F1’s big question, can Red Bull make the Mercedes parts ‘work properly’

Michelle Foster
Red Bull RB20 seen from the front.

The Red Bull RB20 is under the microscope heading into the new season.

Adopting elements from last year’s W14, Robert Doornbos is curious to see if Red Bull’s RB20 can find success with the sidepod inlets and engine cover that Mercedes have since scrapped.

Introducing their new 2024 cars to the world over the past few weeks, many of the Formula 1 teams have taken up the philosophy of Red Bull’s dominant championship-winning RB19.

And then came the Red Bull…

No B-spec RB19 as Red Bull applauded for embracing the challenge with the RB20

The very last team to officially launch their 2024 challenger, the RB20 features two notable Mercedes-styled parts in the sidepod inlets and the engine cover.

In what has been billed as a big design shift for the reigning World Champions, instead of last year’s sidepod design, this year the RB20 features heavily undercut sidepods more in line with Mercedes’ zero-pod.

The cooling inlets, which are reminiscent of vertical mailbox slots, have also been moved back and are a little lower on the car.

The engine cover is another area that is more 2023 Mercedes with its long cooling gulleys that run along the length of its engine cover.

It’s a big move away from what has worked for Red Bull in the ground-effect aerodynamic area, and it’s one that has surprised former F1 driver Doornbos.

“I’m positively surprised that they haven’t come up with some kind of B version of the ultra-competitive and mega-successful RB19,” he told Motorsport.com.

“Despite having a huge lead over the competition last year, the team’s designers and engineers still dared to build something more aggressive for this year.

“In addition, it is of course striking that the Red Bull has come to resemble the Mercedes.

“Mercedes changed its concept precisely because the car was not running, so I am curious whether Red Bull’s engineers managed to make these elements work properly – just like Red Bull previously managed to get porpoising under control, while the other teams continued to have problems with it.”

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Team boss Christian Horner was quick to make it clear this was “not tactical” to one-up Mercedes, but simply a case of what gave Red Bull the best numbers in the wind tunnel.

“It’s not tactical. It’s based on performance and what we’re seeing through our simulation tools,” he told the media, including PlanetF1.com.“Obviously, the car looks quite visibly different in certain areas to last year.

“Only the stopwatch will tell but in the virtual world we wouldn’t have committed it to design if we didn’t feel it was better.”

Doornbos agrees with the Briton, it’s all about the numbers that help to guide the team when designing a new car.

“Developing a new car is never without risk. But the team works with data that is very reliable. This means they know very well what kind of car they will start the season with,” added the Dutchman.

“Of course you don’t know what the competition is doing, but you can be sure that the other teams are trying to copy last year’s Red Bull.

“A philosophy can be adopted one-on-one using photos and video analyses. Whether they can make it work is another story.

“But I can imagine that this has challenged Red Bull’s engineers – and they are not the least – to once again push the limits of the regulations.

“Of course it would have been easiest to stick to a few small changes. But easy is not in Red Bull’s dictionary.”

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