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Why Aston Martin Red Bull copy claims are wrong

Aston Martin’s dramatic improvement in Formula 1 this year has prompted jibes from some that it has fast-tracked success by copying Red Bull.

Indeed, even F1’s pacesetting team itself joined in the fun when its motorsport director Helmut Marko joked earlier this year that it has been nice to see ‘three Red Bulls’ on the podium.

While such comments are easy to make, and have certainly been fuelled by the team’s technical director Dan Fallows having previously worked at Red Bull, the reality of the Aston Martin AMR23 shows it is far from a clone.

Yes, ‘Team Silverstone’ has produced copied car ideas in the past – most notably with the ‘Pink Mercedes’ as Racing Point that won a race in 2020 – but its current challenger is not one of those.

PLUS: Why Red Bull clone criticisms of Aston’s F1 challenger are invalid

Sure, the Aston Martin 2022 challenger did eventually gravitate towards the design concepts seen on the Red Bull RB18, after the squad abandoned its launch idea.

However, for this season, it has evolved heavily and added to its foundations to deliver a different development route.

One important thing to remember is that F1’s current regulations are quite restrictive and only allow for a certain amount of design freedom anyway. This results in all of the cars having very similar overall design layouts as a whole.

This is also why our attention is drawn to the big-ticket items, such as the sidepods and engine cover, as these are areas that now have the most design freedom.

But let’s take a look at the details to see just how the AMR23 is different to the Red Bull car.

In terms of sidepod design, Red Bull’s own RB19 is almost identical to its predecessor.

However, Aston Martin heavily evolved its concept this year and went down a path that was first adopted by Alpine with its A522, with a channel running along the length of the sidepod.

Aston Martin AMR23 sidepods view
Alpine A522 sidepods detail

The AMR23’s ‘slidepod’ design is much more aggressive than Alpine’s though, with the slope dug much deeper into the bodywork in order to define the airflow’s passage toward the rear of the car.

And, while other teams might also look to venture down this branch on the development tree, their designs will inevitably create their own offshoot.

This is also a given because each team will have to make adaptations to suit the packaging of the power unit and its ancillaries and also trying to reap the aerodynamic gains on offer.

Luckily, should any of other team want to investigate the concept's merits, it can do so knowing that the bodywork on the AMR23 isn’t shrink-wrapped to the internal components in the same way that it would have been under the previous regulations.

There are hollow internal sections used to create features that improve the external flow around the car. That said, the slide within the downwash ramp is born from the old methodology.

One area where Red Bull and Aston Martin are similar is that they both sport the high-waisted engine cover solution.

However, again, Aston Martin has continued to develop the concept, as the AMR23 utilises a similar solution to the sidepod, with the central portion dug out to help improve the airflow’s behaviour as it travels to the rear of the car.

The sidepods and engine cover are already a very visible indication that the RB19 and AMR23 are not alike, but there are plenty of other important differences between the two.

First of all, the most obvious is the internal DNA of the two challengers. Red Bull has its own Honda-based powertrain, while Aston Martin purchases its power unit, gearbox and rear suspension from Mercedes.

This limits Aston Martin in many ways, as it is effectively locked into design decisions taken by the ‘works’ Mercedes team, with a rear suspension layout including a pull-rod arrangement that is the given direction of the factory squad.

Meanwhile, Red Bull made the switch to push-rod in 2022 and has continued on that path this season, which results in a different packaging methodology for the inboard components.

Red Bull Racing RB19 technical detail
Aston Martin AMR technical detail

Those elements are housed on top of the gearbox casing, allowing more freedom in the shapes used in the lower half of the casing. This also results in the designers being able to express themselves more freely with the underfloor and diffuser.

The opposite could be said for Aston Martin, as its inboard components are housed in the bowels of the casing, thus reducing their design scope in that critical transition zone where the underfloor tunnels meet with the diffuser.

That being said, it does have some weight distribution benefits, with a clearer route for the exhaust pipework and the ability to move some cooling elements to a more central position.

It’s a similar story at the front of the car too. Aston Martin has the freedom to make its own decisions here, as it does not purchase the hardware from Mercedes, it has retained the more conventional push-rod arrangement, whereas Red Bull switched to a pull-rod layout.

Again, it’s horses for courses, but these are the sort of decisions that are usually driven by aerodynamics, as teams look for ways to improve the airflow’s passage from one area of the car to another.

PLUS: How Aston Martin broke into F1’s lead pack

The suspension arms are, in many ways, an encumbrance in this respect. Designers use the suspension fairings to the best of their abilities in order to alter the trajectory of the airflow cast off the front wing and nose and improve flow to the sidepods, floor, floor fences and underfloor.

In Red Bull’s case, it opted for quite an extreme solution in this regard for 2022, with the forward mono-arm of the upper wishbone mounted as high as possible on the chassis.

The rear arm is mounted low down, not only in order to help direct the airflow to the intended target, but also as a means to help with more aggressive anti-dive geometry.

Red Bull Racing wheelbase RB18 and RB19 comparison

Red Bull Racing wheelbase RB18 and RB19 comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 It’s worth noting that Red Bull also made changes to its suspension layout for 2023, as the wheelbase of the RB19 has been extended slightly.

This not only has a bearing on the aforementioned behaviour, with the forward mono-arm of the upper wishbone swept rearwards, it also alters the wheel assembly’s position relative to the front wing, floor and sidepods.

This has an impact on the aerodynamic wake that’s being generated by the front wheel and tyre, which is constantly in a state of flux given the vertical displacement of the chassis and steering angle, which means the tyre position is never the same.

Shifting the front axle line forward tips the balance slightly in this regard in reducing the impact the tyre wake has. It should also result in a more stable platform under braking and acceleration, which in-turn reduces the centre of pressure shift and provides a more predictable ride height window.

This can help both reduce the possibility of porpoising and allow the designers to be more aggressive with the underfloor and diffuser.

Of course, we must also remember that the tyre has changed this year in order to reduce what many drivers regarded as chronic understeer, and it is a change that Red Bull will also have had in mind.

Aston Martin AMR23 rear wing detail

Aston Martin AMR23 rear wing detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

There’s also a distinct difference in the approach of Red Bull and Aston Martin when it comes to their wing choices. Red Bull appears able to run with much less wing relative to the rest of the field, let alone Aston Martin.

This not only suggests that it has much more downforce at its disposal and can balance the car at each circuit accordingly, but it also means it will be quicker in the speed traps, as it is carrying less drag.

Plus, this has also had a huge benefit in terms of the DRS boost – which has emerged as one area where Red Bull has a massive advantage right now.

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