Red Bull: F1 wind tunnel punishment helped 'focus minds'

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says the wind tunnel penalty his squad was handed for breaching Formula 1’s cost cap rules helped ‘focus’ minds on improving its RB19. 

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

The Milton Keynes-based outfit has emerged from the winter as the team to beat, with its 2023 F1 challenger proving to be a step clear of its main opposition in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. 

Its impressive progress comes despite Red Bull having been handed an extra 10% reduction in its allocated wind tunnel and CFD time as the result of over-spending on its way to the 2021 world championship. 

While the team had claimed that the sanction would be a big handicap in its hopes of finding improvements for its RB19, it has actually managed to produce a car that looks further in front than even last year’s RB18. 

Horner reckons that one of the upsides of being hit with the penalty was that it ensured the team sharpened its approach in managing wind tunnel time better.

“I think it focuses everybody’s minds, and it drives efficiency,” he said, when asked by Autosport about the impact of the punishment on the mindset of team staff. “What we lost in wind tunnel time we gained in motivation.”

While Red Bull has appeared to suffer little from the reduction in aero development time so far, Horner still believes there could be long term consequences from it. 

“It is something you have to view over 12 months, because it is not just this year’s car, it is also next year’s car,” he explained. 

“I think the really positive thing for us is that we are not dealing with a fundamental issue that soaks up that resource and time.  

“It was vital for us to be able to cope with that penalty and to have a solid starting point. That is what the team has done a great job in achieving.” 

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Horner added that the consequences of the penalty may still hang over the team for the next nine months – and it’s something that could yet catch it out later on. 

“We have another eight, nine months still to go with it,” he said. “It means that we're going to have to be very selective and extremely efficient in how we develop this car and, of course, next year's car.” 

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Horner believed the lack of wind tunnel development could prove especially problematic if there is any significant change to the 2024 car regulations that would require some extra work. 

“It really depends if anything changes in the regulations,” he said.

“We're expecting stable regulations but, of course it is a disadvantage, a handicap, to have not only the incremental difference that you have by being in first place in the championship, and on top of that a further 10%. 

“So we're 15% less time than [Ferrari] and 20% less than Mercedes and so on. That's a significant number. So for us it's all about being efficient and being effective in what we apply and choose to test in the tunnel, and how we develop both the RB19 and the RB20 car.” 

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