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Behind the scenes with Red Bull: How to make an F1 car, part one
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Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Sep 2013   |  2:18 pm GMT  |  71 comments

Red Bull have released the first in a series of four videos which gives an insight into how the reigning world champions go about making a Formula 1 car.

The first episode focuses on the design and R&D stage – which takes approximately five months – and features interviews from team principal Christian Horner and technical partnership manager Alan Peasland as well as giving a glimpse inside the key areas of the team’s factory in Milton Keynes.

Red Bull, who have won both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles for the last three years, say that over 300 designers, aerodynamicists and machinists worked on creating the current challenger – the RB9 – with the team doing around 30,000 design changes on the car during the course of the season.

Horner said: “The development process of a Formula 1 car starts at the conceptual stage, sometimes on [chief technical officer] Adrian Newey’s design board, sometimes by other designers within the aero group as aerodynamics is predominant performance factor on car.

“Concepts will be created and will either run within CFD or within the wind tunnel. From there, the results will be analysed and decided on whether they are to make it through to the full scale production of the car.”

Newey is one of the few designers who still draws by hand, but most of the car is designed on CAD in 3D by members of the design, research and development team.

Peasland said: “We usually start the development for next year’s car around August or September time, so it’s pretty much a five-month window. For 2014, that’s a bit different as there are quite big rules changes so we started work a little bit earlier.

The team say 1000 parts are put through the wind tunnel each week while over 400 lines of telemetry are measured during a wind tunnel test. The car which is used in wind tunnel is a 60% scale version of the real F1 car.

Peasland said: “From the first race to last in a season, we did getting onto 30,000 design changes on the car, so on average that’s about a 1000 design changes per week going through the design office. The development race never stops.

Horner added: “We have an awful lot of rigs that we will simulate race situations and sometimes triple or quadruple the mileage a component would see through a test cycle – so the sign-off of a safety critical component is very vigilant. And from a reliability point of view, it’s extremely important to test as many components as we can before signing them off to go on a race car.

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71 Comments
  1. Sebee says:

    Let’s be honest, for anyone who loves bringing ideas to life, designing a product and making it best, F1 is the ultimate proving ground. These guys have the damn coolest jobs. Rock stars of engineering and design.

    And how old-school is Newey!? Drawing stuff up with a pencil on a board. Tell me this was just for fun for the video. I would think that by now he would have some underwater rig where he dives into the pool and works with three super-genius dolphins via telepathic chip implanted in his head.

    1. Richard says:

      Actually drawing anything on a board is more difficult than on CAD. Once a designer has learnt to manipulate the system drawing becomes very easy with lots of short cuts for repeating particular areas. For example plotting sections through shapes have to be developed off other views on the board, whereas on CAD one simply inserts a cutting plane and hey presto it’s there. The thing about CAD systems is that they are only a useful tool whereas having an idea is something quite else. I understand Newey’s preference for the feel of the old board, old school maybe but if it helps the way he thinks about things then yes I suspect there is something of the artist in Newey.

      1. Simon says:

        In 2014, the only person who can stop Lewis Hamilton from running away with drivers’ championship is NEWEY. It will be head-to-head between these two.

        If these two were paired in the same team in 2013 then F1 would have been far more exciting. That’s because the combined score of the next top 3 aces (Alonso, Raikonnen and Jenson Button) would have been less than Hamilton’s. And slower drivers like Massa & Vettel wouldn’t even have a race seat by mid-2013. I’m sure you’ll all agree

      2. Tim says:

        I do not agree at all you have not taken into account that the teams that have chased RB are not getting lapped they are still very quick.

      3. Sebee says:

        OK, here we go again…Newey is obviously gifted, but it’s a team sport and a team effort. It’s Vettel taht will stop Hamilton.

        Kimi had the benefit of Newey’s cars at McLaren and I don’t see Kimi etching four notches into his belt.

        Again, F1 is not black and white. It’s nearly all grey.

      4. Dean V says:

        Do we really have to bring up Hamilton in every article James writes?

      5. Gabrielle says:

        @Sebee: Blame Mercedes for that, not Kimi.

      6. KRB says:

        I hope you’re having a laugh. If not, it’s just as silly as some of the pro-Vettel posters who claim Newey’s a stooge (a $10,000,000 stooge at that!).

