A recent setback at Silverstone aside, Red Bull has clearly made progress in terms of relative pace since its muted start to 2017. But what exactly has been refined in the RB13’s design since Adrian Newey ramped up his involvement?
In the opening few races of the 2017 Formula 1 season, the RB13 was not where a team of Red Bull’s standing would expect to be, given what many would consider a skew back towards an aero formula in the rulebook.
As has been the case for the lineage of cars dating back to 2009’s RB5, the car is but an evolution of its predecessor, as barren as can be with a brilliant elegance to every sinew of the car.
Its deficit to Ferrari and Mercedes is still clear though, with the team eager to level the blame at Renault’s door in the early stages of the season.
Even so, it was clear to see that the team were missing a beat when it came to their chassis and Adrian Newey, who had played a big part in the car’s early development, was called once more unto the breach.
Newey’s deft touch and attention to detail has been called on once more by Red Bull as the Briton goes in search of the perfection that the team reigned under for four seasons, between 2010 and 2013.
Having taken an in-depth look at the regulations, absorbed what others have done and taken into consideration what can be done with what it already had, the team has been optimising the car over the last few GPs.
For Silverstone, the first real high-speed cornering test, the team revised its front wing, as it looked to redistribute downforce.
The main change to the wing comes in the form of two additional slots in the outboard section though (highlighted in yellow), limiting flow separation as the designers ask that region of the wing to work harder by increasing its angle of attack.
The main cascade has been re-profiled with the inner fence that previously extruded downward now more conventionally curved around (inset, green arrow).
It’s also worth noting that the team, chasing its own philosophy at this point, continued to raise the raise the wing’s footplate (arrowed) and removed the forward slot introduced in Canada, probably as a response to the increased flap slots shown above.
The under-chassis turning vanes were last given an update in China, when the forward-most element had a horizontal slot added into its surface.
For Silverstone, this area has been changed once more, with the slot introduced in China discarded and a longitudinal slat added (highlighted in green) that runs the full length of the three elements.
The bargeboards have also seen numerous revisions in the last few races, as the team looks to maximise the concept introduced in Spain.
Firstly, at Baku the height of the main surface was increased and the secondary surface given a triangular trailing edge. Then in Austria, a support was added between the second and third elements to increase rigidity, improving performance as load builds.
The swept footplate was also re-proportioned, with a much larger version installed in the same position. These incremental changes are a trait of the Red Bull design philosophy as the team maintains its original concept, acknowledging it needs further optimisation at each race to get the absolute best from it.
Force India leads the midfield
Force India seems to have become detached from the conventional pack order this year as its early work on the 2017 car has clearly put it a step ahead of the likes of Williams, Toro Rosso, Haas and Renault but adrift of the lead three.
Being a clear fourth is nothing to scoff at for a team operating on a limited budget but it has led to numerous incidents where its drivers are sharing the same piece of track.
Force India VJM10 front wing comparison, old vs new
For Silverstone the team introduced a few updates of which the largest was its new front wing, which features a revision of the mainplane and upper flaps.
You’ll note from this side-by-side comparison that the full length slot that used to run midway up the wing has been removed entirely, changing the wing’s behaviour as the airflow moves over it.
To counter this and change the operating window of the wing, the team has completely divided the upper flap, whereas only a small slot was present in the previous configuration.
The video above highlights and compares the two specification of wings.
Sahara Force India F1 VJM10, detail
Another key change that is worth noting, and that appeared in Austria, is the swept-back chassis fins (arrowed). These fins are placed at a point on the chassis where they can assist in realigning the flow over the top of the sidepod, improving their performance.
Confusing times for Williams
Williams’ development roadmap seems to have the Grove-based squad confused, in a very similar vein to what happened in 2016.
Just as it did last season, the team has tried to be pragmatic about it. Even if the results in CFD and the wind tunnel suggest the car should benefit from the updates, it has back-to-back tested new and old parts during the last two race weekends as it goes in search of answers.
Williams FW40 new bargeboard, Austrian GP
The update centres around a much more aggressive midriff, with changes made to the bargeboards, sidepod deflectors along with the introduction of a chassis boomerang, as the team seeks more stability and an increase in downforce.
The area is ripe for development this season with the regulations having opened up a significant space ahead of the sidepods for numerous flow conditioning devices, much like the ones last seen in 2008 (below).
Williams FW30 2008 sidepod turning vane detail
Having completed numerous runs with different configurations, its drivers opted to see out the weekend with different aerodynamic set-ups.
Williams FW40 old vs new nose
Both drivers retained the new front wing pillars introduced in Austria, which feature a slot at their midway point and a revised geometry as the pillars flare out toward their trailing edge.
The slot, reminiscent of the ones introduced by McLaren last year, injects airflow from the outboard section of the pillar, inside. This assists the geometrical changes made to the pillar’s shape in order that the flow downstream be improved.
Felipe Massa, Williams FW40, Lance Stroll, Williams FW40
Both Stroll and Massa were outfitted with the new bargeboards and chassis boomerang too. However, the Brazilian opted to use the older deflector and vortex generators atop the sidepod, as he clearly felt that offered more balance.
It’ll be interesting to see where Williams goes from here, as having this kind of correlation issue impacts not only the performance on track but also the team’s future direction, as parts will have continued to be processed in CFD and the wind tunnel and placed in the throes of full production based on the expected uplift these updates were supposed to provide.