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

How Red Bull turned its RB14 into a race winner

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How Red Bull turned its RB14 into a race winner
Matt Somerfield
By: Matt Somerfield
Co-author: Giorgio Piola
Apr 21, 2018, 12:42 PM

Before its stunning victory in the Chinese Grand Prix, Red Bull's disappointing start to the season had led to a quiet but relentless push to make its RB14 a winner.

The car builds on the strong platform of its predecessor, but it has been clear that there has been a lot of work done to improve areas which it felt were not perfect – and recover those areas where it had been forced to make changes because of external influence.

Suspension evolution

Rewind 12 months and a technical directive issued before action even got underway at the start of last season really upset the initial potential and subsequent development plan for the RB13.

The directive sought to limit the storage of energy by the more complex hydraulic suspension systems that had started to become commonplace with the lead teams, and effectively handed Ferrari an advantage as Red Bull and Mercedes, both of whom were thought to have more advanced systems, scrambled to recover.

Red Bull, whose system was thought to cleverly manipulate the car's platform to improve downforce and reduce drag, re-imagined the car alongside a much more complex aerodynamic package, with Adrian Newey brought back into the fold to assist.

However, F1 teams don't give up on these ideas lightly, given the amount of time and money that goes into developing them. Instead they come up with new ideas aimed to recover the potential that they have seen in the past.

That is why it is interesting to see Red Bull do something different with its suspension this year, as this exclusive image captured by Giorgio Piola shows.

Red Bull Racing RB14 front suspension detail
Red Bull Racing RB14 front suspension detail

Photo by: Sutton Images

What's obvious from the image below is that this year Red Bull is going about things differently, as in contrast the 'heave', third or J-damper of the last few years (see below) has featured a mechanical link, complete with a Belleville spring arrangement and separate hydraulic component.

Red Bull Racing RB13 front suspension detail
Red Bull Racing RB13 front suspension detail

Photo by: Sutton Images

The RB14's damper has been redesigned and outwardly appears to have been switched for a hydraulic version, as the team looks to enhance the suspension's compliance, improving both mechanical grip and aerodynamic consistency.

The damper's responsibility in controlling heave (the vertical displacement of the suspension) is critical in how the car performs aerodynamically at varying speeds, It also performs a pivotal role in controlling the oscillations and shape changes induced by the deformation of the tyre.

In a year where Pirelli has placed more onus on the degradation of its tyres, this could prove decisive in Red Bull's fight with Mercedes and Ferrari.

Whilst the team is still clearly down on power compared to its closest rivals, less wear on softer compounds, fast pitstops and an aggressive strategy outlook could work in its favour - as it all had in China.

Aerodynamics

As far as the aerodynamic package goes, the areas worked on during 2017 continue to see the most development this season.

The car features a Ferrari-esque low-slung side impact support spar and rearwardly-positioned sidepod inlet offering even more gains around its midriff.

Red Bull RB14 deflectors, V3
Red Bull RB14 deflectors, V3

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Changes were made ahead of the season opener though, with additional stiffening devices (white and red arrows) added in order to shore up the collection of devices which are susceptible to flutter when loaded, reducing their aerodynamic efficiency.

Red Bull Racing RB14 mirror detail
Red Bull Racing RB14 mirror detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull also introduced a new wing mirror set-up in Melbourne, placing the innermost support on the side of the chassis, rather than on top (red arrow).

The outermost support was pulled forward and is now housed on the leading edge of their sidepod (white arrow). This is a decision based around aerodynamics, rather than having a structural purpose, with the new mirror stalk improving flow into the sidepod inlet.

Floor changes

Red Bull RB14 and Toro Rosso STR12 floor comparison
Red Bull RB14 and Toro Rosso STR12 floor comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The team also revised the area just ahead of the rear tyres in Bahrain, turning up the edge of the floor in order that it invoke a different aerodynamic reaction.

It's a solution already run by its sister team Toro Rosso (inset), which made the change late into its 2017 campaign.

It's a development that's been seen up and down the grid in various guises too, with Mercedes utilising a similar rolled-up triangular scroll from Bahrain last season, before it switched to a flap solution in Spain.

Mercedes AMG F1 W08 rear floor detail
Mercedes AMG F1 W08 rear floor detail

Photo by: Sutton Images

 
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About this article

Series Formula 1
Teams Red Bull Racing Shop Now
Author Matt Somerfield
Article type Analysis