      7. Vern says:

        If, by “far more exciting” you mean “completely one-sided and mostly unwatchable” which seems to be what you’re describing as “exciting” based on the points tally… then sure, I’m sure *everyone* agrees.

      8. Kirk says:

        I think you missed the part about the 300 people which work designig the car

      9. Kevin says:

        At Uni I had to do a bio on someone who has been successful with technology (big simplification of the question to be answered).. I chose Newey, after doing weeks of research, even phoning Milton Keynes who were really helpful, I had no idea how to deal with the fact he is hopeless with computers! Does everything by hand and has his PA do his emails! A Brilliant man who covers his weakness and maximizes his strengths

    2. Luke says:

      The BBC did a piece a few months back and it showed Newey’s drawing board in his office, even he admitted he was one of the last remaining ‘dinosaurs’ left in the industry to use one.

      1. Sebee says:

        I’d buy some old sketches by Newey as an art item.

      2. Jorge says:

        I will buy too, that’s contemporary art best than Damian Hearstand most valuable

      3. Tim says:

        DC got AN to sign one of his sketches on the same BBC piece (for sale in a charity auction) – so his ‘work’ is out there if you know where to look :-)

    3. Javier Marcelo says:

      A. Neway says he start drawing on a board the first concept car because it helps him to understand the car as a hole, and how every part afect in the next one. Them they proceed with computers as all others.

      Impressive!!!!

  2. TGS says:

    Can they modify next year’s engine if it is slower than the others? It seems unfair that a team may be behind due to the fault of the engine manufacturer. Or will all the engines be about the same?

    1. Richard says:

      All the engine designers will have the engine requirements for next year, and will be developing something that potentially should be right on the nail. Will they all be the same? – Unlikely! They will all suceed, but some more than others!

    2. Daniel MA says:

      Trough all next year F1 engine manufacturers will be able to make any type of modifications to their engines, however at the beginning of 2015 certain things will be “frozen” like crankshaft throw, air valve system, etc until 2020, by that time all development for the engines will be stopped.

      I don’t think there will be a manufacturer with a bad engine in the long term because this staggered engine freeze means they can catch up, while also controlling the costs somewhat.

      1. TGS says:

        Ah I see, thank you, this has answered a lot of my queries.

  3. Warren G says:

    Is this for fans or their rivals? ;-)

    1. fox says:

      for marketing.
      they advertise Red Bull drink and Infinity cars.

      1. Warren G says:

        Sorry, my comment was a little tongue-in-cheek, aimed at the headline “How to make an F1 car”.

  4. fox says:

    Such videos are extremely interesting. Recall last year Sauber cut!

    There is a question why 60% scaled model is used in wind tunnel? Some restriction?

    Another important fact is that design is done within the head. Canvas or CAD tools are just the tools. Designer uses the most efficient/convenient tool. Old school (?) Newey prefers paper:) Who believes future designers will use paper as Newey did?

    1. Andrew Carter says:

      Yep, rules state that 60% scales models are the biggest allowed.

      1. Gabrielle says:

        And it would be a extra cost to the teams to build a real-scale model for the wind tunnnel.

      2. Andrew Carter says:

        Not remotely. I should have been more specific, the rules state windtunnels can only take up to a maximum of 60% scale. Converting them to 100% would be a huge cost now thats not needed.

      3. ManOnWheels says:

        Actually a lot of the modern tunnels can take a full car, I even heard Sauber’s could ost two cars behind each other. One could argue that it is even more expensive to build each car 2 times (60% and 100%) with less precision, as for example model tires don’t behave like the real ones and material flex is slightly different.
        Fortunately there is “rapid prototyping” (in the video you can see it where parts are taken out of a fluid) – it is a 3D printing technique and this keeps the costs for the 60% models down. I would still like to see the real cars in the tunnel, just because it would instantly help solving issues with correlating CFD model, rapid prototyping (60%) model and the real car.

    2. Simmo says:

      I believe it is regulations restricting them to 60% scale.

    3. Javier Marcelo says:

      As an example, Ferrari was using a 40% scale Windows tunnel only a few years ago and now a 50% one. RBR is always a bit in front in all areas, that’s for sure.

