Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
What is behind Red Bull’s rear wing troubles
Amid an intense Formula 1 title battle, Red Bull's nerves have not been helped the past two races by the need from some hasty rear wing repairs.
At the United States Grand Prix, after FP3, Red Bull discovered a hairline crack in Max Verstappen's rear wing that required some last-minute work before qualifying.
Then, in Mexico last weekend, Red Bull's mechanics were seen furiously working on the wings of both its cars again in a bid to get ready for the Saturday afternoon shootout after seeing some damage following final practice again.
In the end, the Red Bulls took to battle in qualifying with some very visible temporary repairs, which looked like some super-strength tape, on the rear wing.
The solution brought the team some time before a more permanent fix could be done overnight ahead of the race
While back-to-back rear wing problems could point to a concern with the Red Bull design, a detailed look at the situation points to the issues being completely separate.
Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B
Photo by: Uncredited
The bumpy surface at COTA was most likely responsible for the cracks that had appeared on the rear wing mainplane at Austin.
There, the team was forced to perform keyhole surgery and then patch up the wing afterwards (red arrows).
This highlights the due diligence that teams must perform in order to stay one step ahead of failures.
But it also posed the question about how far teams are pushing the boundaries in order to find performance, all whilst searching for the durability required to work against the backdrop of the cost cap.
Indeed, Red Bull was not the only team to suffer at the hands of COTA's bumps either, as Fernando Alonso was forced to retire from the race following a stress induced failure of his rear wing assembly.
Rear wing detail of Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B
Photo by: Uncredited
Red Bull's problems in Mexico appear to have been of a different variety for Red Bull, with repairs hastily made to the outermost section of the top flap (red arrow) and the louvred section of the endplate (blue arrows).
It's worth noting that whilst the louvred endplate has been in Red Bull's high downforce arsenal for some time now, it hadn't featured in Mexico before.
The team did have some teething issues when its first ran it, perhaps owing to the delicate connection to the endplate and where they each meet.
Mexico can be an especially challenging place for cars, with teams going for their highest downforce solution at a track with a very long straight and high speeds.
The maximum load placed on the wing at Monaco, where a similar spec rear wing was last used, is not comparable with the loads it will go through in Mexico, owing to the top speeds they must achieve.
On top of this, the different loads and stresses put through the wing as the DRS is opened and closed are much more extreme in Mexico.
Red Bull itself confirmed that the issues it faced in Austin and Mexico were not linked.
Team boss Christian Horner said about the Mexico issue: "It was a completely different part of the wing.
"It's something that that we haven't seen before. But the guys did a great job to make a modification in the field and the wings have done their job perfectly this weekend."
He added that when the problem came to light after final free practice, the team had to take all the wings off both cars to effect some repairs – and return the best of its components to its two drivers.
This is why Sergio Perez suggested after qualifying that his car had not run with the exact same wing he had used to top FP3.
Red Bull Racing RB16B rear wing broken
Photo by: Giorgio Piola
"We spotted a repair that needed doing on the wing and so, as a precaution, we made some of the alterations to all the wings that were left back in the pool," said Horner.
"All the wings were taken off the car, obviously, and then the best assemblies were made and put onto the two cars. Plus we'd obviously lost a rear wing earlier in the weekend after Checo's off in P1."
While the next race in Brazil can throw up some challenges for teams, the circumstances that triggered the wing problems for Red Bull in the USA and Mexico are unlikely to resurface there.
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