Red Bull’s wind tunnel time under public scrutiny after unveiling new sidepods

Michelle Foster
Red Bull Hungary second look inlets. Hungary July 2023

Red Bull Hungary second look inlets. Hungary July 2023

Upgrading their sidepods and the inlets ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix, F1TV’s tech man Sam Collins has billed as it a “free upgrade” as Red Bull work around their budget cap penalty.

This season Red Bull have the least amount of aerodynamic testing restriction time of any team, dropped to the back through their 2022 Constructors’ Championship victory and then still docked an extra 10 percent of that because of their budget cap penalty.

As such they have 63% of the full allotment and yet this weekend have arrived at the Hungaroring with an upgraded package, mainly designed around the sidepods, that is reported to be worth “two-tenths of a second” per lap according to Auto Motor und Sport.

Red Bull upgrade worth ‘more than two-tenths of a second’

The new-look Red Bull sidepods are sporting flatter and thinner inlets, dubbed letterboxes, in what is effectively the team’s second big upgrade of the season.

And it comes in the middle of a season in which the team is dealing with their budget cap penalty for overspending on their way to the 2021 Drivers’ Championship title.

F1 TV’s Collins explained: “The sidepod is completely different to what we’ve seen previously. They’ve gone for a very slit-type radiator duct and completely redesigned the cooling system.

“A lot of people are going, ‘What about the wind tunnel time?’ I think they’ve been very clever because radiator redesigns don’t come out of the wind tunnel allocation, so they’ve actually got a bit of a free upgrade on that, I think.”

As for what the upgrade could be worth to Red Bull, that won’t be known until later in the weekend, but Collins reckons it could be more than the two-tenths touted by the media.

“That upgrade, I think, is going to be worth more than two-tenths of a second as the season goes on,” he said. “However, as we saw with Ferrari at the Spanish Grand Prix, when you do a drastic change to a Formula 1 car, it doesn’t always work right away. So, perhaps, Red Bull have exposed themselves ever so slightly – at least at first.”

Collins comments come as seven-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton called Red Bull’s 2021 breach penalty a “slap on the wrist”. recommends

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Amidst reports some other teams may have breached the cap during the 2022 season, the Mercedes driver called for harsher penalties as it’s “definitely a concern. I mean, it wasn’t really a big punishment last time so there’s no real [deterrent].

“There’ll be people that will probably go for it again, and know they’re just gonna get slapped on the wrist.”

Read more: Lewis Hamilton reveals cost cap ‘concern’ after Red Bull failed to receive ‘big punishment’