Already it is clear from winter testing that the battle at the front in F1 this year is going to be very close. It’s an important season for all the top teams – Ferrari and McLaren in particular, but also Lotus and Mercedes, are keen to put a stop to Red Bull winning the title for a fourth consecutive season, while Red Bull themselves want to keep that momentum going.
How have they managed it? Clearly having technical chief Adrian Newey onboard is a major asset and his group’s designs and innovations through this period have kept Red Bull’s noses in front. Apart from the blown diffuser year where they dominated in 2011, the two other titles have been closely fought and have come by finding that vital edge when it comes to development.
JA on F1 readers have frequently asked during this period, “Why has the Red Bull been consistently the leading car over the last few years?”
We put this question to JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan, who was Chief Operations engineer at Williams until the end of last season. What follows is not an exhaustive analysis but gives some indications of areas where Red Bull has the edge.
“On paper they do not have the best tunnel, or necessarily the best facility,” says Gillan, “But what they do have has been stability in their very impressive technical leadership, spearheaded by Adrian Newey and his excellent lieutenant Peter Prodromou, who heads the Aero Department.
“They also have an excellent trackside support group, headed by Stefano Sordo, which is instrumental in ensuring correlation between the full scale car and the wind tunnel model and also driving the development process in the right direction.
“This group ensures that the car is wind tunnel mapped and therefore developed in the appropriate operating envelope, with the correct weightings (i.e. importance) placed on the various areas; from low-speed, high steer and yaw conditions through, to say, straight-line braking stability criteria.”
Getting the weightings right across all the various areas is key to having a car which performs aerodynamically in all situations.
“If one does not add enough weighting to an important part of the map, the car’s handling is likely to be deficient in this particular area,” says Gillan. “Red Bull Racing usually get this right.
So potentially with the tough new FIA rules on flexing, this is an area where the team might have lost a little more than their rivals and this is one of the key data areas the team will have been analysing from the Jerez test.
As for their class leading flow control, Gillan says, “If one analyses the flow viz pictures (photos where the fluorescent paint is visible on the car during practice) taken of the RBR rear wing at the end of last season, one sees probably the most stable flow features on any rear wing throughout the grid.”