RACE DEBRIEF

    Red Bull fitted a bodywork update for the final day of Bahrain’s Official Pre-Season Test, with the revised RB18 breaking cover on Saturday morning.

    The most visually obvious change is a significantly reshaped sidepod. The contouring around the radiator inlet is tighter, to give a bigger undercut there (as can be seen from how the ‘E’ of Oracle on the right-hand side now sweeps partly beneath the lateral plane).

    LIVE COVERAGE: Day 3 of Pre-Season Testing in Bahrain

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    Red Bull's updated sidepod (top) and their previous design (bottom) showing tighter contouring around the end of the 'Oracle' logo

    This will further enhance how hard the air is being accelerated along the body sides, and thereby the energy that flow will retain as it exits at the rear between the rear wheel and over the venturi tunnel exit. This draws the underfloor air through those venturis yet harder.

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    Although we haven’t yet seen the detail at the leading edge of the floor of the updated car, we can assume that the treatment of the vanes will be slightly different to better meet the new contouring behind.

    Helping further energise the flow through the venturis is a new outer floor, with a very distinctive and accentuated vortex generator.

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    A closer look at the outer floor on the updated RB18

    This will trip the air making its way along the upper floor into a vortex of spinning air, which will curl its way into the underfloor and speed up the flow there, by pulling the air ahead of it through faster. The faster the air flows through those tunnels, the more downforce is created.

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    Sergio Perez, on his first flying lap with the new car, put it straight to the top of the timesheets, a couple of tenths ahead of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari.

    Was that a statement of intent from Red Bull, as Mercedes apparently struggle to hone their car with their dramatic ‘stealth’ sidepods? This development race is already fascinating – and we haven’t even had the first race yet.

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