Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

How F1's token spend helped charge Red Bull's title push

In a year where Formula 1 cars heavily resemble last year's challengers, Adrian Newey has attributed Red Bull's token spend as a key factor in its rise to the top.

How F1's token spend helped charge Red Bull's title push

Speaking at length recently on Red Bull's 'Talking Bull' podcast, the team's chief technical officer explained there was a weakness in its 2020 challenger that needed to be set straight for this season.

So if teams had not been able to make any revisions over the winter, then it would have left it a little bit on the backfoot.

"We had the unique situation of homologating last year's car to help F1 cope with the issues arising from COVID," explained Newey.

"It limited what we could do to the tokens we were allowed to spend. We chose to spend ours on the gearbox casing, which also allowed us to change the arrangement of the rear suspension. That was the one thing I didn't feel had worked very well on the RB16".

Red Bull had moved to a more rearward mounted suspension layout with the RB16, following in the footsteps of Mercedes which had mounted the rear of its suspension off the back of the casing, requiring a cutout in the crash structure that mounts to it.

Red Bull RB16 and Mercedes W11 rear suspension comparison

Red Bull RB16 and Mercedes W11 rear suspension comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The RB16B layout heads further in this direction, with the suspension rearranged to accommodate it. However, it couldn't go quite as far as Mercedes has, given it needed more tokens in order to modify the rear crash structure as well as the gearbox casing.

These changes not only appeared to have helped tame what had been a quite difficult car to drive in the early stages of 2020, but also gave the team more headroom to develop its aerodynamic concept, taking into account the changes that the FIA had made, as noted by Newey

"We had a mid-sized regulation change over the winter in terms of some aerodynamic restrictions around the floor and the back of the car. It wasn't a major change, but it did require some optimisation of the car to go with it."

Red Bull Racing RB16B floor comparison

Red Bull Racing RB16B floor comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

An early adopter of the Z-shaped floor cutout, Red Bull has been the most productive on the grid this season in terms of developments, with performance based upgrades arriving at virtually every race so far in order to optimise its package.

This is interesting as it could be considered somewhat of a hangover from its 2020 campaign, when it discovered early-on that it had issues with developments coming through the pipeline, something that Newey went on to explain would actually help them in the long run

"To go back a little way, when we moved from the RB15 of 2019 to the RB16 last year, there were some things on the car that we didn't fully understand," he explained.

"Even with the wind tunnel programme and all of our simulation tools, there are still things that can trip you up, and that's exactly what happened at the start of 2020.

"It took a bit of time to understand and get on top of those issues. The benefit of that – as is often the case – is that you learn things that you wouldn't otherwise have learned.

"You get more out of the mistakes than you do the good things. I think that stood us in good stead for what we did over the winter, and those developments have got us to where we are now".

Red Bull Racing RB16 front wing

Red Bull Racing RB16 front wing

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

We know that the team had to roll back an update to its nose during this period, with the narrow front wing pillar arrangement (V2) cast aside quite quickly as part of this discovery.

The team then set about back-to-back testing other solutions that had arrived during that time period to understand where it had gone wrong and set the wheels in motion to rectify its mistakes.

This year can be considered a gateway year in many respects, with the restrictions posed by the homologation and token system, the introduction of the budget cap and the impending arrival of F1's all-new car, something that Newey is acutely aware of and having to help manage

"I would say this is the biggest single regulation change we've had since the ground effect/venturi cars were banned at the end of 1982. It really is a revolution. The only thing that really stays the same is the power unit. Everything else is different.

"The balancing act is that we have to keep developing this year's car because, at the moment, we have a shot at the titles – and yet at the same time we can't just concentrate on this year and ignore what's to come.

"We're doing our best to juggle those two balls – while also coping with the cost cap which, as everyone knows, has meant we've unfortunately had to shrink the size of the team in certain areas."

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