Red Bull ‘dodge’ to avoid FIA wind tunnel penalty

Much has been made of this year’s class of the field Formula One car design and Red Bull Racing have required all of their guru designer’s skills to keep them ahead of the chasing pack.

Red Bull’s technical officer, Adrian Newey was dubbed this season as a “unicorn” by Aston team owner Lawrence Stroll for his unique achievements in which have taken twenty three drivers’ and constructors’ Formula one titles.



Red Bull ‘dodge’ FIA penalty

And it appears the latest aerodynamic upgrade the team have brought to the Hungarian Grand Prix has been created by dodging the wind tunnel penalty from the FIA as part of the cost cap breach punishment.

Newey’s invention and ingenuity over the ages have resulted in the team he was designing for create landmark F1 cars and concepts which the rest of the grid has scrambled to copy.

One of the British designers finest game changers was the 1992 Williams FW14B driven by Nigel Mansell and Ricciardo Patrese. 

Traction control was introduced to help with acceleration and reducing tyre wear but the car’s advanced aerodynamics made it slippery through the air and more efficient than the competition.



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Yet it was the active suspension which gave Mansell and his famous “Red 5” a huge edge over his rivals and propel the British driver to the world championship.

The FW14B regularly gapped the field by a second and even more over a single lap win qualifying due to the ’driver aids’ Newey had conceived.

The following year’s Williams car built on these driver assists by adding the first F1 ‘push to pass’’ system which would lower the car, reduce drag and create a higher top speed.

In an interview with Motorsport Magazine Adrian Newey lists a number of his brightest F1 ideas most of which came from thinking differently from the way his competitors did.

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Thinking outside the box

By asking his engineers to steer the car from side to side in the wind tunnel, Newey realised this disrupted the airflow around the wheels. He then invented sculpted front wing end plates which kept the gap between the tyre and the wing consistent through the corners.

Newey’s final design for Williams, the FW18 of 1996, saw the boundaries pushed once again and this time it was because their designer had interrogated the F1 design regulations like none other.

The FW18 had an enormous aerodynamics advantage over its rivals due to a diffuser that was ‘undercut’ to go above the exhausts rather than in its traditional place beneath them.

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Newey battles with FIA regulations

This created a hugely enhanced diffuser exit area and the volume and flow of air now allowed through was incredible.

“This was another one of those reading the rules carefully to see if there was a way of doing what you wanted rather than what they wanted,” Newey revealed when questioned on how the concept came about.

Having come out of the blocks in Bahrain clearly ahead of the rest of the 2023 F1 car designs, Red Bull have since brought much fewer upgrades to their RB19 car than their competitors.

Over recent F1 weekends there have been signs that the competition is closing in on the runaway championship leaders with McLaren being the latest to make a huge step forward from the back of the mid field to claiming P2 and P3 in qualifying at the recent British Grand Prix.

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RBR radical new side pod

Now the Milton Keynes team have brought their last significant upgrade of the season to the race weekend held just outside Budapest.

Speaking to F1 TV, design expert analyst Sam Collins discusses the radical new side pod design seen on the RB19 as the teams assembled their cars on Thursday ahead of the Friday track sessions.

“I still haven’t seen the completed car yet,” cautions Collins. “But what I can say is the side pod is completely different to what we’ve seen previously. They’ve gone for a very slit-type radiator duct and completely redesigned the cooling system.”

The team principal Christian Horner recently revealed the team would be shifting its focus towards the development of the 2024 car yet clearly there are some final improvements in the pipeline for the RB19.

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Red Bull suffer severe restrictions

Having been found guilty of a “minor breach” in the cost cap, Red Bull were awarded a technical penalty along with the $7m fine which restricted their wind tunnel time for twelve months by an incremental 10%.

As world champions they already had a reduced amount of allowance for aerodynamic testing under the FIA’s sliding scale handicap system which awards the teams finishing further down the championship table more time in the wind tunnel than the team winning the championship.

After their penalty this meant Mercedes for example had 300 more wind tunnel runs for the year than Red Bull Racing. Aston Martin only 7th in the 2022 standings have had a massive 700 more runs than the restricted 1200 awarded to RBR.

Yet it appears once again Newey’s genius for thinking outside the box has helped the world champions dodge some of the penalty awarded by finding gains outside the aerodynamic restricted allowances as Collins explains.



Newey exploits regulations once again

“A lot of people are going, ‘What about the wind tunnel time?’” 

“I think they’ve been very clever because radiator redesigns don’t come out of the wind tunnel allocation, so they’ve actually got a bit of a free upgrade on that, I think.”

The radical new design could be worth more than two tenths over a flying qualifying lap but Collins cautions Red Bull may have taken a huge risk with this big redesign mid season.

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Red Bull taking a risk

“As we saw with Ferrari at the Spanish Grand Prix, when you do a drastic change to a Formula 1 car, it doesn’t always work right away. So, perhaps, Red Bull have exposed themselves ever so slightly – at least at first,” Sam Collins concludes.

Given the world champions have only really brought one previous ‘upgrade’ to their 2023 car, they will have had more time to test the new concept exhaustively than have other teams who in their desperation to close the gap to the championship leaders have brought at times a raft of changes to this year’s cars.

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2 responses to “Red Bull ‘dodge’ to avoid FIA wind tunnel penalty

    • Correct. Red Bull just used the time they weren’t allowed to spend in the wind tunnel developing with other methods. Nothing dodgygoing on….

      Btw: Can someone tell Lewis that “Red Bull have since brought much fewer upgrades to their RB19 car than their competitors”

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