      They first introduces the CFD, only them use the simulator DURING the race, in real time!!!! So they can make the most of every situation before deciding in the real time, theirs first Windows tunnel was the one ere used to desing the Concorde… And do you imagine who was one of the ingeriers to desing it for the Brithis Goverment (army) lots of years ago?

      You are right: a younster Newey!

      They are at other level, even planet.

    4. Rich says:

      If I recall correctly, 60% scale comes from the size of the mock tyres that are available

      1. ManOnWheels says:

        There were 50% and 60% tires available from Pirelli. As far as I’m concerned all teams but Force India are now using 60% models. The last ones to upgrade from 50% to 60% were Mercedes and Ferrari (in that order). Mercedes’ improvement in aerodynamics doesn’t come from nowehere, it’s not only the new people involved, it’s also their improved tool.

  5. Karim says:

    It looks like an awful lot of money has been ploughed into these development projects for Redbull Racing.

    It all seems so super-professional from the outset, like watching human terminators building and designing a super-human car- these designers from the aero-group must be paid quite handsomely.

    I would be curious to know how much money Redbull are really making, whether they are operating at a loss or profit? I can’t see how these incredible expenditures and investments will have any short-term monetary gains. Does anyone have the latest balance sheet and P&L of Redbull Racing?

    1. Daniel MA says:

      Most F1 teams don’t make huge margins on their operations (if they’re lucky enough to have no losses) and I bet Red Bull is no different, you have to remember the reason why they have an F1 team is to use it as a promotional tool, not to make a profit directly from that, for them is just like a (very expensive) TV commercial.

    2. Marc Saunders says:

      RB becomes 80 mio. from FIA and about 100 mio. from sponsors. The rest is given as marketing (publicity) for the RB products. Some sources says that in fact RB becomes more money from sponsors, so that it has almost an equilibrium (no loss – no gain) but becomes the publicity of Red Bull products at no charge.

    3. Andrew Carter says:

      Autosport’s Dieter Rencken totted up the teams expenditure in an article a few weeks ago and put Red Bull’s at about 230 million pounds, although only half of that comes from Red Bull itself thanks to favorable commercial terms with Bernie and other sponsorship deals like Infiniti.

      However, it should be remembered that Red Bull, like any other major corporation involved in F1, treat this as a year long global marketing campaign with massive exposure.

    4. SteveS says:

      There are no “incredible expenditures and investments”. Here is a good overview of Red Bull Racing’s business model, which is not dissimilar to those of the other big players in F1.

      http://www.autoweek.com/article/20130904/F1/130909945

      One important point to note: “Red Bull during the past five years invested a total of $692.7 million in its flagship team, which is less than half the estimated $1.5 billion Toyota spent on its F1 outfit during a five-year stretch despite failing to win a single race.”

      They’re not winning because they spend an unusual amount of money.

    5. wdf2 says:

      Here is a 2011 Guardian piece about Red Bull Racing, which says they made 2.8m in profit in 2010. Revenue included 56m in prize money, plus sponsorships. It also says that “Red Bull Racing’s accounts show that in 2009 it (Red Bull) covered £96.9m of the team’s £132m costs but Horner said it now provides less than half.” If you figure costs in 2010 went up from 132m to at least 150m, that implies RB as sponsor was providing around 75m in 2010. But then the advertising exposure is valued at over 219m in 2010, so the F1 team is “free” for Red Bull from a corporate perspective.
      http://www.theguardian.com/business/2011/sep/26/red-bull-racing-formula-one-profits

  6. James says:

    Thanks James for showing us the video! I’m starting an Aerospace course on Monday and this has provided the perfect motivation.

    1. Ben says:

      Good luck with it mate. Try and get involved in Formula Student if your uni has a team. I really regret not giving it a go when I was a student

  7. Vernier Caliper says:

    @Fox

    60% is used by most teams to not make the car to sensitive to variations in fluid (air) flow in the race environment.

    Sure you can use a full scale model, but then for the car to “work” it would have to be in the same wind tunnel environment.

    60% gives you enough to investigate laminar flow etc. but not let you too affected by small gusts of wind or changes in wind direction.

  8. Simon says:

    I stopped watching half way through.

