Examined: Red Bull’s daring new RB19 sidepod configuration in Hungary

Uros Radovanovic
Red Bull's new-look sidepod inlets. Hungary July 2023

Red Bull's new-look sidepod inlets for the RB19. Hungary July 2023

Red Bull Racing are on fire this season, but that doesn’t mean they’re resting on their laurels. Always hungry for improvement, they continue to push the limits of the car’s performance.

Ahead of the first practice session in Hungary, jaws dropped as fans witnessed a radical transformation in the design of Red Bull’s sidepods. The contrast between the old and new versions was striking and set the Formula 1 community buzzing with excitement.

Let’s dive into the technical details and uncover what the engineers aim to achieve with this daring new sidepod configuration.

Hungaroring Unveiled

Before we unravel the secrets behind Red Bull’s aero wizardry, let’s get a grip on the unique challenges of the Hungaroring circuit.

This track’s short length and plenty of slow corners demand an aerodynamic setup that favours downforce over pure speed. With only one straight, finding the right balance for optimal performance in both slow and medium-speed corners becomes the name of the game.

Remember Monaco earlier this year? Red Bull had their weak spot exposed on a similar layout. Although Max Verstappen recorded the victory as well as pole position in qualifying, Alonso in the Aston Martin car was very close, and if they had changed the tyres in time for wet conditions, the chances of a more exciting fight for victory would certainly have been greater.

Red Bull’s engineers know their rivals are getting closer at these types of circuits, including Hungaroring. Hence, the technical changes introduced aim to give their drivers an edge on tracks where superior handling is a must.

Red Bull’s New Inlet

One of the most significant changes to the car is the radically different design of the sidepod inlets. Over the season, Red Bull has been fine-tuning the inlet’s shape, and they’ve now taken it to the extreme. The new design is sleek, slender, and elongated – but what magic does it hold?

Surprisingly, the inlet’s surface area remains the same, but it has been redistributed strategically. Cooling the engine and other components remains vital, but the focus here is on enhancing airflow toward the undertray. Why? The undertray plays a pivotal role in channeling air towards the beam wing and diffuser, crucial elements for generating downforce. It’s like breathing life into the heart of the car.

Red Bull had already made waves with their ingenious combination of broad sidepods and pronounced undertray. This ensured clean, high-energy airflow, maximising the efficiency of key components such as the beam wing and diffuser.

Now, with an even deeper and more pronounced undertray, airflow under the sidepods is more substantial and stable. This means even more downforce at the rear, translating to better stability and superior control – a brilliant strategy for a track full of slow turns like Hungaroring.

Cooling Challenges

But with such a slim inlet, there are concerns about cooling. Engineers need to be meticulous in managing the pressure difference between inside and outside of the sidepods to avoid airflow escape.

Additionally, Hungary’s demanding temperatures make cooling an even more critical aspect to watch, especially with Honda’s engine.

A Fresh Front Wing

It’s not just the inlets, Red Bull has updated their front wing, too. Though the main plane may look familiar, take a closer look at the flaps and endplate – they’ve got some exciting tweaks.

This clever move is all about harmonising the car’s overall aerodynamics. The front wing’s role in guiding clean airflow is crucial for optimal performance in other areas.

The Aston Martin Trend

Rumors swirled that Red Bull might adopt Aston Martin’s “water slides” design for the sidepods. However, it turns out to be just that – rumours. Aston Martin’s “water slides” aim to channel airflow towards the beam wing and diffuser, but Red Bull stuck to their tried-and-true downwash sidepods.

Aston Martin was the first of the teams to introduce the so-called “water slides” or tubes. Although Ferrari had a similar idea last year, the technical details between these two approaches are completely different.

Namely, the tubs designed by Aston Martin have the role of directing the clean air that comes through the inlet of the sidepods toward the beam wing and the diffuser. This is nothing new, we know that Red Bull was the first team to introduce the so-called downwash sidepods.

Another great advantage of this geometry is stability during curves, in which the direction of the airflow changes. This idea turned out to be very successful, which could be seen by the great results of Aston Martin at the beginning of the season. Later, teams such as Mercedes, Ferrari, and McLaren took the idea and implemented it on their cars in similar style, so that the sidepods work together with the other components of the car.

However, although it was believed that Red Bull would also follow the same path, they still kept their old design, with minimal changes.

Hungaroring: The Ultimate Test

Formula 1 never ceases to amaze us with its technical ingenuity and innovative solutions. Behind Red Bull’s latest update lies a world of complexity and hard work from their engineers. As fans, we can enjoy analysing the visible aerodynamic components and attempting to decipher their impact on the car’s performance.

Eyes will not only be on Red Bull but the reaction of their rivals will be very interesting, too. Known for setting technological trends this season, Red Bull is undoubtedly leading the way. Will others follow again?

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