The RB19 is one of – if not THE – most successful F1 cars ever designed. With just two races remaining of the 2023 season, try yet be the case that the RB19 is the most dominant F1 car ever built and annoying for its creators but for one inexplicable blip in Singapore the 2023 Red Bull F1 car could have made a clean sweep of the 22 events held this year.
Its not just the historic records the RB19 in the hands of Max Verstappen has smashed which make it impressive, it is the persistent margin of 20-30 seconds gap to the rest of the field during a vats array of different Grand Prix circuit layouts which has impressed F1 engineers up and down the paddock alike.
F1 theory of convergence
Yet the RB19 was birthed during difficult times for the world champion racing team. A penalty of 10% reduction in aerodynamic testing hit Reed Bull just as they were about to enter the final testing phase towards the end of the 2022 season and into the busy winter months. The penalty was for breaching the cost cap limit back in 2021 by what was finally agreed to be a mere 0.37% overspend.
Red Bull were already suffering a handicap on aero testing time because of their top of the table spot in the championship when the annual snap shot is taken. So for the 12 months during their overspend penalty, they had around a third less aero testing time than did Mercedes.
There is a theory in Formula One that the more stable the regulations are over a number of years that the teams will converge towards similar designs and the competition will increase. Though statistically this has not been proven to be the case since the turn of the millennium where F1 has seen periods of dominance never experienced during the 20th century.
Christian Horner has been propagating this theory as a sop to the naysayers who believe his team and Max Verstappen is damaging the sport with their obvious superiority. Further Horner has observed the competitiveness between the field in qualifying this season has regularly been the closest the sport has known in Q1 from top to bottom.
Horner: ‘tough to make RB20 better than RB19’
“Taking into account the stability of the regulations, I think next year that trend will continue, and we will have a much more intense championship,” Horner recently told Bloomberg.
“The same can be said for 2025 before the rules reboot in 2026.”
The Red Bull boss further emphasises that despite Red Bull’s commitment to continual improvement, their rivals are catching up quickly and some are even emulating aspects of the Red Bull car design philosophy.
“We see that this is already starting to happen”, added Horner. “It will be difficult to make the RB20 significantly better than the RB19,” he asserts.
Is it good news Red Bull are switching designs?
Yet Mr. Horner may be speaking with a forked tongue if reports emerging from Milton Keynes are to be believed. In addition to the penalties suffered by Red Bull restricting their aero time this season, the RB19 has not been developed significantly over the course of this year’s racing.
It has been suggested in certain quarters that Adrian Newey and the design team have been reigned in given the gap to the rivals and the final version of the RB19 could have been so much faster.
This would then be bad news for the rest of the F1 field as the world champions would then presumably pile on the pent up upgrades over the winter to present another almost insurmountable challenge for the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes.
Yet if Gazzetta cello Sport is to be believed Red Bull’s rivals may see a chink of light in the tunnel ahead. The heavyweight Italian sports publication now claims that Newey and the rest of the design crew at Milton Keynes have been working on a “radically new car” for 2024.
RB20 a new F1 design concept
Paolo Filisetti, a long time correspondent for the publication, reveals, “It will follow an aerodynamic concept that will differ from the current one. The vertical load will be generated and distributed in a radically different way than now. The floor will function differently, adopting a very different volumetric conformation of the Venturi channels.”
These are now tweaks to or an evolution of the RB19 but a fundamental redesign as Filisetti explains.
“Adrian Newey, Pierre Wache, and the aerodynamicists found several areas of the RB19 that were only marginally evolved as it was unnecessary thanks to the significant gap to the rivals.
It was decided to integrate all of those changes into the new project to solve the weak points of the RB19. In other words, while the opponents struggle to chase Verstappen’s current car, Red Bull seems to be ready to introduce countermeasures of the highest level. To dominate yet again.”
RB20 with Mercedes W13 influences???
So the theory that stable regulations see the F1 car designs gradually converging upon a simple concept is not one Red Bull are prepared to follow.
Further, there was consternation in the Red Bull ranks when Mercedes revealed their radical W13 car for the 2022 season. Newey and his team apparently believed their arch rivals had hot upon a concept which may trouble their own RB18, though Mercedes never appeared to be properly able to maximise their car concept in terms of results.
Were the RB20 to incorporate some of the W13’s original ideas it would be justification for the much maligned Mike Elliot who refused to back down when criticised by the likes of Hamilton.
Return of the zero pod
Elliot – now having left Mercedes – argued the DNA of his 2022 car design was good and delivered the W14 which was an evolution of those concepts. Yet Toto Wolff after just the first qualifying session in Bahrain this year deemed the project a failure and vowed that Mercedes would now exit the “one way street” the had forced themselves to travel.
If the RB20 were to appear with a zero pod design, it could be the final nail in the coffin of Lewis Hamilton’s now fragile hopes of an eighth world championship with his once all conquering team.