The launch of the highly anticipated RB9, Red Bull Racing’s 2013 title contender, took place on Sunday at the squad’s Milton Keynes base in front of the prying eyes of the world’s media. To me I found that the new car was surprisingly undifferent, although there were still a few notable details worth mentioning.
Every team’s car (so far) has been an evolution of last season’s, but there have been notable enhancements to the cars for this season from all the teams that have released so far, most obviously the McLaren MP4-28. Jonathon Neale stated that the changes were necessary because it “opens up much greater development potential”, as the regulations have remained very stable for this year. Likewise with the Ferrari F138, there have been fresh ideas and plenty of scope ahead for the Italian team.
However, Red Bull Racing have opted to continue with its current platform as it has done so since 2009, choosing to chip away at the finer details – and why not? They had potentially the fastest car in Formula 1 at the end of 2012 (although McLaren ran them very close). But there is defintely some risk to this strategy; Adrian Newey himself announced that development to the car would become increasingly more difficult as the season draws on, perhaps this might be their downfall during the latter stages of the year. I’ll reserve judgement until Melbourne qualifying.
The RB9 will most likely look very different come day one of testing this week in Jerez, but there are a few details worth highlighting about the launch version of Adrian Newey’s latest creation.
The most obvious change to this year’s RB9 in comparison to the RB8 is the step along the top of the nose, although this is not an actual “step”. It is a slope made up on the same structure as the vanity cover that teams are allowed to run this year to make the cars look more aesthetically pleasing. Running a full vanity cover (as seen on the MP4-28, F138 and VJM06) has a weight penalty of around 100-150g, which Newey thought was not worth putting over the front wing assembly. Instead they have chosen to run a half panel, getting rid of the slot that supposedly cooled the driver and some electronics last year. This allows them to reduce weight over their rivals whilst still gaining some benefit of the smoother chassis top. It was interesting to see that Lotus did not think it was worth having the panel at all, but it would be surprising if they did not test one this week or in Catalunya. I also find it interesting that Red Bull have not exploited the maximum chassis/nose height that the vanity panel allows, suggesting that it isn’t all about how high the nose of the car is when it comes to forcing airflow into the bib area and back to the diffuser.
The RB9 also retains last year’s front pushrod suspension and pullrod rear setup. I suspect they thought it was not worth changing the layout of the front suspension because it is a well understood platform and developing the car around the new, higher degredation 2013 Pirelli tyres will be more important than the aero gains of a pullrod layout.
Further back, the car has even more tapered sidepods at the intakes, although the launch model retains the sidepod wing assembly and vorticy generators of last year – I expect to see some development in this area over testing. The coanda exhaust system with the under-tunnel to direct airflow into the central section of the car remain, although there have been a few modifications to the exit itself, including the two bubbles that help maintain the flow of exhuast gases down the ramp into the floor section by the rear tyres. I have not seen any clear images of the rear suspension layout, but I am sure further detail has been put into the lower wishbone assembly to assure maximum aero efficiency around the driveshaft and track rod, a key element to last year’s championship winnning RB8 that many teams have adapted to their cars this year. Raising the lower wishbone to either align it with the driveshaft (or actually implement it within the structure i.e. McLaren/RBR) reduces the turbulence that the spinning cylindrical device creates, reducing drag and tidying up the airflow to the diffuser.
Red Bull have said that they are open to trying out the passive Drag Reduction Device, pioneered by Lotus and Mercedes, so expect to see some changes to the roll hoop area to accomodate this. With DRS only allowed in certain sections of the track during practise and qualifying this season, I think it would be highly beneficial to them as they are traditionally fairly slow in top speed compared to their main rivals. Expect to see many changes to the car during the Barcelona test and perhaps Jerez this coming week!