system developed in association with Magneti Marelli on the electronics side and Saft providing the batteries.

  More news  
Read the AUTOSPORT Digital Edition
Visit the shop
See highlights from 60 years of AUTOSPORT
Paddock insight from group F1 editor Jonathan Noble
Grand Prix news updates from F1 editor Edd Straw
Breaking news feed
Live commentary feed
Gearbox problem stops RB5's first test
Q & A with Christian Horner
Horner hopeful on 'different' approach
Q & A with Adrian Newey
Newey says RB5 an aggressive design
Q & A with Mark Webber
Webber stays positive despite injury
Q & A with Sebastian Vettel
Vettel says the target is to win races
Newey: Only a few teams will win in '09
Red Bull unveil the RB5 at Jerez