    Why do the people that put these things together insist on background music? Crappy music to top it off.

    I’m trying to watch a video about formula 1; not in some nightclub somewhere jumping around waving glow sticks at 3 in the morning

    1. MK_Chris says:

      @Simon.

      +1 and a lot more as well.
      When background music starts then off goes the TV or the Radio. My hearing is such that I hear the music frequencies over most speech frequencies. I struggle to hear all that is being said so I don’t bother.

      JAonF1 is a wonderful read and I enjoy all the technicalities. I don’t bother with most of the so called races.

      On a different point. Why do some “fans” refer to RBR as a drinks team ? They are a good technical team with a sponsor. Where are the Watch and Telephone etc. teams ? I assume that derision is being implied.

  9. Kit says:

    With such a huge operation and complex processes to bind them all , I wonder why we haven’t heard any of them being ISO certified? They could have easily passed. Imagine an ISO certified racing team. Makes good marketing image!

  10. Bayan says:

    Very nice James. Great start to my day. Love it.

  11. Andrew Carter says:

    Very cool video, was surprised they should the gearbox internals on the test rig, looking forward to seeing the next 3.

  12. KARTRACE says:

    They are the pinnacle of the came, shoulder to shoulder with “big” boys Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, to mention a few. They perfected their cars better then the rest ( despite the drawing board) and that is converting into leadership on the track and on the score sheets.

  13. Laurie Hayes says:

    “The team say 1000 parts are put through the wind tunnel each week”

    With the budget to do that kind of work it is not that surprising they have the best car. Of course you need great minds behind the project, but the lower teams couldn’t afford to do this even with the best designer in the world. It’s a never ending ‘trial and error’ method until they have the optimum car, a bit of a nonsense really.

    1. Jimi-d says:

      Agree. 300 designers & 30,000 design changes is a bit excessive for anyone to compete with.

      1. SteveS says:

        I’m sure the other big teams do exactly the same thing. If they don’t you have to wonder what it is they are wasting all their money one.

  14. Grant says:

    I hope Ferrari and Merc will watch these and learn…. :D

  15. Javier Marcelo says:

    Red Bull is, even the teams (lest don’t forget there are 2), an hiper publicity screen of… Energy drink.

    Drink more succesfull than coca cola company (cola, sweps, acuarius, burn… Including all of them).

    So they don’t look after profits in its F1 teams balance sheets. this company has never used ortodoxian publicity. They spend it here (and in many other sports).
    Even if we suport other teams we must enjoy and value all this because, probably one day will leave F1 and go to another sport all of a sudden.

    I’m sure no one have never invest this huge amount of money nor anyone will.

    1. Rockie says:

      Then you have just started watching F1 Redbulls investment is chicken change compared to Toyota or Honda without success.

      1. Javier Marcelo says:

        Add Toro Rosso to Red Bull amounts, every year, and they invest much more than Toyota or Honda, every year.

    2. Ben says:

      First off Red Bull is not more successful than Coca Cola. Coke is the best selling drink in every country in the world – except Scotland where they prefer Iron Bru, but it is still the 2nd best selling drink. In fact Coke sells so much more than any other drink that they think their biggest competitor is water.

      Lots of people think of Red Bull as ‘just a fizzy drinks company’ but I’d say actually they are just a brand or super brand. But what makes them stand out is that instead of sponsoring a team event, etc they’ll own it. So instead of sponsoring the Jaguar F1 team they bought it, just like they own the the red bull air race, flug tag, crashed ice, various football teams etc. This gives the benefit that they get to advertise all over the event or team but they also get the profits from it as well. So for example if Red Bull Racing win the constructors championship they get the prize money for it. Dietrich Mateschitz is a marketing genius. Red Bull isn’t really a drinks company it is the definition of a super brand who manage to sell quite a few (foul tasting) energy drinks as well as loads of other products

  16. Kenneth says:

    Facinating stuff,thanks for that james!
    Funny enough,this kinda makes me respect f1 drivers more.I mean,can you imagine the pressure of knowing all this money and man hours,the long nights spent by the design team and manufacturers all that comes down to the you delivering on Sunday afternoon! Basicaly,they carry the team’s hardwork on their shoulders and that is massive perssure!
    I mean,imagine working in the R&D office,you have spent many hours away from home,sleepless nights and long hours in the office to come up with an excellent design then a driver (lets call him Ryan Grosnerd :-D ) crashes on the 1st lap! WTH!

