Bold new Red Bull RB18 RaceFans


Red Bull has finally revealed its contender for the 2022 Formula 1 season on the first day of testing. Suddenly it became clear why they were being so secretive, displaying a show car at their “launch” event two weeks ago.

The team that has so often innovated with its designs has produced another striking machine for a new set of regulations. Its overall design philosophy is clearly focused on aggressively optimizing its aerodynamics in the signature style of Technical Director Adrian Newey.

Perhaps the most eye-catching feature of the “real” RB-18 is the sidepod. The concept is unlike any other seen in the field.

It aims to strike a balance between creating downdraft for the diffuser at the rear of the car and guiding air through the aggressive undercuts. At the front of the pontoon, the Red Bull features a “shelf” or “tray” in front of the entrance (1) to help separate the pontoon from the ground and further extend the entrance to the undercut agressive.

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Towards the rear of the pontoon, in order to create a downwash, the undercut is sacrificed and the lower half of the pontoon flares out, becoming quite wide (2). This is in stark contrast to Mercedes’ philosophy of making the rear of the car as tight as possible.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2022

Viewed from the front, the pontoon entry opening is rectangular and wide, but its height is short to accommodate the undercut. The side view reveals how short the first part of the pontoon is due to the undercut, indicating that the radiators inside must be very compact and steeply angled.

The sidepods flare wide, almost the full width of the car. This is similar to Ferrari’s concept, aiming to push tire wake as far as possible.

The RB18 is the only other car in McLaren’s MCL36 to use a pull rod front suspension. The front suspension geometry is also unique. The upper control arm pickup points (called A-arms or triangle) vary significantly in height between the front and rear (3).

This can be an aerodynamic idea: place the wishbones in favorable flow regions to have clean airflow into the pontoon entrance and undercut. It may also include providing “anti-dive” suspension geometry.

Anti-dive geometry is commonly used in motorsport to prevent the car from “diving” under braking. This allows the contact patch on the front tires to be consistent during braking, but is also particularly useful when performing pitch-sensitive underfloor aerodynamics.

The rear of the car now sports a pushrod configuration, which is proving to be a popular choice among teams to help provide more space for airflow over the diffuser. This geometry also allows the RB18 to have a shorter gearbox which in turn helps shape the rear of the car, producing cleaner airflow over the top of the diffuser.

The upper control arm also has some “attitude”. This is seen most clearly on the AlphaTauri AT-03, which shares the rear suspension and gearbox (4). This may be a design choice to increase anti-squat which would complement the anti-dive geometry to help keep the ground as flat as possible around the track and also alleviate any “porpoising” that may occur from the stream separation.

Red Bull opted for a different strategy than their sister team at the front of the car. The front wing of the RB18 has a full length slot space (5) on the first element and the nose is not attached to the mainplane. The profile of the leading edge does not vary much in height and the mid-section of the mainplane sags slightly to the lowest height permitted under the regulations.

The wing looks overall loaded at mid-height (6), with the innermost part of the front wing dropping down to allow clean air to enter the subfloor inlet (7). The angle of attack of the front wing assembly is more aggressive than Mercedes, with the twisted end plates at the rear to direct air around the front tires. [8].

Additionally, similar to Ferrari, it appears Red Bull has also opted to separate the front part of the nose attached to the front wing from the crash structure to facilitate aero development over the course of the season.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2022

The team chose to flare the rear of the engine cover to accommodate the cooling outlets. Like many other teams, the cooling ducts are routed up the beam wing. The larger rear cooling outlets in combination with the pontoon design suggest that a good deal of the cooling takes place under the engine cover.

This is not a new concept for the Red Bull family: the AT02 raced by AlphaTauri last year incorporated central cooling and this has probably been taken over and optimized. Notably, Red Bull also left the option of cooling racks available for additional cooling, as they briefly ran a cooling racks setup in the afternoon of the first day of testing.

The ground is a focal point of the 2022 regulations and Red Bull has taken a very different approach to its design. While the likes of Mercedes opted to use four vertical splitters in the subfloor intake, Red Bull uses two on the outside, looking more like a barge board.

The exterior will work very similar to a barge to handle the turbulent wake of the front tire. The space between the inner and outer flaps is likely designed to generate a flow structure to help create a “curtain” along the edge of the undertray to help expand and seal the edge.

It is likely that Red Bull will also have the remaining permitted fences inside the ground entrance to help direct some of the central flow outwards to increase the effectiveness of the diffusers. Additionally, the RB18’s underfloor leading edge is fairly low and even across its width like the MCL36, but the larger leading edge radius allows the intake to be less critical to steering. flow, which increases aerodynamic stability in crosswinds or low-speed cornering.

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Red Bull has also innovated with the RB18 fin. Unlike the regulations for the front and rear wings, the rules do not impose a minimum or maximum allowed overlap on the two permitted elements of the beam wing and only define a maximum planform area (top view).

Red Bull has opted for a double-decker full beam wing whose profile closely follows that of the diffuser (9). This beam wing will act almost like an extension of the diffuser, conditioning the flow above the main diffuser tunnels to help maximize airflow expansion under the car. The slot space between the two beam members will help the airflow stay attached to the beam flange, allowing the curvature to be tighter, which in turn allows for further expansion.

The RB18 is truly a unique contender on the 2022 grid. Whether or not this radically different interpretation of the regulations will be an advantage for Red Bull remains to be seen.

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