Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
The changes that make Red Bull a real threat in Monaco
Red Bull may not have had the start to the Formula 1 season it wanted, but it heads into Monaco as one of the favourites for a win around the famous streets.
With its power deficit not likely to hurt it as much in Monte Carlo as it has in other venues, plus its RB14 chassis appearing much stronger after a major revamp in Spain, rivals are wary about what the Milton Keynes-based team can do this time out.
Here is a detailed look at the changes Red Bull has made to lift the pace of its 2018 F1 challenger - both to improve aerodynamic efficiency and to try to help engine performance too.
As part of a raft of updates at its disposal in Spain, Red Bull added a small canard to the inside of its front wing endplate (1). It’s a design which is very similar to the one utilised by Ferrari throughout the latter part of 2017 and so far in 2018.
The canard, which like Ferrari’s design features a slot in its centre, will pick up the airflow coming off the trailing edge of the wing section just in front of it and stop some of it spilling over the top of the front wing endplate.
The opening (2) is to allow the airflow to be forced out as low as possible in what everyone is now calling 'outwash end plates'.
It’s important that this all happens as low as possible, as if the airflow tries to go over the top of the front tyre it creates lift on the tyre surface and reduces the forces on the tyre contact patch.
Last year, the rules were opened up in the bargeboard area of the car to allow the teams to come up with a more sophisticated aerodynamic package.
As you can see from this Red Bull example, with the multitude of turning vanes, both vertical, and horizontal, all finely placed for maximum performance, it is no wonder the current breed of F1 cars struggle so much in turbulent airflow or windy conditions.
Developing all these components to work hand-in-hand is difficult enough when you are just using straight-ahead airflow, but throw a bit of turbulence or crosswind in there and basically anything can happen.
Just take Ricciardo's off in Spanish GP practice on Friday - it is likely that these sort of components and their drop-off contributed to it.
The main bargeboard has been heavily revised, with a new slot dividing the first element (denoted by the separation of the Rauch logo), whilst the secondary vertical element is now split into two. The black forward-facing element now features a comb like array of slots in its upper edge.
The lower footplate section (1) is used like a leading edge slat to help prepare the airflow that is going to the leading edge of the floor.
It also legalises the chassis boomerang (2), which is a delta-shaped wing section that comes out from the side of the chassis. It picks up the airflow coming off the trailing edge of the front wing and redirects it toward the sidepod.
This varies in angle of attack as it comes out from the chassis to optimise the airflow in each area.
While the almost imperceptible slots in it surface may seem odd, they mirror the slots created in the floor section below for legality reasons. Its outer end mounts to the forward vertical tyre wake control deflector, improving the entire structure’s rigidity.
On the leading edge of the floor where previously the designers sited four strakes, there are now six strakes (3). Each of these set up vortices that will travel under the flat section of the underfloor, energising this airflow.
The upward curvature of the floor has also been revised, which in tandem with additional strakes will help to reduce the risk of airflow separation as the car changes direction.
On the floor’s outer edge, Red Bull has a fully enclosed longitudinal hole (4), similar to that pioneered by McLaren. This helps to seal the underfloor from the effect of any turbulent flow that would ordinarily be pulled under the floor in this area.
Keen to improve the cooling efficiency of its power unit, so it can run it harder for longer, the team made alterations to the RB14’s airbox and the layout of some of its ancillaries in Spain.
The changes required the team to repass the necessary load tests, given it’s part of the rollover structure. The tweaks also resulted in the pipework running from the inlet to the various heat exchangers being revamped.
With so many different components to cool on these modern power units, the teams struggle to find the best positions for cooling inlets.
Like most teams, Red Bull uses the airbox intake for this. With the engine being turbocharged, it will always be able to take the airflow it requires, so the airbox inlet is not as critical to performance as with the normally aspirated engines.
Red Bull is one of only a handful of teams that has opted, at least at this stage, to streamline the halo with its fairing allowance, rather than fit winglets or vortex generating devices to it.
As such, it’s more than possible that its calculations about how the airflow spilt from the safety device interacts with the airbox downstream may have been slightly off and this is partly a reaction to that.
It will be extremely interesting to see how Red Bull’s pace compares with its rivals in the coming races, especially when we consider that the RB14’s development trajectory is ahead of the curve when compared with 2017.
The team really began to unlock the potential of the RB13 just before the summer break last year, when it introduced a similar floor, sidepod and bargeboard overhaul in Hungary.
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