While the Red Bull RB14 is the third 2018 F1 car to be unveiled it is the first physical car to be revealed, rather than a computer render.
So, we can learn a lot from the car and it seems Red Bull have gone all out in designing their new car. Pictured in its “special edition” testing livery, the RB14 departs from several Red Bull design philosophies and of course meets the current regulations.
Like a limited edition Red Bull drinks can, the livery is just a shakedown livery. We will see the full colour Red Bull paint job during testing next week. Many may recall Red Bull tested with a camouflage livery back in 2014, the theory being that using ‘dazzle’ style graphics will trick observers from seeing the car’s lines, but that doesn’t trick high resolution photography at close range!
The car we see in the pictures is the shake down car, thus details are likely to change, such as the nose and front wing, but a lot of what we see are part of the car’s intended design, so we will focus on those.
At this stage we can’t comment on wheelbase or rake angle, Red Bull tend to be mid placed amongst the teams on wheelbase and about the steepest on rake (nose-down/tail-up attitude). The latter which is of critical importance to aero performance.
Part of the 2018 regulations is car’s need to fit a Halo, a titanium tubular structure to protect the drivers head from a variety of incidents. While benefitting safety, the Halo adds weight high up on the car and disrupts airflow to the roll hoop inlet that feeds the engine.
Although it can’t be seen here, the chassis needs to be strengthened internally to mount the halo and meet the 12.75 ton test loads, that form the car’s crash test homologation process. Without these tests passed the car cannot even go testing.
Red Bull have shown the Halo with a fairing wrapped around it, as allowed per the regulations. This will become more shapely and have add-on wings, to help direct air towards the roll hoop and rear wing.
A little detail on the top of the chassis is not one of technical or performance interest, but of great interest to fans. It’s the new mandatory 360 camera, part of Liberty and FOM’s increase in media content, every car will be filming 360 video throughout the weekend.
If we are ignoring the nose, then the middle section becomes the key focus. Red Bull have really changed the car in this area and at the same time found their own interpretation to the Ferrari-style sidepods that most teams are adopting this year.
Red Bull have always been very good at minimising sidepod inlet size and keeping the frontal profile slim. But the sidepod inlet is still the key area of change, as this is now much higher. This is achieved by moving part of the side impact crash protection downwards. This repositioning goes some way help keep the car’s centre of gravity height low, despite the Halo.
With the new sidepods it’s not the inlet that we have to focus on, it’s the increased space below it. This area known as the ‘undercut’ directs airflow around the inevitable obstruction of the sidepods and directs it to the rear of the car.
This air sent over the diffuser and other rear aero details and helps create downforce. For most cars this is a concave shape, but Red Bull’s undercut is swept around in a much more efficient direction.
Air flowing around the edge of the car here doesn’t want to get mixed up with the turbulence from the front tyres. So, the team add vanes running along the car’s length, these X-Vanes separate the tyre wake from the clean air passing around the sidepod, with secondary and tertiary functions of creating a little downforce directly and working with the floor edge.
Red Bull’s X-vanes don’t seem to be attached with much at all! So, we can expect some stays to help the support the vanes from the force of the air passing over them.
Above the inlet is a little winglet style device, this simply directs airflow back over the sidepod.
As much as suspension design is a lot about getting the tyres working, in F1 it’s also compromised by aerodynamics. Already teams mount the front wishbones high up to clear them from the wake of the front wing. This year’s Red Bull goes a stage further, following in its sister team’s footsteps. As Toro Rosso ran an extremely raised front suspension in 2017 (as well as Mercedes).
As the air passing under the front suspension goes on to flow around the sidepods, anything that can lift the wishbones even higher, provides yet more clean airflow to work with the sidepod’s undercut.
Red Bull have therefore raised both the top and bottom front wishbones, mounting them as high on the chassis as possible, then meeting the front upright at an equally high position. This puts the top wishbone mount outside of the wheel, this necessitates a bracket that reaches up out of the wheel to create the upper pivot point.
One much asked question, is “what is the tube running across the rear of the car?” This is the pull rod, it operates the rear suspension. It's moved (pulled) by the upwards movement of the rear wheel and then operates the springs\dampers mounted inside the front of the gearbox.
The sidepods form a tapered profile sweeping up to form the top bodywork and meet the cut-down shark fin. This shaping allows the airflow coming off of the complexity of the sidepod fronts to regather ahead of the rear wing.
The smaller shark fin is as big as the 2018 rules allow, after disagreement between the teams and the FIA whether they should be banned on aesthetic grounds or kept for performance or marketing reasons. This debate continues and full shark fins are expected to return for 2019!
Branded as a TAG Heuer, the power unit residing in the back of the RB14 is Renault’s latest F1 specification. After a lamentable 2017 season where the unit lacked the power of Mercedes and Ferrari, while not being much more reliable than the Honda!
Positive comments are coming from Viry Chatillon, where the Power Unit is developed by Renault Sport, about the performance of the new engine.
Red Bull share this same specification engine with the factory Renault team and now McLaren. Plus, they have already announced a parting of the ways with the French manufacturer at the end of this season. This leaves a worrying situation for Red Bull in 2018, although there is no doubt Renault will give Red Bull its full support through this season.
Toro Rosso are racing with Honda engines for 2018 and Red Bull are expected to follow them in 2019 if all goes well this year.