F1 2024 development: Rivals work to reduce Red Bull advantage

13 Dec, 2023

“Will the other teams be able to recover the disadvantage accumulated against Red Bull over the winter?”

This is the question that insiders and non-experts alike would like to have an answer to. After all, much of the show in 2024 will depend on it. The cars will hit the track for the first time on February 21st in Bahrain for three days of testing.

There is no certain answer to this question, largely since it’s unknown how much performance Red Bull has in their pocket. However, some areas still give rivals of the Austrian team some optimism.

Lots of component crossover between the first and second seasons of these new regulations

19 wins from 22 races, two second places, twelve pole positions, and over 26 points scored on average per weekend.

These are the numbers of Max Verstappen and his RB19, which “is already a piece of history” and “has given us something simply incredible”, Christian Horner told Sky Sports UK

A car which, like others from many teams, retained many components of the RB18 from the previous year.

“Parts of the chassis and suspension were the same; the gearbox was exactly that of the RB18. For this reason, I can say that the RB19 probably shares 60% of the parts of the previous year’s car,” continued the team principal of the Anglo-Austrian team.

Red Bull

Something that concerned many other teams, who once again gave confidence to their initial ideaslargely maintaining the chassis of the previous season.

The most striking cases are those of Ferrari and Mercedes, with the former world champions again using those very aggressive technical choices.

These include the hollowed-out chassis for the internal housing of the radiators and a very advanced driving position, which were part of the zero-pods concept, which later proved to be a failure.

Even the Italian team has not significantly revised the chassis of the F1-75, keeping the lower anti-intrusion cone in a very high position. Similar speech regarding the transmissions was also kept very similar, if not the same, as in the case of Red Bull, to those of the first car created with the new regulations.

Chassis and gearbox choices have severely limited the development of Ferrari and Mercedesbut also of Alpine, equipped with a very bulky and resistant chassis.

It is, therefore, unsurprising that last season, the alignment became purely aerodynamic. However, the major chassis limitations made Ferrari choose not to bring two aerodynamic packages to the track, which normally could have been worth even 3-4 tenths of a second.

Mercedes or Alpine were also unable to progress as much as they would have liked due to a transmission that was too bulky in the case of the W14 or an equally bulky chassis when talking about the A523.

Also, for these reasons, the 2023 season proved to be one of the most boring in recent years, with almost no battle for victory on Sunday.

In 2023, there was an important ‘aerodynamic’ alignment. In these winter months, it will concern the less visible components

The winter is advancing rapidly, allowing teams to eliminate those substantial limitations only 12 months ago were considered opportunities.

It is true that, as far as Ferrari and Mercedes are concerned, the delay to be made up in the winter is more than what the two Red Bull teams have made up for during 2023, but they did so with cars severely limited by choices that have proven to be incorrect only once the cars have been put on track in Bahrain.

Now, all the teams have learned a lot about their cars/projects, and it is no coincidence that many are intervening in a very important way, especially on the chassis and transmission.

Ferrari and Mercedes provide two textbook examples. The W15 will have a very different, much more traditional chassis and a more miniaturized transmission.

This will also help Aston Martin reduce those aerodynamic efficiency problems that affected both the Brackley car and the AMR23.

The situation is different at Williams, who had designed a car with a body with very low aerodynamic resistance but lacking aerodynamic load.

Red Bull

The work on the transmission is also important for Ferrari, trying to get closer to the characteristics that distinguish the Red Bull transmission, which has an extremely small section.

The gain that less bulky gearing gives you is how much you can expand the diffuser, so how much downforce you can extract. 

With the greater expansion of the diffuser, more load is generated, and the greater the efficiency will be given that the floor component is often evaluated among technicians as “free downforce”. This is because the resistance to advancement increases very little as a function of the aerodynamic load generated.

The 2024 cars of many teams will have new concepts, and by concept, we do not necessarily have to mean the aerodynamic one (there is much more).

They will behave and drive differently, like the Ferrari 2024, which, according to Cardile,

Will be a different machine […] that solved the limitations of the SF-23.

It is a car that behaves differently in the simulator,” according to Carlos Sainz, who added “We will only know in Bahrain if the new concept we are developing works.”

The bottom of the Red Bull RB19 of the Monaco GP

In short, after last season, we saw all the cars starting to resemble each other from an aesthetic point of view.

A certain alignment is underway, which will concern the less visible components of an F1 car, those underneath the bodywork – i.e. the floor.

For many teams, this will unlock important and excellent potential. Because of these reasons, in addition to regulatory and tyre-related stability, some believe the gap to Red Bull can certainly close.

Of course, this depends on the progress at Milton Keynes and if their competitors have done their homework correctly.

Author: Piergiuseppe Donadoni

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang