What direction did Red Bull take with their 2020 challenger, the RB16? Has Max Verstappen and Alex Albon's new F1 car taken cues from Mercedes and Ferrari, or a different approach? Mark Hughes gives his first take on the Red Bull RB16...
Red Bull have popularised the high-rake car for the last decade, and it remains at the heart of their aerodynamic philosophy. It’s an approach capable of generating a lot of downforce, but it’s also less robust. Relying upon the airflow through the diffuser staying attached at big ride heights as the car slows down, it’s intrinsically a more delicate philosophy than the low-rake favoured by Mercedes. It was compromised significantly more by the 2019 simplification of the front wing, limitation of under-nose vanes and the banning of blown axles.
These features previously combined to create a powerful outwash that would allow the separate airflow down the bodysides to be less compromised as it made its way to the rear of the car, thereby creating a bigger pressure pull on the air flowing through the diffuser and thus further helping an underbody flow already boosted by the high rake of the floor.
The 2019 limitations of the aero tricks at the front of the car hit Red Bull – as the team working the front end the hardest to make their whole aero philosophy work – particularly hard. From being right on the pace at the end of 2018, they were over 1s off the pace at the beginning of ’19. It took until almost mid-season before they were back in competitive shape, helped also by Honda allowing their engine to be run more aggressively.
With an unchanged set of aero regulations for 2020, Red Bull look to be starting the season more or less how they left off at the end of ’19. Even more than Ferrari, the RB16 looks heavily based on last year's machine, with some obvious tweaking such as the different, more slotted nose opening.
The heavily loaded outboard wing remains, as expected, and in that sense it remains quite different in aero concept to the Ferrari.
The question is, which will be quicker when it hits the track in Barcelona?