The secrets of Red Bull's RB16B F1 car revealed

After weeks of secrecy the design tricks of Red Bull's new RB16B challenger are slowly being revealed during Formula 1 pre-season testing. Autosport takes a look at the latest discoveries from the Bahrain paddock.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Red Bull was one of the most secretive when it came to its new Formula 1 car launch, heavily restricting the number of images made available of the RB16B.

However, it finally had to unleash its car to the prying eyes of fans and rival teams in Bahrain testing this week, offering the chance to be able to learn a lot about its design concept – and latest updates.

Much of the interest about the Red Bull is about the rear of the car, with the team having spent its two development tokens on making adjustments to its gearbox carrier and rear suspension.

Although it will clearly have an effect, these changes have less to do with mechanical design requirements and everything to do with improving the car’s aerodynamics at the rear end - something that’s especially important when considering the changes made to reduce downforce this season.

Red Bull has drawn inspiration from rivals Mercedes when it comes to its new solution, reorienting the suspension in order that it is placed as high and rearward as possible.

PLUS: How Red Bull seized F1 2021's testing narrative

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

That allows the airflow to have a cleaner passage to the gap between the tyre sidewall and edge of the diffuser, over the diffuser bulge (which has also been extensively modified for 2021) and into the coke bottle channel in the centre of the car.

It’s interesting to see that while Red Bull has retained the single pillar design that wraps around the exhaust that it introduced late last season, it has made further changes for 2021.

The wastegate pipework, which had previously been split into two and was originally placed high up beside the main exhaust and was later moved into a lower position, has now been combined into just one larger wastegate outlet that sits beneath the main exhaust.

This has also resulted in a revised swept back hood shape for the pillar as it wraps around the two exhaust outlets compared with the 2020 arrangements (below).

Red Bull Racing RB16 exhaust comparison
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16

The latest updates

Interestingly, we have already started to see the car fitted with new aerodynamic trinkets when compared with the images released by the team just a few weeks ago too.

Mounted on the underside of the side impact protections spar’s fairing, there is a new control vane which was fitted to the car from the start of the test (green arrow).

This will help to guide the airflow that might ordinarily peel away from the sidepod’s undercut, keeping it closer to the car's bodywork and improve aerodynamic performance downstream.


On the opening day, Max Verstappen was treated to a further addition, with a quite bold strake added in the section of floor where the mandatory diagonal cutout has been made in the floor for this year (red arrow).

It’s a solution that has been seen elsewhere on the grid, albeit in a different guise, with the various designs used to facilitate the right effect depending on how the airflow is drawn toward it from the sidepod.

This also takes into account how hard it has already worked the airflow with the various aerodynamic solutions on the floor’s edge ahead of it.

Downstream of this another pair of more acutely outwardly angled, yet smaller, strakes (blue arrow) were added to the car on Saturday, as Sergio Perez took his turn at the wheel.

These new strakes sit ahead of the main strake that are all looking to compensate for the new floor cutout and loss of fully enclosed holes and slots that altered the flow around the rear tyre in previous years.

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