Mark Hughes reviews race-by-race updates from Red Bull – with artwork by Giorgio Piola – ahead of a crucial Spanish Grand Prix weekend.
Ahead of Ferrari’s first major upgrade package of the season – due in Barcelona this weekend – team principal Mattia Binotto said he was concerned about Red Bull’s pace of development. In Miami, Binotto estimated that the RB18 had an advantage of around 0.2 seconds per lap over the F1-75.
“I hope, because there is also a budget cap, that at some point Red Bull will stop developing,” he said after the Miami Grand Prix. “As things stand I don’t think I would understand how they can do that, but let’s say in the next few races it could at least be our turn to try to develop the car as much as possible by introducing updates…. We don’t have the money to spend on upgrades every race…we haven’t changed since the start of the season.
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It’s true that despite the budget cap, Red Bull have enjoyed a steady stream of development since first appearing in Barcelona’s pre-season testing. It was later in its gestation than the Ferrari, most likely due to factory resources, which were allocated to last year’s championship battle with Mercedes. It is therefore logical that it was launched at an earlier stage of development than the Ferrari.
But, before what Ferrari hopes will be improvements that will neutralize those recent gains from Red Bull, we can summarize here the changes that have made the RB18 such a formidable package, the one in which Max Verstappen won all three races in which he has finished .
During the second day of testing in Bahrain, the biggest of the car’s upgrades came, with a completely reconfigured side deck and floor.
The sidepod was more tightly wrapped around the car’s cooling system, exposing more of the upper floor surface at the front and thus allowing a more gradual outward sweep of the undercut. There were accompanying changes along the ground edge, with a new “loop” to induce a more powerful vortex along the ground edge.
It has been speculated that the “skid” under the floor – a metal plate drilled towards the rear of the floor which is supposed to prevent the floor from becoming so close to the track that the airflow under the bodywork becomes blocked – appeared for the first time with this update.
For the low drag requirements of the Saudi track, Red Bull had a different lower beam wing with reduced depth and a new rear wing endplate design. Ferrari, on the other hand, stuck with their standard rear wing but simply cut out the flap area.
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In Australia, Red Bull introduced new front wing endplates, with the front corner cut diagonally and with a new S-shaped dive plane on the outer wall. As well as adjusting airflow, these changes have resulted in weight savings, with Red Bull working to reduce what was estimated to be 10kg over the minimum weight limit.
On the Italian track, Red Bull’s development continued apace. Further weight savings came from a new floor (of the same geometry as before but with a different carbon layer) and redesigned brake calipers.
Aerodynamically, there has been the addition of a Ferrari-like winglet on the keel splitter at the leading edge of the floor. This will directly contribute to the direct support on this part of the floor.
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Although visually there was no significant change in Miami, there was an additional weight saving, achieved through the hollowing out of some components that had originally been manufactured as solid due to construction constraints. weather.
As can be seen, in every race so far, Red Bull has brought performance parts to their car while the Ferrari has remained almost unchanged.
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In Bahrain, for the opening race, the Ferrari was quick enough for Charles Leclerc to hold off Verstappen’s challenge before Red Bull even retired. In Miami, Verstappen managed to overcome a tough qualifying and catch, pass and pull away from Leclerc. On the eve of the first stops, Verstappen led the Ferrari by eight seconds within reach.
For this weekend, Ferrari is hoping to reset the performance equation with its own significant update package while hoping that Red Bull’s development program will suffer a budget-dictated loss of momentum.