Spanish GP: Red Bull preview

NO JOKE In 1987, there were only five races outside Europe on the calendar and now, twenty years on, there are nine. Even so, the tradition of introducing major updates to the cars when returning to the comfort zone of Europe continues, or maybe...


In 1987, there were only five races outside Europe on the calendar and now, twenty years on, there are nine. Even so, the tradition of introducing major updates to the cars when returning to the comfort zone of Europe continues, or maybe the teams just feel there are so few people in the Sepang and Sakhir grandstands that it's not worth showing them anything new.

Red Bull Racing is no exception to the rule and the RB3s that David Coulthard and Mark Webber will race at the Circuit de Catalunya on 13 May have undergone changes in several areas. The team's technical director, Mark Smith, talks us through what has been done and why.

"Our plans always included an extensive bodywork update to arrive in time for this race. We also planned to introduce a step forward in transmission performance for Spain. On top of that, the first three races had thrown up some reliability issues and the Barcelona test last week means that hopefully we have addressed those too, notably the problem we had with the fuel flap. The old design caused us problems at each race so far, either staying open when the car was out on track or staying closed when it should have been open for the pit stops."

"The aero package involves the front wing, barge boards and rear bodywork, including the appropriate cooling exits. Why do we need these updates? Why did the car not start the year with them if they were always planned? Because of ongoing aero work in the wind tunnel, every week produces something that will improve performance on the car, from development on the wind tunnel model and from the work in the Computational Fluid Dynamics department."

"A Formula One car is essentially in a state of continuous development and the difficult decision is choosing the moment to freeze this work and turn it into a package that is put on the car. You have to assess how much you have moved forward with your development, and what are the logistical implications. For example, trying to introduce a big aerodynamics upgrade at a flyaway race a long way from the factory is not an easy task. Therefore there are strategic points in the calendar chosen as suitable for introduction of an upgrade."

"On top of that, the Catalunya track is one where your aerodynamic package plays a very significant role, so with it also being the first European race, it is a logical choice for introducing new items on the RB3. What you cannot really separate is what elements of the new aero package are the result of constant work down a set path and what level of improvement stems from resolving shortcomings that have shown up in previous races."

While much of the aero work has evolved from the white heat of competition in the opening races, changes to other areas of RB3 followed a more planned route. "The relatively late confirmation of the switch to Renault power meant we were not up to speed earlier in some areas, so right from the beginning we decided for logistical reasons to target the Barcelona test for the introduction of our transmission development and happily the testing was successful in this respect," says Smith.

Another area which has seen progress is in performance relating to the engine and its and the car's control systems. "From pre-season testing to the time we got to the first race, we had made a significant step forward in terms of traction control and engine braking strategies," continues Smith. "These evolved with Renault allowing for the fact that the interface between the engine control systems and the chassis control systems take time to develop."

"You can do some work in the laboratory but there is no substitute for track work, as in this case, the driver is the customer of the system, so it is his perception as to how well it works which drives this forward. There were shortfalls in the operation of those systems and we have made quite good advances now in that area."

One oft-heard mantra down most of the pit lane so far this season has been the fact that "we need to get to know the tyres better." Mark Smith explains: "At the Malaysian and Barcelona tests, we made some geometry changes that were prompted by the new tyres. We identified areas where we can have better integration with the tyres and have had a couple of suspension developments that have shown a performance gain.

"Most teams will have inevitably got a reasonable update package for this race, but I'm sure we are second to no one in the amount of effort that has gone into the design and manufacture of many new parts for this race," concludes Smith. "It is a fairly serious list of components. We have been flat out to improve our performance."

"No joke" was the headline, but go on admit it, the idea of Red Bull Racing producing a "serious" preview is quite funny really!

-credit: red bull

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mark Webber
Teams Red Bull Racing