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Analysis

How Red Bull keeps improving its RB19 F1 car

Red Bull is clearly the outfit to beat in the 2023 Formula 1 season, but that hasn't stopped the team from pushing the envelope to extend its RB19 car's advantage.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

While its rivals search for ways to close the yawning performance gap, Red Bull is not sitting still as work continues on the car that evolved from last year's dominant RB18.

Building on those strong foundations and dealing with fresh complexities thrown up by new floor regulations, Red Bull has focused on some key areas to uncover performance gains.

One of the major differences between last year's challenger and the RB19 is the position of the front suspension, with the assembly subtly modified to improve various facets.

Contrary to a large proportion of the field, Red Bull opted for a pull-rod front suspension layout for the new generation of cars, while at the rear it returned to a push-rod layout for the first time since 2008. Red Bull was pivotal in a wholesale shift by the grid to pull-rod from 2009 until the end of the previous era of regulations.

While the mechanical performance of the suspension is clearly still a dominant factor in decision-making, there will always be a trade-off on a car's aerodynamic performance. Most of the field has opted for a similar upper wishbone layout to Red Bull with these new regulations, with the lead arm mounted high on the chassis, while the trailing arm is slung lower.

However, Red Bull does have one of the more extreme examples. This not only helps from a mechanical point of view, to reduce dive under braking, but also has aerodynamic benefits given the airflow is redirected to a more desirable location under and around the sidepods.

Red Bull Racing wheelbase comparison (Anti-dive, inset)

Red Bull Racing wheelbase comparison (Anti-dive, inset)

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The wishbone fairings provide an aerodynamic benefit, as they are tailored to further improve their flow characteristics. This is something that other teams have tried to build upon, with Mercedes and Alfa Romeo both fielding chassis blisters to further enhance the effect.

But Red Bull has realised that the position of its front axle relative to the rest of the aerodynamic surfaces was suboptimal in 2022, with the entire assembly shifted forward this season. This has a mechanical impact not only on the suspension layout but also in how the tyres behave.

From an aerodynamic perspective, the shift in the axle line alters the behaviour of the turbulent wake being generated by the wheel assembly. This results in Red Bull being able to make both macro and micro changes to the aerodynamic surfaces both up and downstream of the assembly to extract even more performance.

Its update push began properly in Australia as the Milton Keynes team modified the design of its front wing endplate and the associated architecture to alter the flow around the car's front corner.

The endplate is now more cambered across the top and middle section, which presents more of the dive plane to the oncoming flow. This should improve the outwash effect too, which is likely why the team made adjustments to the inner flapped portion of the wing.

In order for this trade-off to work, the new flaps on the two uppermost elements of the wing are different across the middle of their span. More chord is presented at the inboard end, while there's more camber all the way to the outboard adjuster.

Red Bull swiftly followed this up with a significant change to its sidepod inlet design in Azerbaijan, with the inlet reduced in height to increase the size of the undercut but widened in order to maintain cooling capacity.

Red Bull Racing RB19 side pods comparison, Azerbaijan GP

Red Bull Racing RB19 side pods comparison, Azerbaijan GP

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

As a consequence of the bodywork being widened around the inlet, the rest of the sidepod's geometry was subtly tweaked. This takes advantage of the additional space afforded to the undercut to improve both the physical interaction with the floor and their aerodynamic kinship.

To fully complement the changes made to the sidepod, attention was also paid to the geometry of the floor's edge and the aerodynamic furniture mounted upon it, all of which re-crafted to increase their performance in line with the other changes.

To further capitalise on those efforts, there was a change made to the outer floor fence, with the top edge gently massaged in order to better align the local airflow and take advantage of the changes made downstream.

As the other teams look to make up ground on Red Bull, they will hope that the sliding scale of resources available to each team based on their championship position and the resultant penalty given to it for breaching the cost cap rules stems the pace at which the RB19 can be further improved. Red Bull will hope that, by the time that happens, both world titles will be in the bag.

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