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Formula 1

The change Newey reckons is key to Red Bull’s 2021 F1 pace

by Edd Straw
3 min read

Red Bull’s decision to spend its upgrade tokens on a new gearbox casing to allow it to modify its rear suspension has been key to its Formula 1 success in 2021, according to Adrian Newey.

The majority of the design of each team’s 2020 car had to carry over into this season, although they were permitted two upgrade tokens that could be used to change a specific area of the car.

Red Bull chose to change the gearbox casing, allowing it to change the mounting points of the rear suspension to achieve a similar swept-back design to the one pioneered by Mercedes in 2019.

This increased the potential for downforce-generation at the rear of the Red Bull RB16B and eliminated a key weakness of the previous year’s RB16, which had a fundamental limitation that led to it having to compromise its excellent performance in the low-speed corners to make it better in quicker turns. The Race delved into these problems in depth here.

The change to the rear suspension, combined with the way Red Bull tackled the set of four aerodynamic changes that impacted the floor, diffuser strakes and brake drum winglets to cut rear downforce were key to the car being competitive from the start of the year.

“We had a mid-sized regulation change over the winter in terms of some aerodynamic restrictions around the floor and the back of the car – not major ones, but re-optimisation of the car to go with it,” said Newey in an interview on Red Bull’s ‘Talking Bull’ podcast.

“Then we had what has been unique, this homologation of the previous year’s car into this season as a result of the COVID problems of last year, which meant we were limited on what we could do to the car but there were tokens that we could spend.

“We decided to spend those on the gearbox casing and that allowed us to also change the rear suspension arrangement, which was the one thing I didn’t feel had worked that well on the RB16 of last year.

“So I think that was a decent step forwards, it seemed like we read the regulations changes on the aero reasonably well as well.

Max Verstappen Red Bull Bahrain F1 testing 2021

“When we got to testing in Bahrain, instantly Max [Verstappen] was very complimentary of the car and felt it was a good step forward from last year’s car. So coming out of the Bahrain test, we felt we had competitive package.

“And [in the] Bahrain race. we didn’t win it but we showed we were certainly competitive and it’s been nip and tuck since then.”

Red Bull has won six of the 11 grands prix held this year, although headed into the August break 12 points behind in the constructors’ championship with Verstappen trailing Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton by eight points in the drivers’ standings.

Aug 02 : Hungarian Grand Prix review

But it is regarded as having marginally the stronger package over the balance of the season, which is partly the result of the lessons learned from the struggles it had with last year’s car.

“Last year, at the start of the year there were some things on the car that we, in truth, didn’t fully understand in terms of the changes between the RB15 of 2019 and the 16 of ’20,” said Newey.

“It just shows that even though we have our windtunnel programme, all our simulation and so forth, there are still things we don’t fully understand and can trip you up, and that’s exactly what happened.

“So it took us a bit of time to understand and get on top of those. But as is so often the case when those things happen, you actually learn things that perhaps you wouldn’t have done otherwise,

“Sometimes you can learn more from mistakes than you can from the good things. So I think that stood us in good stead for what we did over the winter and in where we are now.”

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