Red Bull's new front wing under scrutiny from rivals

Formula 1 teams have been long known to push the limits when it comes to flexible bodywork.

Red Bull's new front wing under scrutiny from rivals

The benefits to be had if they can streamline bodywork on the straights for reduced drag but keep it well placed for more downforce in the corners are very clear.

This year has been no exception, with one of the recent areas of intrigue surrounding Ferrari's slot in the floor – which had been spotted flapping earlier this year.

It was suggested that the design was intended to help feed air into the diffuser, thereby increasing downforce without the downside of drag.

For the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Ferrari was forced to make modifications to strengthen this area of the car – with a new metal attachment preventing it flexing.

One of the consequences of this move was seen at Silverstone, a circuit with high-speed corners, where Ferrari had to run with a monkey seat and a higher angle of attack on its wings to recover downforce that may have lost from its diffuser. This resulted in it struggling to match the straightline speeds of the Mercedes.

Red Bull RB13 front wing, detailed, British GP
Red Bull RB13 front wing, detailed, British GP

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

But while the floor changes at Ferrari have stopped rivals inquiring about the SF70H design, attention has now shifted to some clever work that Red Bull did at Silverstone with its front wing.

It was well known that Red Bull went down a wrong path with its aerodynamic concept at the start of the year, as it chased a low-drag configuration in a bid to help achieve top speeds despite the power deficit that its Renault engine faced against Mercedes and Ferrari.

But having realised this approach was incorrect, and since pulling Adrian Newey back more on to the RB13 project, Red Bull has made some strong progress. Some of that has come from straightforward downforce-producing updates, but rival teams are paying particular attention to a new front wing concept.

Their interest has been prompted by photographs of the RB13 that show the small curved lower sidewall of the front wing main element appearing to curve down at high speed (below).

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB13
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB13

Photo by: Sutton Images

This low angle is in contrast to when the car is back in the pits or in slow speed corners, where it is in a more upright position (below).

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB13
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB13

Photo by: Sutton Images

Has this behaviour been deliberately engineered to help improve performance?

Looking closely at exclusive images of Giorgio Piola, the RB13 front wing has an additional flap proliferation – which in the new specification features six elements in the inner part which grows to eight in the outer part.

Red Bull RB13 front wing
Red Bull RB13 front wing

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The new wing has been conceived with a main profile and then a separate lateral panel (indicated by yellow). Both of these elements are rigid enough to pass all the FIA flexibility tests in the garage – so there is no question the car is legal.

Red Bull RB13 front wing detail
Red Bull RB13 front wing detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

It can also be observed that there is also an anchor point (red arrow) that keeps the whole wing profile in position, while the side element can then get pushed down when loads increase as the car runs on track.

The action appears to be progressive and looks like it will allow an increase in downforce by helping seal the front wing more.

With rival teams looking closely at the design, will we see other similar concepts appear on the opposition's cars soon – or will there be some questions put to the FIA about what is and isn't allowed when it comes to front wing flexibility?

The answers to that are likely to come this weekend in Hungary.

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