Dissecting the RB16B - Is the Car Itself the Same Too?
Short answer? No.
Honestly, if you were expecting a different livery then I'd like to congratulate you on being an optimist. Because all the livery designer did was replace where it said 'Aston Martin' with 'Honda'. (Which I actually think looks quite cool, but that's not what I'm here to talk about...)
Image from https://www.redbull.com/int-en/redbullracing
Let's start off with the simple.
Unlike Alfa Romeo - see below, Red Bull's front section remains pretty much the same. Last year they made a huge change from the wide to the thin nose with the aid of a cool new steering configuration, and added the 'snorkel' design on the thumb tip - which is the bit at the very end of the nose cone.
Alfa Romeo have joined the thin-nose club, but what else has changed?
All of that remains for this year, and the only thing which has really been adapted is the top element of the front wing. Most teams are moving towards more inboard-loaded designs and RB are no different - the blue line indicates approximately where it was last year, whilst the red line indicates the 2021 spec.
What this does is produce less downforce - initially that is - in favour of directing the air around the front tyre to reduce drag and have it interfere less with the vortices - energetic, spiralling air pivotal to downforce. The trade off with this is of course less aerodynamic performance, but as the designers find ways to increase it elsewhere, the negative effects subdue somewhat.
Relative to most other teams though, Red Bull still have a hugely outboard-loaded front wing.
The nose itself might also be even narrower, but it's difficult to tell given how limited the angles of the photos are.
So frustrating how they only gave us two shots! Anyway. From https://www.redbull.com/int-en/redbullracing
You may remember last year how unstable the car was at low speeds; and especially at the beginning of the season there were so many spins for both Verstappen and Albon (RIP). What this may have been caused by was the interference of the aforementioned vortices.
There are a couple of vortices at the front of the car, most noticeably the Y250 vortex. The Y250 vortex is created at the point where the front wing is closest to the nose cone - basically where it begins - and they are 250mm away from each other, hence the name.
At low speeds what was suspected to have happened was the Y250 vortex, along with the spiralling air produced by the cape and nose, collided with each other and made a big aerodynamic mess which horribly reduced downforce and made the RB16 difficult to navigate.
To try and mitigate this RB have moved back the cape from its original position - see the red arrows.
The bargeboard is a mildly different iteration too, as well as the introduction of the 'Venetian Blinds'. In order to further try and claw back some lost downforce the sidepods are reshaped, with the downward slope being more aggressive to accelerate air and have it flow faster to the diffuser. The better the flow, the more enhanced the diffuser's effect is.
The possible limitations with this are the challenge of keeping the air attached (otherwise it scrambles, and you get a similar effect to the above) as a large downward slope can be harmful. The second limitation is the cooling packages of the engine; as we've seen with the MCL35M, the Mercedes engine has cooling that allows slimmer sidepods whilst with the Honda - as we've seen with the AT02 and now the RB16B - is girthier.
Here's the RB16 (2020). From https://www.redbull.com/int-en/redbullracing
They've made a few minor changes elsewhere; the double pillar arrangement on the rear wing they ran during the races last year is gone in favour of the single pillar - which you can see on both launch pictures. It is likely to change though, and anyway the pros and cons of each type are slim.
The new rules stipulate a large chunk of the floor at the rear is gone; but do in fact allow some playing room nearer the front. In light of this, RB have kept the multiple fenders at the front, which should direct air around the rear tyre and reduce drag.
Back to the front. From https://www.redbull.com/int-en/redbullracing
Frustratingly, Red Bull have hidden their diffuser from us like McLaren, and so we'll only know come testing how they've approached the change to the length of the internal fences.
And... that's about it!
Could this be Verstappen's first title-challenging car? My answer is probably not, but the car itself doesn't seem too shabby...
All pictures are from the above sources, whilst all edits are my own.