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Red Bull unveil the car they all have to beat
Posted By: James Allen  |  06 Feb 2012   |  4:41 pm GMT  |  189 comments

Red Bull Racing today unveiled the RB8, the car with which it will defend its world championship crown. It is a development of a car whose DNA goes back to the RB5 of 2009, but adapted to the new regulations banning exhaust blown diffusers and stiplulating a low nose.

Like many of its rival teams, Red Bull’s designers have gone for a step down to the low nose, keeping the main chassis level high, to improve airflow to the vanes, around the sidepods and to the floor or the car. Red Bull were the team that led the way in this line of aerodynamic thinking and most other teams have followed, but not McLaren, the odd ones out.

There is a school of thought that McLaren did not need to do the stepped nose because they anticipated the 2012 rules in their 2011 design and thus have an already well sorted concept. But more of that another time.

Last season was a runaway success for Sebastian Vettel in particular and this had a lot to do with Red Bull perfecting the exhaust blown diffuser (EBD), around which the car was designed and running the car with rake so the rear of the car was raised off the ground to maximise the effect of the diffuser.

This year the playing field has been levelled, with EBD’s banned and the designers forced to lower the rear of the car to harvest what downforce they can from the diffuser.

But engineers in the pit lane say that the diffuser is still an area of great interest and that there are some innovative ideas coming on stream around diffusers for 2012.

The tone of the messaging from the Red Bull team today was that its big advantage has gone with the banning of the EBD, the field will be closed up by the rule changes and that the RB8 is now essentially a four year old design.

You can choose to believe that or not, but as the team to beat at the end of last season, there is no reason to suspect that the designers have missed any and every opportunity to claw back the downforce lost in the changes and to stay ahead of the opposition.

But we are dealing with diminishing returns; this season and next are the final years of this era of Formula 1; from 2014 onwards the cars and their powertrains will change massively. So over the next two seasons we should see the cars close up more and more as the avenues for exploiting new ideas dwindle.

Vettel, for example, said, “It would be wrong to go into this season and expect 2011 to happen again, as in getting into the lead early and having a very big gap to other competitors in the Championship.

“So I think it will be very, very tight this year and anything else would be a surprise to be honest. Looking at the cars, you know there’s not much room we have left to play (with) for designers and to find something extra. You know, the last two years we have had two big things taken away, the double diffusers, plus, for this year, the system around the blown exhaust. So we are missing that and therefore I think it’s difficult to really create a difference.”

One talking point around the RB8 is the duct which is set into the step change on the nose of the car. It could be a red herring, as this launch pic doesn’t look very real. Many feel the launch version of the McLaren was a red herring, but if it’s genuine this inlet duct is clearly going to serve a purpose, which is likely to be aerodynamic.

With McLaren’s F Duct rear wing idea, a much smaller air intake on the monocoque fed a channel which led to an outlet the rear wing, which helped to shed drag. In today’s rules the DRS Wing has the same effect now, so there’s no reason to try that on the rear wing. It’s possible it could be working on the front wing, something Mercedes explored last season.

However one key area where downforce has been lost is the diffuser and the rear end – one wonders whether this inlet duct, which will harvest a lot of air given it’s size, is channeling additional airflow to the rear, possibly to work with the diffuser in some way.

It could be to cool the KERS, which was a major headache for the team last season. But the father of the all conquering generation of Red Bull cars is Adrian Newey and he’s famous for not having too many openings for cooling as they cut downforce, especially not one as large as this. Everyone expects something cunning from him, but he downplayed what he’d been able to do with this design. He said today,

“RB7 was designed around the exhaust, this year knowing that the exhaust position from last year would be taken away, we’ve had to go back and look at how we developed the car through the last one and two years.. and try.. to re-evaluate.

“Probably one of the key things there is the rear ride height. The exhaust allowed us to run a high rear ride height, it’s much more difficult without that to sustain a high rear height so we have to go back down and have to redevelop the car around that lower ride height.”

