Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

How Red Bull struck an early tech blow against Mercedes

A wheel has yet to be turned in the Formula 1 World Championship but tensions are already high in Melbourne, as the teams begin to jockey for position and dispute the legality of each other’s machines.

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Ferrari’s 2019 power unit, Mercedes’ DAS and Racing Point’s ‘Pink Merc’ are all hot topics, but one unheralded key battle in the technical war has already been won, as a request by Red Bull has forced the FIA to clarify its position on a solution used by Mercedes in 2019 and which it intended to use again this season.

The rear brake duct and suspension upright seen on both the W10 and 2020’s W11 features what the team believed to be a clever interpretation of the regulations. It’s a design that leans on the suspension upright to create an additional inlet above the main brake duct (red arrow, below), which then feeds airflow into a void on the top of the brake drum. 

Mercedes AMG F1 W10, rear duct

Mercedes AMG F1 W10, rear duct

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This provides a cooling benefit that aids in tyre management, as it reduces heat transfer between the brakes and wheel rim, a trait that would ordinarily heat the tyre.

The issue that Red Bull raised relates to a section within article 5.1 of the technical regulations:

Air ducts around the rear brakes will be considered part of the braking system and shall not protrude beyond:

  1. a) A plane parallel to the ground situated at a distance of 160mm above the horizontal centre line of the wheel.

The inlet formed by the uprights design clearly sits above this 160mm measurement and so the FIA has confirmed that teams using this solution will have to make adjustments.

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Time to adapt

As the affected teams have little time to remedy the affected components ahead of the race this weekend, it’s customary for the FIA to offer an alternative solution. As such, the FIA has suggested a similarly-sized outlet can be made at the rear of the upright for airflow to pass straight through, or the inlet can be closed-off entirely. The second of these solutions can only be run for the first two events, with the FIA requiring a fully-compliant version thereafter.

Racing Point RP20 rear suspension brakes

Racing Point RP20 rear suspension brakes

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

While Mercedes has been the primary target of this ‘attack’, Racing Point may also find itself pegged back in Australia too, as it carried the design across to the RP20 (above).

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