How Red Bull retains consistency in different downforce set-ups

By on

Even though it has been a point of interest since the very beginning of the season, the possibility of Red Bull Racing to run such shallow rear wings and still retain great traction is something that draws much attention. The team continues to do this as it is seemingly the most efficient way for them to keep up their top speed nearby to what other cars can achieve.

Of course, at Hungary, maximum downforce is required, and there the team ran a very big rear wing, but so were all other teams essentially. It becomes interesting when we compare the RB9's high downforce configuration with the medium downforce set-up for Spa-Francorchamps. The larger images are the race configurations of the Red Bull, with on the right an inset showing the rear wing that both Red Bull drivers have used at Spa. On the left are two insets with an even lower downforce front and rear wing, as tried by both Vettel and Webber on Friday and Saturday, until opting against their use for qualifying and the race.

Comparing the Hungarian and Belgian race configuration, it is obvious the rear wing is much shallower, creating less downforce and drag. With less low speed corners and longer straights, this makes sense. However, the front wings are identical, something that might spring a surprise, as one might expect this would create considerable oversteer and overall imbalance on the car. Instead, the drivers seem to be perfectly happy, meaning that the car's balance does not seem affected.

Knowing that front wing changes can dramatically influence the airflow onto the rear of the car, it's all in Red Bull's benefit to try to keep the front as consistent as possible. Ferrari for instance are taking an entirely different route, as their changes of rear wing during FP1 and FP2 were always paired with dramatic changes in front wing flap angles.

How exactly Red Bull can actually pull this off can likely be attributed to the car's blown diffuser. It is no secret that Red Bull has the most advanced ramp style exhaust. They've been working on it the longest and have consistently been using it since its introduction.

Knowing the the exhaust gases are directed to seal the diffuser, and also seeing Red Bull's consistent high rake, it is safe to assume that the RB9 can extract more downforce from its floor than any other car can. What is most interesting for the car's balance though is that an efficient diffuser will generate downforce over the entire floor of the car and not only at the back.

To enhance this effect, the team introduced a new nose cone, which now has a higher tip and does no longer feature the pelican bulge. It is clear that this will slightly reduce front downforce and help feed more air under the floor, helping rear downforce generation. Altogether, this will help, but it still looks unlikely that a nose change like this alone can compensate such a sizeable difference of the rear wing.

It surely is an interesting concept that allows Red Bull to be sure of the car's airflow as they do not have to fiddle too much with the front wing. Exemplary to this is the extra low downforce configuration tried in practice, where an even shallower rear wing was only joined at the front with a small front wing endplate modification and a slightly smaller surface of the upper flap of the front wing.

Add comment

Please register or log in with your account to comment on this article