Red Bull, as expected, has not taken a back seat in the development battle, and arrived in Portugal this weekend with a major upgrade package for its RB16B.
Hot on the heels of its first win of the season last time out in Imola, the team is looking for confirmation of that pace advantage over Mercedes this weekend, at a track that is quite different to the opening two rounds.
On a technical level, the RB16B looks as though it can perform well at any venue, with high rear downforce and very little loss from the new regulations, which seem to have hurt Mercedes more.
Red Bull’s development focus looks to have honed in on the floor and diffuser as the team looks for additional gains in this area, having proven its on-track data matches up with the wind tunnel and CFD.
The new package, debuted this weekend in Portimao, includes a slightly revised floor, following the new ‘Z-cut’ trend. The Z-cut allows for an edge more parallel to the bodywork, and recreates the conditions in which the vortices of air form a pneumatic barrier to seal the air beneath the car.
At Imola the various flow deviators were slightly revised, refined in the aerodynamic shape, after the engineers had better analysed the CFD data. But Red Bull knows that it cannot slow down development now that it has a car perhaps superior to the Mercedes W12, and therefore in Portimao it brought a further aerodynamic update to the floor and bargeboards.
The new bargeboards have several changes, and in the area of the single vertical column element, which has a central blow hole and an “S” shape in the lower part. Even the parallel horizontal elements have been revised in the lower area, taking up a solution similar to that on the McLaren. The floor instead sees a change in the narrowing area, where the longitudinal spoilers have been lengthened to connect directly to the central vortex generator
The bargeboards have been designed to work in unison with the new floor, and to direct the air flow in order to reduce the loss in downforce.
However, chief designer Adrian Newey’s work in Portugal was also seen in the area of the diffuser, where the shape of the central part of the extractor has changed significantly.
This solution seeks a different management of air flow in the central area, and the narrowing of the central surface allows for a greater passage of air inside the diffuser itself, increasing its efficiency.
The interventions of the RB16B have always been aimed at increasing the downforce in those crucial areas affected by the regulation changes, and the single-seater of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez is the one that has been less affected by the aerodynamic changes of 2021.
The efficiency of the diffuser itself is also increased by the volume of air that passes in the upper part, and which increases its deportation capacity. Red Bull on the RB16B has modified the rear in a substantial way, raising the engine cover above the wishbones of the rear suspension and tapering the lower part as much as possible.
It can be seen from the drawing, in fact, how the Coca-Cola area is very narrow in the area that wraps the gearbox, forming a large channel for the passage of air.
The front brake duct is also new, slightly revised in terms of the shape of the internal dividing channels, which distribute the air inside the carbon disc.