The cars run for the first time tomorrow. Jerez won’t teach us much, but the two tests at Barcelona will and a fairly accurate picture of underlying pace should be possible to establish by the end of the Barcelona tests.

Let’s hope Vettel is correct and the field has closed right up for 2012.

You can follow all the action from Jerez and the other tests in real time with tweets from teams, drivers and journalists at the circuit at

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Sikhumbuzo Thomo

Hi James

My feeling is that it serves a veriety of purposes.

1. It clears and optimises the airflow from the tip/spoon of the nose to the air main intake.

2. Newey gives the game away slightly in his input on the EBD, because while some air is forced into the duct it feeds very hot battries for cooling purposes.

3. Lastly, then the hot air is channelled towards the rear either to improve the rear wind and/or DRS and/or feed into (or redirect)internal air flow for further earo purposes to the lower rear!

4. It can also happen that it is channel throught the exhaust system in a particular direction to influence the manner the exhaust gases exit the peri pipes!



The red Bull hook nose looks so much more intricate than anyone else’s. It looks like they said- ok so we have to have this… How do we make this an advantage and rather than a problem to overcome? Other teams such as ferrari seem to have a very basic, dismissive use of the bump.


For some reason, I’m loving the look of this car. The nose seems to actually look like part of the design, not just an afterthought as it is with most of the others.

As a Ferrari fan I’m massively worried about that slot. It seems that the rest of the teams have seen the new regulations as a bit of a chore & something they just have to get around, but Newey looks to have found a purpose for it. Who would be surprised if they all turn up in Melbourne and he has designed the must-have gadget of 2012?



If all we talk about at the ‘launches’ is whether certain things are red herrings or not, what’s the point of the whole exercise? Surely launches mean nothing – they’re just PR opportunities. It’d make more sense if the rules said that features shown on a car at the ‘launch’ have to be on the real car (for the first race weekend, at least)…


Agreed. Ferrari and McLaren need to be seen to put on a show due to self esteem and sponsors etc. The rest are simply unveiling the car so they can start testing


I don’t think this years cars are that ugly. In 2009 everyone thought the narrow rear wing and wider front wings were ugly. Now they’re considered normal, as will the stepped noses once the racing starts


I know the cars so far have been for the most part ugly; but everyone said the same of the 2009 front and rear wings. It’ll grow on you in time. I don’t mean to say everyone will find them to be works of art; but we will adjust and get used to them…


I’m VERY interested in that nose design. Some say it’s a hole/vent/slot, but I wonder if it could be an application of clever aero… like in hollow-point ammunition, causing a local stagnation point over the nose.


Possible – but I couldn’t see what advantage that would give you in stalling the air at that point on the bodywork. Wouldn’t that cause a high pressure point just behind it, right where the smooth lines of the car disintegrate into the cockpit and engine cowel area. That’s an area they are constantly trying to smooth the air flow around.

My money is more towards a tunable method of diverting air. Rather than with the the likes of the Ferrari nose causing a pressure wave to divert air flow over the driver’s head, the Newey design could actually be tunable so that you smooth out the air flow and can tune how much drag and down-force you generate depending on whether you are at Monza or Monaco.


If you looked at the aero for hollow-point ammo for example; because you have the air all going into just a groove; you’d get a stagnation of air there and you would get a “bubble” of high pressure air that sort of stagnates there. This bubble would have a far smoother shape than the nose bump.

Take a look here: the red will be the stagnation point; and so the air doesn’t really reach there because the stagnant air is pushing it out. The air instead takes the path of the yellow color.


Here’s an idea James,

Why dont the teams just forget lunching there fake cars and do the proper lunch of the real car on the first day of testing?


All I will say that it is very dissapointing for the world champion team this is how they release their new car. I’ll give it to Mclaren they do the launches well.

P.S It will be fast though.


As long as 2012 produce close racing I’ll be happy. My guess is this year will be like 2010. Ugly cars will be forgiven.


