Tech Bite: Red Bull's pursuit of lower drag continues
Red Bull's season has not only been held back by the performance of the Renault power unit but a shift in their aerodynamic focus too. A high rake angle has been synonymous with the Red Bull cars since the last major regulation change in 2009, with the team not only wanting to expand the size of the diffuser outlet but also pitch the front-wing into ground effect.
We've watched as a battleground grew up around these concepts, as they developed them and others followed in the pursuit of flexible front-wings to further increase the desired effect, whilst at the rear of the car the blown diffuser concepts allowed for ever increasing rake angles.
The rule changes for 2014 have severely hampered this philosophy with the front-wing reduced in width making it very difficult to create the desired outer flex, whilst at the rear of the car the change to a single exhaust outlet which is now placed along the cars centreline has stopped the teams driving the exhaust plume between the tyre and diffusers edge, creating the sealing effect that is needed to maximise the rake angle.
Furthermore, this season the FIA have neutered much of the advantage teams were getting from extreme rake angles by insisting on the use of titanium skid blocks, with the teams previously using tungsten to limit the amount of wear on the plank they've had to raise the front of the car to counter this.
On top of this the power units demand the most efficient race car. Red Bull's philosophy of high downforce ordinarily comes hand-in-hand with oodles of drag, which means the team have had to change ethos to facilitate this, as down on power compared to the Mercedes and Ferrari powered teams they have to find ways to marginalise their advantage with aero instead, resulting in aero structures the team have spent years refining suddenly becoming redundant.
The change in nose shape and height for 2014/15 also delivered a blow to the team as whilst they didn't necessarily chase the maximum possible height during the last era, like others, it has had a significant impact on how the flow moves around the car. The team changed their nose back in Spain and added the gull wing to the ride height sensor/turning vanes last time out in Austria, rectifying some of the inefficiencies of their latest challenger, but there are still changes to come as they try to close down the power deficit they face.
The team had a new front wing in Austria but didn't race it, instead evaluating it along with many other components in the post race test. The wing was used this time around at Silverstone and is another incremental change, featuring a new 'r' cascade [marked in yellow], which also forms the support for the main cascade [marked in red]. Gone are the smaller winglets [marked in green] as the team look to change how the airflow moves around the front tyre, just as they did when they ditched the blown front axle in Canada.
Maintaining downforce whilst reducing drag is no easy task but incrementally the team are adopting that philosophy and will continue to try and bridge the gap to those with more power.