TECH TUESDAY: Charting Red Bull's 2022 upgrades before Ferrari aim to hit back in Spain
Mark Hughes looks at Red Bull's race-by-race updates – with illustrations from Giorgio Piola – ahead of a crucial Spanish Grand Prix weekend.
Ahead of the first significant Ferrari upgrade package of the season – expected at Barcelona this weekend – Team Principal Mattia Binotto has said he has been concerned by the pace of Red Bull’s development. At Miami, Binotto estimated that the RB18 had an advantage of around 0.2s per lap over the F1-75.
“I hope, because there is as well a budget cap, at some stage Red Bull will stop developing,” he said after the Miami Grand Prix. “As it was, I think I would not understand how they can do that, but let's say that in the next races it could be at least our turn to try to develop as much as we can the car by introducing updates…. We do not have the money to spend for upgrades at every single race… we have not developed since the start of the season.”
It's true that despite the budget cap, the Red Bull has benefitted from a stream of constant development since its first appearance in pre-season Barcelona testing. It was later in its gestation than the Ferrari, quite possibly as a result of the factory resources, which were allocated to last year’s championship battle with Mercedes. It’s therefore logical that it was launched in an earlier stage of development than the Ferrari.
But, ahead of what Ferrari hope will be upgrades which will neutralise those recent Red Bull gains, here we can summarise the changes which have made the RB18 such a formidable package, one in which Max Verstappen has won all three races in which he has finished.
On the second day of Bahrain testing came the biggest of the car’s upgrades, with a totally reconfigured sidepod and floor.
The sidepod was more tightly packaged around the car’s cooling system, exposing more of the floor’s upper surface at the front and in this way allowing a more progressive outward sweep of the undercut there. There were accompanying changes along the floor edge, with a new ‘curl’ to induce a more powerful vortex along the edge of the floor.
It has been speculated that the underfloor ‘skate’ – a drilled metallic plate towards the rear of the floor which is believed to prevent the floor from becoming so close to the track that the underbody airflow stalls – first appeared with this update.
For the low-drag demands of the Saudi Arabian track, Red Bull had a different lower beam wing with reduced depth and an accompanying new rear wing endplate design. Ferrari by contrast remained with their standard rear wing but merely trimmed the flap area.
In Australia, Red Bull introduced new front wing endplates, with the front corner snipped diagonally and with a new S-shaped dive-plane on the outer wall. As well as tweaking the airflow, these changes brought a weight saving as Red Bull endeavoured to reduce what was estimated to be a 10kg surplus over the minimum weight limit.
At the Italian track Red Bull’s development continued apace. Further weight savings came from a new floor (of the same geometry as before but different carbon lay-up) and redesigned brake callipers.
Aerodynamically, there was the addition of a Ferrari-like winglet on the keel splitter at the leading edge of the floor. This will contribute directly to direct downforce on that part of the floor.
Although visually there was no significant change at Miami, there was a further weight saving, made through the hollowing-out of some components which had been originally manufactured as solid because of time constraints.
As can be seen, at every race so far Red Bull have brought performance parts to their car while the Ferrari has remained almost unchanged.
In Bahrain, for the opening race, the Ferrari was fast enough for Charles Leclerc to contain Verstappen’s challenge even before the Red Bull retired. By Miami, Verstappen was able to overcome a troubled qualifying and to catch, pass and pull away from Leclerc. On the eve of the first stops, Verstappen was leading the Ferrari by a handy eight seconds.
For this weekend, Ferrari hope to reset the performance equation with a significant update package of their own while hoping Red Bull’s development programme will suffer a budget-dictated loss of momentum.