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Formula 1 Bahrain GP

The rear end overhaul that has transformed Red Bull's F1 car

Red Bull’s crushing form over the Formula 1 season-opening weekend in Bahrain suggests it has dialled out the aerodynamic issues that caused problems last year.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Giorgio Piola is the preeminent Formula 1 technical journalist. Born in Genoa, Italy, Giorgio has covered the F1 World Championship since 1969, producing thousands of illustrations that have been reproduced in the world’s most prestigious motor racing publications.

The often unpredictable rear end of the RB16 proved a handful for both Max Verstappen and Alex Albon at times, but the RB16B seems much more predictable

Red Bull spent a large portion of last season focused on fixing it, as it discovered quite quickly that the RB16’s performance was flawed owing to a correlation issue between its simulation tools back at the factory and the results delivered on track.

The team dug deep in the early part of the season and initially focused its attention on redesigning the car’s front end.

But, having fixed those issues and with new regulations cutting downforce at the rear of this year’s cars, the design team shifted its attention to nailing the rear end performance of the RB16B.

Its primary focus was to improve the airflow’s transit over the rear of the car, with the team happy to be schooled by its rivals as its layout draws inspiration from the concept introduced by Mercedes last season.

However, it has added its own twist too. The entire lower suspension assembly has essentially been flipped over, with the trackrod mounted at the front, rather than the rear (blue in lower inset),  while the lower wishbone design is altogether more interesting.

 

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Much like the design at the front end of the cars in recent years, rather than have the conventional triangulation, Red Bull has created a multi-link lower wishbone arrangement for the RB16B.

This separation of the arms allows the designers to select their placement and enables them to put them in a position that more effectively meets their aerodynamic demands.

This is critical when we consider the regulation changes for 2021, which put an onus on the design of the car’s rear end.

With this in mind, Red Bull has raised the lower suspension elements and pushed them as far rearward as possible, in order to try and improve the space available for the airflow over the raised diffuser ceiling, into the coke bottle section and the channel beside the tyre’s sidewall and edge of the diffuser.

Red Bull Racing RB16B rear detail

Red Bull Racing RB16B rear detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull introduced a multi-link arrangement in 2019 as part of its front suspension package, with its upper wishbone sporting the splayed layout.

For 2020 and again in 2021, the team opted for a conventional upper wishbone but switched to a multi-link arrangement for its lower wishbone. 

The never ending search...

Red Bull RB16B floor fin

Red Bull RB16B floor fin

Photo by: Uncredited

Red Bull already looked to be in good stead heading into the first round of the championship, with a solid performance during pre-season testing that suggested it may be in line to dethrone Mercedes.

It arrived in Bahrain with another weapon in its arsenal though, as the team installed another fin on the floor ahead of the rear tyre (red arrow).

This fin has a distinctive curled edge that will undoubtedly have an impact on the airflow, with the vortex shed from it designed to work in harmony with the other fins already present on the floor around it.

The role of these fins has been increased for 2021, given the introduction of the floor cutout and the inability to use slots and fully enclosed holes in the floor that remains. 

Each fin will have a specific role but contribute to turning airflow across and around the rear tyre in order to limit the turbulence it creates, which can be damaging to the performance of the diffuser if left untreated.

This illustration shows how quickly the team is reacting to the 2021 rule changes, with the mid-floor fin and two outwardly angled fins only added to the RB16B during the pre-season test.

 

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

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