Launch analysis: Red Bull RB14

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Monday saw Aston Martin Red Bull release the first pictures of its brand new RB14, just before the car was sent out on a wet Silverstone track for a shakedown and filming opportunity. As could be expected, Daniel Ricciardo was positive about the shakedown, even though it later emerged he crashed that after around 70km , ending the day before the team managed to complete the scheduled 100kms.

Sure enough, in its temporary livery, it is evident that this is a well thought out evolution of the RB13, a car that wasn't really a slouch. It seems to be a careful development while also lending some details from competitors in the 2017 season.

At the front, the nose seem to be identical, with the open thumb still featuring prominently on the car. This took some effort and iterations early in 2017, and seems to be a nearly optimal solution for maximum airflow under the nosecone, given the current set of regulations. However, it being identical may suggest there is more to come.

The front wing is a carryover part from last year, and identical to a tryout wing as seen at the final Abu Dhabi test.

The car also continues to feature an S-duct with identical inlets near the lower corners of the chassis. The camera pods are mounted away from the nose cone itself and turning vanes underneath the nose seem to be extremely similar to what was used last year.

An interesting difference nonetheless is the front suspension. Having not gone for the extremely high upper wishbones that connect to the uprights via a pivoting arm, Red Bull Technologies came up with a higher mounting to the chassis, with the pivoting point there away from the chassis itself. The mounting point of the frontal leg is as far upward and forward as is possible, while the rear leg features a similar chassis extension. As ever, the wishbones are all angled downwards for aerodynamic reasons. For the same reason, the steering arm is still perfectly aligned with the lower front wishbone.

The sidepods are where Red Bull and Newey have taken a look at Ferrari. The RB14 hence has the upper side impact structure mounted lower down than before, turning it into an aerodynamic vane that is loose from the sidepod itself. This solutions offers more freedom for the aerodynamicists, as it removes the minimum width of the sidepod, as that previously incorporated this impact structure. Instead, it now only serves its safety purpose, combined with being an attachment point for the outboard barge boards.

It wouldn't be Red Bull if things weren't taken to the extremes, so the end result is very narrow sidepod with an inlet that is as wide as the sidepod, and sits as high above the car's floor as possible. This eventually a larger stream of air to pass around the sidepods and onto the diffuser, helping to provide rear end downforce.

Moving the sidepod backwards also has the advantage that is clear up more space for the aerodynamics to improve the barge boards, and how they handle the Y250 vortex and the wake of the front wheels. It is for the same reason that Sauber moved the front wheels forward on their C37.

Above the sidepod inlet is still an aerodynamic panel that resembles a lot of what the team ran in the second half of 2017. Except this time, it ends with a small endplate, likely creating a vortex that will eventually end up controlling airflow towards the rear wing or diffuser. The shape of the panel is especially interesting as it shows how airflow or going downwards over the sidepod, explaining the "bodywork lift" that all modern F1 cars generate.

Further back, the sidepod's shape has further been optimised by reducing its aerodynamic surface. Rather than including special curves or large undercuts, the RB14 sidepods are very simple shapes, with no undercut where the pods are widest. Apart from the aerodynamic benefit that the team has certainly found in this, it also allows engineers to locate various components inside the car lowest to the ground, whereas they would otherwise sit in the sidepod's shoulders, about 500mm higher up above the floor.

The airbox has a similarly simple appearance and provides an interesting contrast to the large inlets as seen on the Williams FW41 or last year's Mercedes W08.

As reported elsewhere, the car's bodywork is now also split in several panels, which can provide more possibilities for variation of bodywork during the season. Red Bull usually had the entire engine cover as a single piece, but this has now been split in three, with one main panel on each side, and the element that includes the remains of the shark fin as another part. Although a change for Red Bull, it's something that Sauber had on its C36 and continues to feature on its C37 car as well.

At the rear wing, Red Bull continues to use a single pillar to centrally support the rear wing. The DRS actuator that sits on top of that, while at the bottom it features an inverted Y-shape to cover over the exhaust.

Depending on what the team still has to introduce in the coming weeks of winter testing, there should be no doubt that this car is another aerodynamically strong platform. But if the team wants to enable its drivers to fight for the championship, like Christian Horner aims for, the Renault power unit will have to be a good match.


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