Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Motorsport prime

Discover premium content
Subscribe

Edition

Global Global
Formula 1 Austrian GP

Why F1’s most boring car tweaks are now making the difference in the fight for wins

With the F1 field closing up, even tweaks in areas many don’t notice are now a key battleground.

Red Bull Racing RB20 technical detail

Red Bull Racing RB20 technical detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

When it comes to Formula 1 car upgrades, it is always more exciting when there is a new wing, or sidepod concept, to get your teeth stuck into.

But with Red Bull in particular getting close to the development ceiling of what is possible with the RB20, it is having to look at much finer details in its quest to find gains.

And a close look at where it has been playing around with things so far this year exposes a tremendous amount of focus on an area that it not really that thrilling – cooling holes.

Indeed, it declared that the latest upgrade it brought to the Spanish Grand Prix, which included refinement to the sidepod inlets, was actually motivated by its desire to have to run the fewest “exit louvre openings.”

And while having one more or one less cooling vent may not be a topic that rouses many, it would be wrong to say that they are insignificant when it comes to ultimate car performance.

In fact, Red Bull chief engineer Paul Monaghan made it clear in Spain that the advantages that can be had from shutting down exit holes at the rear of the car was enough to make a difference in grid positions.

“You'll be surprised how sensitive, I dare say, everybody is,” said Monaghan on the topic. “You start opening holes in the back of the bodywork, and you spill tumbling dirty air towards the beam wing, floor, edges, and that type of thing. And it hurts.

“The sensitivity to aerodynamics around here, it's high enough that you're arguing for a grid slot or two if you get it wrong. So, I'd take [the improvements] every day.  

“And don't forget we're in a tight fight with these guys [other teams], and our scope to change the car is not as free as it perhaps used to be. So, wherever we can make a gain, it’s valid.”

The focus on getting the right cooling sorted means that there are different solutions at each race, because what works at a cold Silverstone would not be good for a warm Austria that is at 1000 metres above sea.

And a reflection of what Red Bull has done this season regarding its cooling shows just how important the teams feels this area of the car is.

As Monaghan said: “The effort that goes into sort of re-sculpting the bodywork to get better efficiency at the inlet, for a lesser exit is, it's hard work, it's diligent, and it's a reasonable magnitude of upgrade.”

Red Bull Racing RB20 inlet

Red Bull Racing RB20 inlet

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull had been bold when designing the RB20 and opted to incorporate a new cooling layout in order to improve how the airflow moves through and around the car, whilst giving it the flexibility to make changes throughout the course of the season.

The switch to an overbite sidepod layout, with both a horizontal and vertical inlet, resulted in the team altering the internal layout of its radiators and coolers, with an inclined and stacked arrangement employed within the sidepod.

Smaller coolers are side-saddled behind the halo’s trailing leg and supply cool air from the novel inlet arrangement found between the halo’s legs and the main airbox inlet.

Red Bull Raciing RB20 side open (New inlets, inset)

Red Bull Raciing RB20 side open (New inlets, inset)

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The team began to make its first adjustments to the layout in Japan, as the team not only modified the horizontal sidepod inlet (inset, right, dotted line), making the inlet narrower, it added another inlet beside the cockpit and trailing leg of the halo (inset, left).

Supplying cool air to the radiators and coolers is just one part of the conundrum though, with heat rejection another piece of the puzzle that Red Bull has numerous ways of dealing with. 

The allowance of louvre panels with this current generation of regulations means we generally see different sized panels and louvres strategically placed around the sidepod and engine cover bodywork, rather than the rear cooling outlet being size adjusted for the given circuit.

In this respect, and given the very different internal layout that the RB20 features compared with its rivals, we’ve seen various configurations employed by Red Bull throughout the course of 2024.

There are panels on the side of the engine cover and within the gullies above, both seen as means to reject heat without drastically damaging aerodynamic performance.

Red Bull RB20 cooling comparison
Red Bull Racing RB20 top cooling comparison

That said, Red Bull did introduce new bodywork for the Spanish Grand Prix, with the rear cooling outlet one of the aspects that it addressed, albeit maybe only for use at certain events.

But more weapons in a team’s arsenal does provide it with more opportunities, especially when trading cooling and aerodynamic performance.

In Spain the use of the larger rear outlet may be the reason why the team didn’t need to run the louvred panels on the side of the engine cover, as it had in Monaco, for example.

Red Bull RB20 engine cover comparison
Red Bull RB20 sidepod bodywork & inlet comparison

However, there were also changes to the RB20’s inlet and sidepod bodywork that also likely improved efficiency, as the team altered the size and shape of the vertical sidepod inlet and further optimized the undercut and beltline position relative to the floor.

Read Also:

Be part of Motorsport community

Join the conversation
Previous article 2024 F1 Austrian Grand Prix session timings and preview
Next article Alpine retains Gasly on new multi-year F1 deal

Top Comments

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Motorsport prime

Discover premium content
Subscribe

Edition

Global Global