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The shift of F1 approach that helped Red Bull avenge Brazil 2022 defeat

Red Bull arrived at last weekend’s Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix still licking the wounds from its defeat there in 2022, which had been a huge surprise at the time.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

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.

Although the squad has had no shortage of wins in the meantime, that did not mean it was going to sit back and accept a repeat of what happened at Interlagos 12 months ago which had opened the door for Mercedes.

Whilst the RB19 clearly has a much larger performance delta over the opposition than its car had last season, there were clear lessons that it took from 2022 that were applied this time out.

The most obvious from the outside is if we compare the rear and beam wing configurations from the RB18 and the RB19. 

They show us a shift of approach in how downforce at the rear of the car is balanced between the beam and rear wing – which is different to 12 months ago.

Red Bull rear wing comparison

Photo by: Uncredited

Red Bull rear wing comparison

As can be seen above in the comparison image, the rear wing architecture has changed already this season, with a wider central span for the mainplane before it tapers to a more tightly wound transition with the endplate. 

But the height of the upper flap remains constant across its span, with a teardrop-shaped flap pivot employed to help flow distribution as the flap merges with its open-ended tip section. This is another new feature this season to help trade downforce and drag.

Red Bull also opted for one of its higher downforce beam wing configurations in 2022 and, whilst it still employed a double element option this season, it’s clear to see that it was a much more unloaded variant.

Chief engineer Paul Monaghan said it was interesting that there appeared to be a spread of downforce levels across the field – but there were other elements that Red Bull had changed for this year.

“There's a reasonable spread in this field, from what I can tell, of different downforce levels,” he said. “And if you choose to look at the pictures of last year's car and this one, one will stand out quite well. 

“The subtleties of how we've chosen to operate the size is different from last year. That's our own choice and you can see the consequences there. 

“The changes, believe it or not, are actually quite subtle. It's not a sort of: ‘Oh my God rip it all up and start again.’ 

“But the nice thing is all the theories that sort of surrounded last year's performance here look like they've borne fruit.”

Diffuser design

124-23 Red Bull Diffuser comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

124-23 Red Bull Diffuser comparison

As rivals continue to examine just why the RB19 appears so good, there has been an increasing focus on its floor and diffuser design – as this is such a critical area for car performance.

One interesting aspect noted this season was the change Red Bull made from the Spanish Grand Prix, with the upper corner of the diffuser pinched inwards (red arrow).

This was an idea that took inspiration from what Williams had done, showing that no team should ever ignore what slower rivals are up to as they can have some pretty good ideas.

This pinch idea has an impact on the airflow and pressure distribution both inside the diffuser and externally as it flows into that corner. It also required the team to find the right geometries not only for the pinched section but also the diffuser's sidewall and the ramped ceiling (below). 

Red Bull Racing RB19 diffuser

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull Racing RB19 diffuser

The change made to the ceilings contours can be seen in the right-hand inset (above), with a narrower but longer expansion channel near the trailing edge. 

In order to accommodate this additional volume within the diffuser, concessions have to be made on the floor’s upper surface too though, with a wedge-shaped blister formed (left inset).

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