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

Tech analysis: Red Bull’s latest F1 brake duct tweaks

Red Bull was extremely busy during the opening phase of 2021, bringing performance updates at nearly every Formula 1 grand prix.

While sometimes the upgrades were pretty big and obvious, at other races the changes seemed negligible. However, nothing new is ever introduced by an F1 team if there isn’t performance to be had – so it’s always important to explore every minute alteration.

This season we’ve already covered the changes that Red Bull has been implementing to its brake duct inlet on a race-by-race basis to better offset cooling with aerodynamics. For the Hungarian Grand Prix, however, it arrived with an enlarged inlet scoop.

Red Bull RB16B front brake duct comparison

Red Bull RB16B front brake duct comparison

Photo by: Uncredited

This is the first time we’ve seen a new specification since the introduction of the latest iteration at the Spanish GP. It was subsequently used in Baku, France, both Red Bull Ring races and at Silverstone, whilst the Portimao spec was used again in Monaco.

The new design builds on the one introduced for Spain and enlarges the scoop to help feed more airflow into the lower and outer channel.

The most likely conclusion to draw is that this will only be used when cooling demand is high, as it will have a negligible aerodynamic loss.

Red Bull RB16B front brake detail

Red Bull RB16B front brake detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull also made an interesting choice in Hungary when it came to it rear wing too, as it switched to a lower downforce arrangement for qualifying and the race. 

It’s also worth noting though that whilst everyone else on the grid had their highest downforce arrangements including T-Wings, Red Bull has still opted not to install one on the RB16B.

Red Bull RB16B rear wing comparison

Red Bull RB16B rear wing comparison

Photo by: Uncredited

Alpine, the surprise race-winning team in Hungary, made changes to its rear wing for the race, with its usual high downforce rear wing fitted with some additional spars.

These slender spars, which were not present when the wing was last used in Monaco, were likely installed as a result of the FIA’s more stringent load and deflection tests and prevent the wing from tilting back under load.

Alpine A521 high downforce rear wing comparison

Alpine A521 high downforce rear wing comparison

Photo by: Uncredited

Race rewind>>

Mercedes’ up-tick in performance in the last few races coincides with a number of changes made by the team to it approach and setup. Plus, its latest aerodynamic upgrade package may have been timed perfectly given the switch to a new more robust rear tyre from Pirelli.

Mercedes AMG F1 W12 new full side

Mercedes AMG F1 W12 new full side

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The upgrade concentrated on the central portion of the car with the bargeboards, sidepod deflectors and floor all tweaked to improve performance. The changes were as follows:

The main skyscraper deflector has been shortened, with the slats in the Venetian blind-like deflector array extended forward to meet the airflow earlier.

The two ‘r’ shaped vanes at the base of the sidepod deflector array have been joined by a third, longer vane that sits beneath the main skyscraper deflector which has also been disconnected from the sidepod wing. This is similar to what we see elsewhere up and down the grid, with the horizontal wing turned upward at its tip.

In keeping with these alterations, the design team has also optimised the area just behind, as four outwardly angled fins can now be found mounted between the edge of the floor and the sidepod.

The ‘wavy’ floor edge has also been reduced to just a single kink with the flap mounted behind converted into a two-piece arrangement. 

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