Formula 1 Racing

Has Red Bull run out of room to improve its Formula 1 car?

Has Red Bull run out of room to improve its Formula 1 car?

Max Verstappen may have won Formula 1’s Spanish Grand Prix, but the fact that McLaren is now breathing down Red Bull’s neck does not make him comfortable.

The early-season dominance, where Verstappen seemed able to canter to easy wins, is now a distant memory as rivals have clearly closed in thanks to in-season upgrades. Recent wins have also perhaps been down more to his brilliant driving than any car advantage.

It is a situation that the world champion is not especially happy with because he thinks if Red Bull does not pull its finger out and bring more development to the RB20, then it could find itself falling back into the pack.

Speaking in Spain, he said: “McLaren has obviously been very strong for some weeks already. It is not that I am suddenly worried about that now, but I have been saying for weeks that we need to bring more performance to our car and everyone in the team knows that as well.

“But so far it looks like everyone around us is bringing more updates than we do. Of course, we have to work on that, that we find more performance for our own car as well.”

Asked if Red Bull was standing still, Verstappen said: “No, we are improving the car of course, but maybe not enough compared to the rest at the moment.”

Red Bull has certainly shown itself more than capable of making steps with its dominant cars over recent years, but it has appeared to have become less bold as time has worn on.

Indeed, rather than it now bringing major new parts, the trend seems to be for optimisation of what it has already got – as was shown in Spain last weekend.

In Barcelona, its changes revolved around tweaks to the sidepod’s inlet geometry to help with cooling behaviour and the aerodynamic benefits that bring – with the designers working on optimising the shape of the undercut and beltline thereafter.

In terms of the inlet, rather than being a straight up, straight down profile, it’s now pinched-in at the centre (red arrows), altering not only how the airflow enters the inlet but also how it spills around the leading edge towards the sidepod’s undercut.

To leverage the change in geometry here, the sidepod’s bodywork was also modified quite extensively, with the undercut and beltline pulled up (yellow arrow, circled), which increases the distance between the sidepod’s underbelly and the floor, requiring the team to make changes to how the floor and sidepod bodywork interface with one another too.

There was also been work…

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