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

2019 tech verdict: Red Bull becomes a disruptor with Honda

Join us as we delve into Giorgio Piola’s 2019 archive and bring you insight into the relentless development undertaken by the teams throughout a season in the pursuit of more performance. In today’s gallery we will focus on… Red Bull.

2019 tech verdict: Red Bull becomes a disruptor with Honda

In its first year with Honda power, expectations for 2019 weren’t stellar – even though Helmut Marko claimed it would win five races! In fact, Red Bull Racing won three – all with undisputed lead driver Max Verstappen (Austria, Germany and Brazil) – while Pierre Gasly’s poor form of the first half of the season, which resulted in his demotion to Toro Rosso, meant the team actually just fell short of its 2018 points tally in the constructors’ championship.

With its engine supplier working in harmony, as opposed to the previously often-acrimonious Renault partnership, it allowed the team to focus on beating Mercedes and Ferrari at circuits that truly suited the RB15 – which seemed a tricky chassis to setup and get the most out of, as Gasly found to his cost. Updates certainly helped calm the car’s spikey handling characteristics, although occasional power drops and throttle issues on the engine side didn’t mean it was all plain sailing on that front either.

Click on the arrows on the images below to scroll through them…

Red Bull RB15 bargeboards

Red Bull RB15 bargeboards
1/15

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull was looking for an immediate impact with the Honda-powered RB15 and kicked off its season with some rapid development. This first change to the bargeboard and deflector region saw slots added in the forwardmost element and the rearward element detached from the floor.

Red Bull RB15 front wing, Chinese GP

Red Bull RB15 front wing, Chinese GP
2/15

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull chose to place itself firmly at one end of the spectrum when it came to front wing design, opting for a full span configuration which sees the flaps extended to their fullest at the juncture with the endplate.

Red Bull Racing RB15 nose detail

Red Bull Racing RB15 nose detail
3/15

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Having utilised a ducted nose-tip solution for some time now, the team opted to mix things up for Monaco, and closed off the tip. This likely shaved some weight off the car, making it a little more nimble, while also altering the front wing’s neutral sections aerodynamic response at low speeds.

Red Bull RB15 new fins

Red Bull RB15 new fins
4/15

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull always studies the opposition to see what solutions may also work for them and in Canada it decided to join an ever-growing party of teams using fins in the transition zone on the nose. Unlike the simplistic L-shaped appendages seen elsewhere, Red Bull introduced a set of sinuous and complex fins to maximise their effect on the surrounding airflow.

Red Bull Racing RB15 mirror

Red Bull Racing RB15 mirror
5/15

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Wing mirrors and their mounts have become a design playground in recent years and while the FIA tried to reign in some of these designs with their new rules package, the designers still found ways to circumvent them, perhaps none more so than what Red Bull did.

Red Bull Racing RB15, front wing Austrian GP

Red Bull Racing RB15, front wing Austrian GP
6/15

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The team made a small alteration to the front wing for the Austrian GP, altering the upper flaps connection with the endplate in order to soften the tip vortex that’s shed.

Red Bull Racing RB15, sidepod fins

Red Bull Racing RB15, sidepod fins
7/15

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Along the edge of the floor the team added these angled fins, in order that the airflow passing by and through the neighbouring slots was improved too.

Red Bull Racing RB15 cooling

Red Bull Racing RB15 cooling
8/15

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The upper engine cover chimney is a solution we’ve seen from Mercedes in the past and it appeared at one stage that Red Bull would follow suit in 2019. However, having tested it on several occasions it never raced with it, perhaps using it to relieve stress on the power unit in warmer climbs and in sessions that aren’t competitive.

Red Bull Racing RB15 rear wing comparison

Red Bull Racing RB15 rear wing comparison
9/15

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

You have to love a Red Bull low downforce rear wing – both the solutions used in Spa and Monza respectively are particularly aggressive with as little wing angle used as possible in order to reduce drag for the long straights that are a feature of both circuits.

Red Bull RB15 bargeboard comparison, Russian GP

Red Bull RB15 bargeboard comparison, Russian GP
10/15

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull made some small tweaks to the RB15 for the Russian GP which included this change to the leading edge of the bargeboard.

Red Bull RB15 front suspension layout

Red Bull RB15 front suspension layout
11/15

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

A look inside the RB15 and more specifically the front suspension arrangement, complete with the bellville-springed heave damper, a solution it switched back to for 2019.

Red Bull Racing RB15, cooling

Red Bull Racing RB15, cooling
12/15

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

In order to keep things cool in the heat and altitude of the Mexican GP, the team arrived with a new cooling solution that opened up the bodywork around the rear suspension. Also note the single element T-Wing, a novelty in Red Bull circles owing to its ability to get maximum downforce from the normal setup.

Red Bull RB15 fins

Red Bull RB15 fins
13/15

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

In the latter stages of the season Red Bull made a change to its ‘S’-duct outlet, switching the almost full-width exit for this much narrower version, likely causing less disruption to the fins alongside and improving its overall power.

Red Bull Racing RB15 front wing detail

Red Bull Racing RB15 front wing detail
14/15

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This is the front wing design that Red Bull exclusively throughout 2019, with only a few minor tweaks to the flap and endplate size and shape throughout.

Red Bull Racing RB15 front wing detail

Red Bull Racing RB15 front wing detail
15/15

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull used Free Practice sessions at the last few GPs to test out a new front wing concept for 2020. Ultimately, it’s not too different from what it ran throughout 2019, but does give us some idea of the direction that the team might be heading in. It looks set to retain as much of the full-height flap approach, with the major change coming to the shape of the mainplane, as the new design exposes the underside and the strakes to the airflow more than before.

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