Now now it’d be funny if what Red Bull did with showing this nostril is only to serve the purpose of deflecting other teams’ resources in copying, when in fact it does nothing and by first race RBR revert back to a more ordinary nose, and other teams would have wasted a lot of $ and time in figuring out what the heck that nose was doing on the car.


Dare I say it but it looks if Red Bull has gone conservative? Then again with Newey all his gadgets are under the hood. I think Red Bull will still have the momentum but not by much. I think if we look back at Silverstone last year, when blown diffusers were disabled it really brought the field closer. The only team I want to see launch their car is Mercedes. Still odd to me that Mclaren has gone a different root. Have they found something that the other haven’t? We’ll have to wait and see… Then James will you do A preview of the season with all the teams and drivers?




To be fair… Red Bull’s only non-conservative move in the last 4 years has been the introduction of the pull rod, and the exhaust positioning.


Yet they continue to smoke the opposition….


Then we agree.


My point was that a conservative car does not mean a slow car


What about the flexing wing? No one seemed to figure that out and Ferrari’s version flapped wildly. Vettel hasn’t really had all his toys taken away.


On that, how did Ferrari get away with a wing that flexed so wildly? Surely it was outside the acceptable criteria for flexing.


I’m glad RB manage to make the step nose look good just like Lotus has. But other teams like ToroRosso, Caterham and FERRARI!! had made their cars look so ugly.

Mclaren might be working on a step nose since everyone are using the step-nose.


Don’t know about you, but I’m starting to like how this cars look like. Think about it!


Hi James,

Can you please do an article on…??

‘There is a school of thought that McLaren did not need to do the stepped nose because they anticipated the 2012 rules in their 2011 design and thus have an already well sorted concept. But more of that another time’


I would wait until Malaysia to do such an article James. After Red Bull wipe the floor with their opposition in Australia, McLaren will undoubtedly have a steeped nose for Malaysia 😉

Go the Bulls!


Blame the ugly noses on Mark Webber LOL In Valencia 2010 he ran into the rear wheel Heiki and was launched, THATs why the rulemakers came up with the low nose…


even with a lower nose you’d still be pushed upwards if you hit a rear wheel from behind. these noses are more about driver protection in a t-boning incident.


In all honesty, I thought they just might have rolled out their 2009 car with some very minor mods and claimed quite vigorously “No, it’s not… it’s the 2012 car” with sheepish expressions on their faces. That nose makes me think it could be dual purpose – drawing some air in to be directed God/Newey knows where, and maybe even stall air at that part of the front, almost gurney flap-like – is that possible? Would it provide enough effect over such a small area?

Also, the Sauber is my ‘Rolling Brick’ award winner so far… so dull…


This is what I love about F1, all the innovations and conspiracies before a season and testing begins, its like our own soap.



The new feature on the RB-8 may finally be what I consider a feature yet to be found, but sadly lacking on road cars, a crotch cooler.

Stop laughing. It’s actually quite practical, if a bit male oriented. Imagine the performance advantage gained if Sebastian and Mark are so much more comfortable than the rest…That Newey thinks of everything.


The cars that actually should be called for 2012:

1. Lotus – Black Ice

2. Redbull – FREE 30% Extra

3. Ferrari – The Red Picasso

4. Mclaren – The Vintage Granny

5. Force India, Sauber, Toro Rosso, Caterham – Flip top Cigarette Boxes.

Welcome to 2012 Season, where aesthetic beauty is the thing of the past.


According to this pictuer seems that the McLaren nose is well within the limits.

SarbsF1’s blog has been a pleasure to read.

Red Bull are playing their cards close to chest as they should, as all big team do. Even with the CGI the RB car will be quick / fast / at the top.


Hello james,

I know its off-topic but is Jock Clear still schumacher’s performance engineer? I know when Jock joined in august michael’s performance where getting better. Reason i ask this is because i read somewhere it was only for the remaining part of last season. But why stop a good collabaration?


Lat I heard he’d been asked to continue but I will check with Mercedes


Thanks james.


The new Toro Rosso looks quick and aggressive. Everything’s pared down and made to go fast. I like it much more than the Red Bull.

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