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Red Bull's sidepod intricacies begin to emerge in Bahrain F1 test

Red Bull has finally begun to reveal some of the details of the aggressive new sidepods on its RB20 Formula 1 car, as testing begins in Bahrain.

Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

One of the big talking points of launch season was Red Bull's conceptual shift in sidepod design, with a lot of intrigue surrounding the minimalist inlets.

Its change of approach, with a vertical opening reminiscent of previous Mercedes designs, comes at the same time that its rivals have moved towards versions that the world champion squad has used since the start of the ground effect era.

With it likely Red Bull had reached the performance limit with its previous concept, which features a high inlet and underbite element, the revisions have perhaps opened up a fresh advantage.

The RB20 therefore features a very different arrangement, with an overbite being utilised instead.

And as the car appeared in public for the first time on the opening day of pre-season testing in Bahrain on Wednesday, greater clarity was offered as to exactly what Red Bull had done, with its launch-spec car clearly not the finished product.

The inlet duty looks to be taken care of by two openings. One of these is a thin vertical chassis side channel, quite similar to what was seen at the physical launch at the factory.

However, there is now clearly a main inlet positioned under the overbite, which looks a little like a stingray's mouth.

The vertical channel along the side of the chassis is reminiscent of the bypass duct used by Ferrari since the start of last season.

However, it's unclear at this stage as to whether the airflow converges with the main bulk flow through the sidepod to help cool the various radiators and coolers housed within the sidepod, or whether it has a separate, more aerodynamic purpose, like we have seen with the Ferrari solution.

Red Bull Racing RB20
Red Bull Racing RB20

It's plausible that the airflow is being routed to the engine cover outlets, for example, as they have been segmented. The rearward outlet has already been closed off while the car's been out on track.

We now also have confirmation of the sidepod's upper bodywork geometry, which does include a subtle waterslide gully that works down into the Coke bottle region at the rear of the car.

Meanwhile, Red Bull is also taking advantage of the change in regulations for 2024 that allow for additional driver cooling apertures on the chassis, with two small snorkels seen pressed into the chassis' upper panel.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Engine inlets

Beyond the focus on the sidepods, there’s another interesting set of inlets on the RB20 that also deserves our attention (red arrows), this time housed around the halo and engine cover.

Red Bull Racing RB20 detail

Red Bull Racing RB20 detail

Photo by: Motorsport Images

https://www.motorsport.com/f1/photos/red-bull-racing-rb20-detail/68335145/

The inlets sit at the front of the new engine cover design, which is, in of itself, similar to the one employed by Mercedes last season when it had the raised shoulders and deep gulleys for airflow.

For Red Bull, it appears they have taken things up a notch, with the inlets housed in behind the cockpit.

They are able to capture some of the airflow coming into and around the cockpit and halo and redistribute it internally. It is likely an effort to recover some of the aerodynamic losses that are associated with this region of the car.

What’s also now apparent is that whilst there are some outlets on the exterior wall of the engine cover, the RB20 also has a series of outlets pressed into the gulley section too, which will reject some of the heat being generated internally and present it to the haunch section of the engine cover bodywork.

Red Bull RB20 engine cover gullys

Red Bull RB20 engine cover gullys

If we look back at the teaser image that Red Bull allowed their drivers to post on social media, the clues regarding these inlets were there too, albeit there was a cover in place on the RB20 present in the studio.

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