Formula 1 Racing

The difficulties of duplicating Red Bull’s trend-setting suspension · RaceFans

Oscar Piastri, McLaren, Las Vegas, 2023

After a Formula 1 season utterly dominated by Red Bull it would be no surprise if their rivals borrowed a few design cues from their all-conquering RB19.

Indeed, so crushing was Red Bull’s superiority last year, it would be a surprise if most of them didn’t. The team’s star driver Max Verstappen and chief technical officer Adrian Newey have already indicated the RB20 will be an evolution of its predecessor.

While no single aspect of the car’s design can be held up as key to its success, a defining trait of Newey’s designs stretching back to his first F1 chassis has been the primacy of aerodynamics. He has never been shy of making compromises elsewhere in order to perfect the flow structures around his creations.

Whether he’s been squeezing drivers into ever-narrower cockpits to reduce drag, blowing exhaust gases in the diffuser to boost its performance or tilting the chassis into extreme rakes to conjure more downforce from the front wing, Newey has been undaunted by any engineering challenges hindering his pursuit of aerodynamic perfection.

McLaren adopted same suspension lay-out as Red Bull

What’s more, with a decades-long history in the sport stretching back to the heyday of ground effect aerodynamics in the eighties, Newey has an excellent understanding of the techniques needed to master F1’s post-2022 generation of cars. The powerful floors of modern of F1 machines are where much of their performance can be found, and optimising the airflow into them without compromising ride quality is essential.

Newey charted his usual individualistic approach to the latest generation of technical regulations, choosing a pull-rod arrangement for the RB19’s front suspension instead of a conventional push-rod. A push-rod compresses when a car goes over a bump while a pull-rod, as the name implies, does the opposite.

The different geometry of a pull-rod layout is key to its appeal to Red Bull and the only other team which uses the same approach on their car. That is McLaren, who made significant strides with their MCL60 last season and were often the biggest threat to Red Bull.

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Of the three teams which have revealed details of their 2024 car designs (McLaren and Haas have only shown their new liveries), two have switch to a pull-rod layout for their front suspension. Unsurprisingly, Red Bull’s rebranded second team RB is one of these, having stated last year it would follow the design lead set by its…

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