F1 News: Red Bull is yet to maximise its Baku upgrades

Jaden Diaz
3 May, 2023

Red Bull secured another 1-2 finish with relative ease in Baku. Verstappen and Perez made short work of Charles Leclerc at the start of the race, enjoying the superior performance of the RB19 – which is especially strong in race trim . The Monegasque was able to defeat the Red Bull duo in qualifying, but this is not achievable for the SF-23 on Sundays.

Four races and three 1-2 finishes are enough to underline the current superiority of the RB19 project, which already started after the summer break last season with the RB18.

Red Bull’s driver pairing showed almost identical pace in the race, with Verstappen unable to attack his teammate Perez. Partly thanks to overheating tires and dirty air , there was very little wheel-to-wheel action in Baku.

Following a competitor closely for too long would have diminished the life of the tyre. Examples of this are Alonso  and  Hamilton , who never seriously attacked the drivers in front of them – in this case, Leclerc  and Sainz.

Therefore, this race was quite uninteresting from this point of view, with even the Red Bull duo unable to battle each other on track. Team principal Christian Horner has openly stated that Perez and Verstappen will be “free to race with each other,” but it is clear that the balance is in Verstappen’s favour.

“Checo and Max’s situation could fluctuate between the two. Reliability will be a key factor. At the moment, we are mainly focusing on building a margin with both riders, who are free to compete with each other”.

Red Bull’s upgrades worth 3 tenths: Miami could be more convincing than Baku

In Azerbaijan, Red Bull’s dominance was less extensive than in previous races – considering that Leclerc and Alonso were an average of 6 tenths slower per lap. The Baku circuit, much like Melbourne’s, is less revealing of a car’s technical capabilities.

In Miami, the venue for this week’s race, we will have a more truthful reflection on the steps the teams have made during the break. Since Australia, Ferrari has shown improvements solely from improving their mechanical set-up , and without introducing updates to Baku, track adaptations aside. 

The Maranello team was second overall in terms of pace with Leclerc, considering both qualifying and race. Red Bull, on the other hand, approached the Baku weekend quite differently from Ferrari, bringing a considerable package of developments.

The new bodywork around the radiator vents , with corrective measures applied to the outer edge of the floor and to the lateral drift, is worth up to three-tenths . However, this estimated gain was not seen on the track, where only about half of this estimated improvement was found. 

Verstappen himself didn’t seem too happy with the car’s handling and struggled slightly more than usual, with a less precise car in qualifying. Red Bull did not want to postpone the update package to Miami, even though the Baku Sprint format only featured one free session.

The Milton Keynes team, strong in the advantage it has over its competitors, still wanted to bring a package to the track, sure of obtaining an advantage in any case.

Bringing more air into the undercut was the target of Newey’s technicians. The compromise reached was to enlarge the inlets  towards the sides, while narrowing them down at the same time. This achieves an improved layout that combines cooling demands with aerodynamic ones.

Comparison between the old and new bellies of the RB19 – Illustration Rosario Giuliana

In these F1 cars, equipped with venturi channels, the lower part of the sidepods has become a very delicate area where the Red Bull philosophy has reigned supreme.

The retouching of this area was accompanied by a slight review of the lateral edge of the back, where there are a series of vortex generators and in the outermost drift of the venturi inlets.

Developments in Milton Keynes will be much more concentrated in the first part of the season, up to  Silverstone . The update curve will then decrease, both due to the limitations in the wind tunnel and because the team will, in all probability, already be focusing on 2024:

“When we return to racing in Europe, I’m sure there will be updatesThis year we have a reduced development capacity, so we are concentrating on increasing the gap from our competitors,” – said  Cristian Horner on this matter

However, Red Bull’s strong point remains the speed difference created with DRS open, a practically unbeatable weapon when overtaking. Rear-end stalling is the focus on which the aerodynamicists of rival Red Bull teams, including Ferrari, are focusing.

The advantage that was seen in the race in the second sector instead mainly derives from how Red Bull manages to generate grip through the  mechanics of the car.

More generally, the load deriving from the surface and aerodynamics will also have a greater footprint in Miami. This is why  the American track will be more significant in terms of evaluation and optimization of the updates introduced  on the RB19.

Author:  Rosario Giuliana

Co-Author:  Piergiuseppe Donadoni

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang

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