Sergio Perez’s infamous qualification in Monaco provided us with a glorious opportunity to take a closer look at Red Bull’s floor design, believed to be one of the key factors behind their dominance this season.
It’s time to uncover the aerodynamic tricks employed by the Red Bull engineers and how they have contributed to the RB19’s exceptional speed compared to its competitors.
With the team appearing unstoppable on both World Championship fronts, it begs the question of how Red Bull managed to create a car that is arguably the most dominant in recent history.
Written by Uros Radovanovic
The deal with downforce
To comprehend the aerodynamic principles at play, we need to start from the basics and explain how modern F1 cars generate downforce.
The fundamental principle relies on the implementation of venturi tunnels within the car’s floor design. For example, if we take air moving at a certain speed through a tunnel and then narrow that tunnel, the air will significantly accelerate in that region, leading to a drop in pressure.
This is exactly what the F1 car’s floor, along with other aerodynamic components, accomplishes. The low pressure underneath the car, combined with the higher pressure above, generates a force (known as the suction effect) that pulls the car towards the track, creating downforce.
It is important to note that the faster the airflow beneath the car, the lower the pressure and the greater the downforce. We will delve into this in more detail later.
Another vital element of this system is the diffuser located at the rear of the venturi tunnels. The diffuser gradually increases the low-pressure airflow to atmospheric pressure. This gradual and gentle increase is crucial because, without it, the venturi tunnels would not be effective, rendering the entire system ineffective.
Now that we can comprehend the basic principles of ground effect, let’s examine Red Bull’s floor and its distinguishing features.
#2023F1seasonarticles #2023MonacoGrandPrixarticles Red Bull’s floor is ‘so curved you can’t figure it out’ says rival after photos emerge | 2023 Monaco Grand Prix https://t.co/ivpx2PQmMc pic.twitter.com/6CKqwyHdnE
— Flyin18T Motorsports (@Flyin18T) May 28, 2023
Red Bull are trend-setters, not followers
At first glance, we can observe the central part of the floor, which is notably lower than the rest. It houses the batteries, the tank, and many other elements of the car.
Next to it, on the left and right, you can see the venturi tunnels and their shape.
The intricate three-dimensional design with numerous details indicates Red Bull’s meticulous approach, as each element serves a specific purpose.
While we cannot precisely determine the function of every detail, we can analyse some elements that exemplify the underlying engineering philosophy.
Towards the front end of the floor, there are tunnels that direct the airflow towards the car’s sides. These are not venturi tunnels, and their purpose differs.
They are responsible for creating an outwash airflow from the car, which pushes the turbulent air generated behind the front tyres away from the car as much as possible. This prevents the turbulent air from spilling over the rear of the car and allows aerodynamic components like the rear wing to operate more effectively. These tunnels can be observed in cars from other teams as well, with their designs being more or less similar.
Now, let us shift our focus to the tunnels closer to the central part of the floor.
PlanetF1.com’s recommended reading
Red Bull have made a tall tunnel work
In the image below, we can observe the complex shape of the venturi tunnels.
A comparison with other teams reveals that the Red Bull tunnels are considerably taller. At first glance, this may seem counterintuitive, considering that we previously mentioned that narrowing the tunnels results in higher airflow speed and, consequently, increased downforce. However, there is always a trade-off between speed and the volume of airflow passing under the car. Larger tunnels permit a higher volume flow of air but at a lower velocity.
This decision is made by the team, and Red Bull stands apart from the rest due to the narrower tunnels employed by other F1 teams.
F1: Rivals ‘dismayed’ at Red Bull floor complexity – https://t.co/rvNndQsdn9
(GMM) Rival Formula 1 teams are “dismayed” as much as they are excited about the details of dominant Red Bull’s newly-revealed car floor.
At Monaco, the underbody of Mercedes’ 2023 car was also revea… pic.twitter.com/uy5iVfbFql
— AutoRacing1.com (@AutoRacing1) June 1, 2023
This particular geometry enables the possibility of running a relatively softer suspension. As we know, downforce exerts pressure on both the car and the suspension. By having a softer suspension set-up, the entire car’s floor can be lowered further at high speeds.
Hence, even though the Red Bull tunnels have higher roofs, since the entire car can be pressed lower, the height of the Red Bull tunnels is effectively the same as the conventional low tunnels used by other teams.
F1 cars with low tunnels and stiffer suspension cannot achieve the same low height without inducing bouncing. At the beginning of the 2022 season, many teams faced problems with porpoising, except for Red Bull.
This bouncing phenomenon was perilous for drivers and prompted the FIA to introduce new regulations. While other teams struggled to resolve this problem, Red Bull capitalised on it and made further advancements in other areas.
Red Bull’s triple DRS explained
Aston Martin is not interested in copying Red Bull's floor design, despite pictures of its underfloor being widely circulated after Sergio Perez's crash during the #MonacoGP weekend.https://t.co/5lGT0Rvi0m #F1
— Motorsport.com (@Motorsport) June 26, 2023
Another interesting technical aspect of the RB19 can be observed in the above image – their diffuser, set at a significantly higher angle compared to other teams. The diffuser’s angle is crucial because if it is too large, the airflow can separate, rendering its function of generating downforce ineffective. In aerodynamics, this phenomenon is known as “stall” and is generally undesirable.
However, what makes this diffuser geometry noteworthy is its role during an open DRS (Drag Reduction System) configuration.
Red Bull’s ingenious design allows the rear wing, beam wing, and diffuser to “communicate” with each other. In other words, the airflow around the rear wing also affects the airflow around the diffuser. Consequently, when the rear wing is open, the airflow through the diffuser undergoes a significant alteration, leading to flow separation due to the steep diffuser angle.
In such scenarios, this effect becomes desirable as it substantially reduces aerodynamic drag. This concept builds upon Red Bull’s “triple DRS” theory, which explains the remarkable speeds their cars achieve when the DRS is activated. Moreover, the details behind this system are very complex and difficult to comprehend entirely.
Red Bull RB19: A car in perfect harmony
Adrian Newey, the individual deserving most credit for the success of the RB19, frequently emphasises how an F1 car represents a collection of technical intricacies that must seamlessly work together. Analysing the car as a cohesive unit and understanding the philosophy behind its design is paramount to truly grasp the dynamics at play.
The fact remains that Red Bull, as a team, excelled in this task. Their floor design is just one component of an extensive and intricate puzzle. While other teams can easily replicate its design, the desired outcome cannot be achieved without integrating the other necessary elements that enable the car to function effectively as a whole.