Red Bull spring a surprise with Monza rear wing configuration

Uros Radovanovic
Red Bull's rear wing on show in the garage ahead of the Italian Grand Prix.

Red Bull rear wing: Catches the eye at Monza

After the summer break, F1 is finally back! An exciting race in the Netherlands reminded us of the special kind of entertainment this sport can provide.

The next destination is Monza, probably the most specific race on the calendar for several reasons.

This legendary race presents many challenges to Formula 1 engineers, given its characteristic configuration with high speeds. So, let’s take a look at the technical details that teams bring to Monza to prepare themselves for the ‘Temple of Speed’.

Monza requires completely different aerodynamics

As we’ve already mentioned, Monza is probably the most unique race on the calendar. What distinguishes this track are its long and fast straights with very few corners that require heavy braking. This is precisely why teams must completely overhaul their cars to prepare them for these demanding conditions.

The fact that drivers are at full throttle for 80% of the track in their cars speaks to just how fast Monza really is. Therefore, the first step in adaptation is maximizing the reduction of downforce.

When it comes to aerodynamics, it’s important to keep in mind that downforce is directly proportional to the square of the car’s speed. This means that, for example, if you double the speed of the car, the downforce will increase fourfold, which is significant.

This physical phenomenon is highly effective in corners where you want the car to be as “glued” to the asphalt as possible. However, it also creates significant problems on straights.

On straights, downforce isn’t as crucial; drag is the primary concern. However, the challenge is that by increasing downforce on a car, you simultaneously increase drag. This is where the true art of Formula 1 comes in – optimising such an aerodynamic package so that it’s ideal for a specific track’s characteristics.

Maximum low drag

Considering the long straights and the significant time spent at full throttle at Monza, the primary task for engineers is to increase the maximum speed, which means reducing aerodynamic drag.

Consequently, teams adjust the main aerodynamic components like the front and rear wings to minimise drag. The angle at which these components are set is reduced to the point where the rear wing appears almost horizontal, which you can observe during the race.

The amount of drag a car experiences is influenced by its speed, the projected surface area it presents when viewed from the front, and the drag coefficient. The projected surface area is the frontal area the car occupies when viewed head-on. Therefore, by reducing the angle of the rear wing, you simultaneously reduce its projected surface area and drag coefficient, allowing for much higher speeds.

These changes to the car not only reduce drag but also decrease the downforce generated by the car. This means that teams can’t expect high speeds in corners, but since Monza has few corners, this isn’t as significant of an issue.

Red Bull’s and Ferrari’s rear wing

It will be quite interesting to see how the teams adapt to the track in Italy and who will do the best job there. Some teams like Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams, and Haas have an advantage from the start because they designed their cars focusing on high top speed.

In the image above, you can see the way the rear wing is positioned. If we compare this rear wing with the one from Monaco, for example, the differences are truly enormous.

However, what surprised us the most is, once again, Red Bull – they really don’t stop with surprises.

From the pictures we’ve seen so far, it can be noticed that they have made the least amount of changes to the aerodynamics of their car.

Namely, Max’s car’s rear wing looks completely identical to the one from the previous race, which is absolutely incredible. This is proof that Red Bull has created such an aerodynamically efficient car that adapting it for Italy is almost unnecessary. Of course, it’s still too early to have definitive conclusions, considering that things can change by Sunday.

F1 teams like to experiment

What’s also interesting is that, in Monza, we can see teams trying out different configurations during practice sessions. This way, teams can conduct a small “experiment” and, using data from the practice sessions, decide on the design they will use for the race.

On the first practice session, Red Bull will test a modified version of the medium-downforce wing on Perez’s car, while Max will use an unchanged medium-downforce rear wing.

Namely, on Perez’s wing, we can notice a modification in the form of a Gurney flap, which prevents flow separation and thus improves wing efficiency. This solution could be an ideal compromise, considering the already significant performance gap Red Bull has compared to other cars.

McLaren is another team that will use the first practice session to test different designs.

It’s noticeable how the rear wing on Piastri’s car is angled at a much smaller angle, and at the same time, it lacks the curvature on the lower part of the wing, unlike Norris’s rear wing. Norris’s rear wing design resembles Red Bull’s to a great extent, indicating that they have also chosen to test such an aerodynamic package.

The difference is also visible on the endplates of McLaren’s rear wings. Norris has a rear wing with much sharper endplate edges, while the geometry on Piastri’s car is smoother, without sharp edges. It will be interesting to see which design McLaren’s engineers ultimately choose.

What about Aston Martin, Haas, Alfa Romeo and Williams?

In the image above, we can see which design some other teams have opted for.

What immediately catches our attention are Aston Martin and Haas, who have hardly changed the appearance of their rear wings.

Haas has an advantage from the start because their car is designed for high top speed, which may explain why they made this choice. Additionally, further reducing downforce can disrupt the car’s stability and behavior in corners, which has been problematic for them in the past.

Alfa Romeo has brought a very distinctive rear wing design to their home race. You can notice how the lower plate is horizontal, while the upper one is completely flat and at a steep angle. It’s a very interesting and unusual look that definitely sets them apart from other teams, primarily due to the completely flat plates.

Williams is another team we need to keep an eye on this weekend. Their car has really incredible maximum speeds, which can pay off the most on this track. Besides, Alex Albon is in great form, so Monza is a great opportunity to get valuable points.

An exciting weekend is ahead

In addition to the aforementioned changes to the rear wing, teams contribute to their car’s performance by modifying the front wing. For the most part, teams are doing the same thing here – reducing the angle of the flaps to decrease drag.

Additionally, noticeable are the extra elements that serve to enhance the outwash effect – they’re quite prominent on the Ferrari. This is another efficient way to reduce downforce and drag, thereby increasing top speed.

However, it’s still Red Bull that has left the biggest impression on us. If they bring the same aero package as in the first practice session, they will demonstrate just how powerful and efficient their car is.

While it’s generally expected that Monza demands radical changes, it seems that Red Bull is playing a completely different game this season.

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