How Red Bull Are Closing the Gap to Mercedes
The RB16 made some gains to Mercedes over the Eifel GP weekend, but is the pace real?
As Mercedes has switched off development of its W11 to concentrate on next year’s car, Red Bull has continued to develop its RB16 and as a result, the performance gap between them is narrowing. Two of the last three races saw the Red Bull closer to Merc’s pole than ever before and at the Nurburgring last time out the gap was down to 0.2%.
Here are some of the upgrades.
Some parts of the aerodynamic upgrades brought to the Eifel Grand Prix are not visible, so are probably located in the under-nose area. But one part that was definitely obvious was a new rear suspension detail.
The hub extension for the upper wishbone has been heightened further (as you can see with the rounded shape just right of the wheel above), creating a bigger space between the upper and lower parts of the suspension.
Only Red Bull know what effect this has on the car, but it's likely they'll use it for aerodynamics instead of a smoother suspension.
The plan had been to back-to-back this new aero package with the old on the Friday practice. But with all Friday running abandoned because of the weather, Red Bull committed both cars to the upgrade for the rest of the weekend.
These changes followed on from a new floor introduced two races earlier in Mugello, where the combination of longitudinal and lateral slats was replaced by a full array of lateral slats, as seen in the technical drawing below.
Previously, the longitudinal slats created vortices underneath them which helped seal the floor, to increase the pressure difference between the underfloor and the atmospheric pressure above it, thereby increasing downforce. The lateral slats ahead of the tyre were there to release the excessive pressure created by the rotating tyre which would otherwise spoil the flow being fed to and around the diffuser.
Therefore Red Bull changing to a floor with just lateral slots means they've found a way to incorporate both effects into that design.
The primary objective is to feed the underfloor with a faster-moving, less disrupted airflow. The combination of the new floor with the higher hub extension on the rear suspension will have all been to better meet this objective.
Having more space between the suspension arms will have enabled a greater volume of air to pass between the inner face of the rear tyre and the diffuser – and this has a direct impact on how hard the diffuser pulls on the underfloor airflow. The faster it flows, the more downforce is created.
Germany was a big step in the right direction for Red Bull, and as they will not have the time to make up the huge deficit points-wise, it'll be possible for Verstappen to win a few races on merit...
The question is though: is the pace advantage Mercedes have already created too large to make up in this short and crazy season?