Red Bull 2021 Challenger: Tech Analysis

Following the lead of McLaren, AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo, Red Bull have unveiled their 2021 car, the RB16B — and it’s a potential title contender. Let’s take a look at what Adrian Newey and his team have served up to challenge Mercedes’ W12.

Written by Ive Bauk, Edited by Susannah Peel

The RB16B, Red Bull’s challenger for the 2021 season

The most obvious contrast from 2020’s RB16 is the missing logo of Red Bull’s previous title sponsor Aston Martin (as we know Aston Martin are returning to Formula 1 this year as the remodeled Racing Point). Red Bull will not have a replacement title sponsor for the 2021 season.  

Starting from the front, the nose scoop (marked in green) appears at first glance to be the same as last year. However on closer inspection Red Bull have purposefully made the scoop wider, and placed it higher and more towards the rear, so as to send more air towards the bargeboards and rear end of the car. Next up are the nose winglets (marked in purple). Despite no evolution from the RB16 for good reason, Red Bull have designed a pretty complicated piece of apparatus. Its complexity resides in its curved shape, which works to propel air and air vortices in a curved direction.

Next, let’s take a look at the side of the RB16B. The Milton Keynes-based team have incorporated irregular bargeboard flaps (marked in white). These flaps are designed to generate stronger, faster, and prolonged vortices, as a result of the slight elongation on the top end of the flaps. Red Bull have also removed the smaller, sidepod endplates they incorporated last year in favour of several horizontal flaps — similar to the ones on the AlphaTauri AT02 (*pretends to be shocked*). An example of a conventional endplate is marked in yellow. 

The sidepod area (marked in red) has edges that split the air stream and create air vortices. Beneath the sidepods there are small flaps on the floor (marked in brown), the same as can be found on the RB16. Interestingly, we speculated they would have to be removed by the team due to floor regulations, but evidently not. 

Jumping to the rear end of the car, Red Bull have made very little to no upgrades on the RB16B. We noted they added S-slots, just as McLaren did with the MCL35M (Haas have also previously done this with the VF-20). We also identified the incorporation of stepped vortex generators — despite not being brand new to this year, they are still relatively notable, having only been introduced in the second half of last season.

Front view of the RB16B

And finally, we move on to the front of the car. It’s pretty difficult to spot any major differences — because there aren’t any. It may be quite surprising to hear Red Bull have continued to favour an upwash wing design (marked in yellow) as opposed to outwash — even Mercedes made the switch to the outwash approach last season. Here’s a quick recap on the difference between the two: upwash sends air from the front wing above the front tires, while outwash sends air outwards, between the front wing and the tires. The nose tip of the nostril (marked in red) has discernibly evolved to form more of a ‘U’ shape; the RB16 had a more oval-shaped tip. The front brake ducts are also now more refined and produce less drag (marked in blue).

Red Bull only released 2 different angles of the 2021 RB16B which means unfortunately we cannot take an in-depth look at the bargeboard area. Due to regulation changes, new and innovative ways of creating downforce have to be thought out by the F1 teams, and we are very curious to see how Newey and his team coped with the undertaking. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Read More about the Mercedes car launch here and more about the technical analysis of the MCL35-M here.

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