    1. Random 79 says:

      Not to mentions all the setup work the engineers do throughout the weekend.

      It’s no wonder some of the drivers apologise so much when they mess up :)

  17. Random 79 says:

    This is a great idea.

    Personally I’m looking forward to the one where they show how they install the gremlins.

  18. JohnBt says:

    Mr.Newey is like a Da Vinci and it worked so well, master class. A computer is just a computer cause without the concept and projection it’s useless.

    James, any chance of publishing some of Newey pencil drawing or sketches? It will be fascinating for us fans.

    1. James Allen says:

      Got a nice exclusive interview with him coming up on BBC Radio 5 Live soon

      1. Odjebi says:

        As him how they activate webbers electronic hand break from the pitwall……..you know the one, when they dont want/need him to close to seb, it sends mark from 1st, 2nd or 3rd to 11th by turn one.

  19. Jorge says:

    That’s why RBR is winning, work, work, work, and work and they have the best driver.

    1. Odjebi says:

      And if that doesn’t work, like at the beginning of the season…….the just whinge,whinge,whinge

  20. Mark Hilger says:

    I really enjoy these pieces the teams do. Merc did one last year and that is where I really gained not only some knowledge but respect for Ross Brawn. My favorite part of that series of vids was listening to Ross Brawn talk about how far the carbon break disc have come not only in design but in cost. To think they were originally using basically the scraps from airplane break disc to where they are now.

    Then when I watch this presentation I think of F1 power plants and rules past and wonder where the sport would be now with 1000bhp engines – ground effects – todays computing power and software.

    You think software design has been around for a while, just a few year ago 3D Accelerators were not as powerful as our entry level smartphones today. Now NVIDA has the wonderful CUDA based multi core GPU (Graphic Processing Unit) servers called Tesla with almost 3000 Cores per server (I think). Just thing what a room full of those things can do combined with Autodesk CAD Simulation and whatever else is out there. The cars would probably be unsafe but they would be exciting as hell.

    One other thought has been coalescing in my F1 infant mind over the last few months is the reality that F1 drivers are truly the best drivers in the world as claimed. I know all of you knew that but I guess I had to have to have it proven to me, and yes some of the drivers are only in the field because of money and some are past their prime but overall Vettal, Alonso, Kimi, Hamilton and the like are as good at precision driving in harsh environments as anyone on the planet. There might have been better drivers in the past and there might be a single NASCAR guy or are single Aussie V8 guy given the chance could be better but over all top to I would say the middle of the pack this is great driving and engineering and I am lucky to get to watch it.
    Mark

  21. SteveS says:

    “From the first race to last in a season, we did getting onto 30,000 design changes on the car, so on average that’s about a 1000 design changes per week going through the design office.”

    I can believe that they evaluate 30,000 potential design changes for the car in a season, but only a tiny percentage of those would make it through to the car and be used on race day.

  22. EarlRue says:

    Just adding this info on Red Bull’s (mother company) annual financial report (published today):

    “The profit of Red Bull GmbH climbed last year by 44 percent to 447.6 million euros. The increase is due to the significant increase in sales, says the company. contained in it but is not the whole turnover of the beverage company. The turnover of the Group increased by 15.9 percent to 4.9 billion.
    Owner Dietrich Mateschitz got paid 110 million euros to his account for the previous year, as the “Economic Journal” from the annual financial reports.”

    Doesn’t mean anything for Infinity RBR Racing but shows how wealthy this company is…

    1. SteveS says:

      You think that’s wealthy? Ferrari had 2011 revenue of 2.2 billion euro.

  23. Odjebi says:

    I can’t wait for the segment where Newey talks about all the illegal parts / holes etc that were implemented to make Red Bull the ‘complete package’*

    *as long as the tyre compounds are hard enough to cope with excessive camber and low tyre pressure…..if not, it would force helmet, Christian and little seb to cry to the media until bernie changed the rules to suit

  24. Hiten says:

    Thanks for sharing James.

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