Dietrich Mateschitz, the Red Bull founder signed off an important development for the Formula 1 operations before his passing and approved the investment in a new wind tunnel for the Red Bull Formula One team. Since then, the team has used the old Arrows wind tunnel after they bought the Jaguar team in 2004.
The wind tunnel, which Red Bull team boss Christian Horner recently described as a “relic of the Cold War”, has temperature control limitations due to the size and age of the building in which it is housed.
Earlier this year it was reported that Red Bull was planning a new wind tunnel, which would take two years to build and would form part of the Milton Keynes technology campus to bring all areas of car and engine development and production together in one place. Although it is unclear what stage the project is at, Horner told The Race that it will come to fruition.
“It was one of the commitments Dietrich made to the company to invest in a new tunnel,” Horner said.
“When the wind tunnel regulations were introduced, the efficiency of our wind tunnel simply didn’t compare to what the regulations stipulated. This forced us to make this big investment, so we went for it.”
The existing wind tunnel came under the spotlight over the weekend of the Mexican Grand Prix in connection with the penalty for going over budget in 2021. As well as a seven million dollar fine, wind tunnel time for the team was reduced by ten per cent over the next 12 months.
In response, Red Bull said the penalty would hurt, especially given the inefficiency of the current wind tunnel. However, the decision to build the new wind tunnel was made long before the budget cap controversy.
Wind tunnel ban coming to F1 from 2030?
The investment could be of limited value to Red Bull as other teams such as McLaren and Aston Martin are also building a new wind tunnel, while Formula 1 is tentatively discussing a ban on wind tunnels in 2030.
This proposal was supported by the majority of teams last year, but without real details when it was discussed, this is not necessarily an indication of whether it will actually be implemented. Those against the ban see the wind tunnels as major capital investments, the loss of which would be a major blow to the teams.
For Red Bull, however, this would not be a major issue as the team, and in particular technical director Adrian Newey, have lobbied hard for Formula One to do away with wind tunnels altogether and switch completely to CFD development.
Horner says: “If you look at how the world is evolving, simulation is playing a bigger and bigger role. We should have been brave enough to do away with wind tunnels in the future. But unfortunately there was a fear-based culture rather than an embracing culture.”
Red Bull, for example, feels it has been forced to make the investment by the gradual tightening of restrictions on aerodynamic testing, which put increasing emphasis on efficiency, when it would have preferred to do without because the current wind tunnel is outdated for years to come in Formula One.