Update package puts Red Bull ‘a lot closer’ to Mercedes

Alexander Albon believes the updates Red Bull brought to the Nurburgring for its RB16 Formula 1 car have drawn the team “a lot closer” to Mercedes.

Update package puts Red Bull ‘a lot closer’ to Mercedes

Albon’s teammate, Max Verstappen, was on provisional pole after the first runs in the final stage of qualifying for the Eifel Grand Prix, initially edging out both Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.

Although Verstappen dropped to third in the final runs, the Dutchman said after the session that some updates on the Red Bull car had offered a “good step forward”.

Having struggled earlier in the year with a skittish and nervous car, Verstappen added that Red Bull’s development plan was “all about calming everything down a bit and connecting the rear with the front a bit more”.

Red Bull ran a new design for the rear suspension upright and brake duct, following a similar concept to that used by Mercedes at the start of the year, as well as some other minor aero additions such as new winglets on the halo.

Albon took fifth overall in qualifying at the Nurburgring, but reported an immediate benefit when running the updated aero package for the first time in practice on Saturday morning.

“It feels good, it feels quick,” Albon said. "Straightaway in FP3, it was feeling pretty strong. I was happy with it.

“It’s a good step forward. It’s put us a lot closer obviously to the Mercs.”

The new parts for the Red Bull car warranted a change in the survival cell on Albon’s car on Friday evening, committing to running them despite having the first two practice sessions called off.

“The package is quite a big one,” Albon said.

“From what I understand, it’s easier to change tub and have it ready-made for the other pieces.

“It’s always been planned to happen this weekend. I think with most things nowadays, it’s not just a little bit of here and a little bit of there. If you want to change something, you have to change not the whole thing, but parts of it.

“So you could say it was a pretty substantial change in that sense. But I think the cell thing is a bit misleading. There were some things that were just easier and quicker to do with a new cell, new monocoque.”

The upgrades that have lifted Red Bull at the Nurburgring

Red Bull’s updates at the Eifel Grand Prix appear to revolve two key areas aimed at both boosting aero and improving the stability of the car to give the drivers more confidence.

At the rear of the car the team has made a pretty significant change to the design of its rear suspension upright and brake duct.

Interestingly the design somewhat mirrors the solution used by Mercedes that it lobbied to have removed from the cars at the Australian Grand Prix.

The FIA didn’t wholly ban the Mercedes design, but did clarify what could be done in this region, likely inciting this design path from Red Bull.

The original solution from Mercedes used the shape of the upright to create an additional inlet that connected to an outlet on the brake drum. This would both help to cool the brakes but also the tyres.

Mercedes AMG F1 W11 rear brakes duct detail
Mercedes AMG F1 W11 rear brakes duct detail

The FIA concluded that this had created an inlet that lay outside the dimensional bounding within the regulations. It ruled that the aperture had to either be blanked off or a similarly sized outlet be created in the upright to allow the airflow passage straight through.

Red Bull Racing RB16 suspension
Red Bull Racing RB16 rear detail

Mercedes opted to blank off the aperture, a decision that also affected partner team Racing Point.

Red Bull, however, takes the other option noted during the clarification, with a passage created that allows the airflow to move through the assembly and then be guided by the brake winglets behind, which have also been redesigned.

Red Bull Racing RB16 winglet comparison at Eifel GP

Red Bull Racing RB16 winglet comparison at Eifel GP

Elsewhere on the car, a winglet has been added to the side of the halo (blue arrow), which the team is using to correct the airflow's path and guide it upward.

In order that these winglets receive the right flow towards them, the team has also made a small change ahead of this too, squaring off the mirror stalks where they connect to the chassis (red arrow).

Unsurprisingly we’ve already seen other teams do this already, as it turns the stalk into more of a flow conditioner than would be the case with its more shapely predecessor.

This is why Red Bull has also changed the connecting point with the wrap around section at the other end too, adding an endplate and creating an exposed joint, that will likely shed a small vortex.

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