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What Red Bull was trying to hide from F1 rivals until tests

Those images only helped stoke the fire, as the mad scramble began to try and work out what the team was doing differently to its rivals. Well, we can wonder no more, as there’s no hiding in plain sight. But just what has the team attempted to hide? We investigate…

Red Bull Racing RB18 front detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The RB18 has a four-element front wing, with a dipped mainplane in the central section feeding the underside of the nose, which tapers outward from a slightly narrower tip.

There’s a driver cooling hole supplanted in the tip of the nose but it’s housed within its own panel which means it will be possible for the car to run without too.

Two slot gap separators crowd the edge of the nose tip and connect it to the mainplane, both of which are inwardly angled to encourage the passage of the airflow. Elsewhere around the rest of the wing, the slot gap separators and the front wing adjusters provide a similar service, as you’d expect given the lack of flow conditioning devices that the teams now have at their disposal on the front of the wing.

The wing’s connection between the mainplane endplate is relatively conventional at this stage, with just a simple downwardly arc-ed section before they meet. However, the elements are more aggressively angled outwards towards the rear of the assembly, to encourage as much outwash as possible.

This is further supplemented by the diveplane, which has been mounted quite low on the endplate.

Red Bull Racing RB18 front wing detail

Red Bull Racing RB18 front wing detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Red Bull hasn’t let the side down when it comes to the front suspension layout either, as while it has made the change to pullrods, its penchant for an unusual wishbone layout has carried over.

The forward leg of the upper wishbone is as high as the team could place it, while the rear leg is set back in a much lower position. The team has opted to place the steering arm in front of the front leg of the lower wishbone, in order that they work the passing airflow in tandem.

The design of the sidepods is where the new regulations appear to have created the most diversity this season, and Red Bull is by no means an exception!

Its solution appears to merge many of the designs we’ve seen from other teams, while also mixing in a few of its own.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The front section of the sidepod has a pouted facade, which sticks out ahead of the main sidepod to capture the airflow for the inlet, while also offering its services as a flow conditioner that also creates a significant undercut as a result. It’s also interesting that the team also has a different surface finish for this panel on the car too.

When looking at this section of the sidepod, it’s similar to the Aston Martin or AlphaTauri and rather than just having their boxy inlets, the top is cut off instead, enabling access to the section of sidepod where the radiators are housed.

And, in that respect, the RB18’s radiators and other associated coolers and electronics housed within have been packaged in a more reclined position than we’ve become used to over the last few years.

Their overall size is helped by the team’s use of centreline cooling, which has become even more prominent since it moved to the Honda power unit, with coolers and radiators mounted around the V6 ICE.

Red Bull Racing RB18 detail

Red Bull Racing RB18 detail

Photo by: Uncredited

Flanking the front corner of the sidepod is an elongated wing mirror stay, which like the Mercedes and Williams designs, works in tandem with the sidepods’ flank to direct any wake shed by the front tire away from it.

The mirror itself is broken up into several sections, with the main body formed of two sections, one of which is very thin and holds the mirror glass, while the main body – which is set forward of it – has the most distinct housing shape.

These two independent bodies are then framed by flow conditioners that wrap around the assembly and are considered part of the mirror stay bodywork.

The team continues to use small winglets on the side of the halo, while the tail section of bodywork has also been narrowed to a sharp tail-like profile to provide more flow conditioning (green arrow).

Moving back to the sidepod design, the high waisted mid-section continues to give passage to the airflow around the underside of the car, whilst also blending into a downwashing rear section that meets with the floor in a similar fashion to sister team AlphaTauri.

There’s no sign of cooling gills on either the sidepods or engine cover at this stage, with the team preferring a larger, high-waisted cooling outlet at the rear of the car that also creates a division for the airflow below it to make its way into the coke bottle region.

Red Bull Racing RB18 detail

Red Bull Racing RB18 detail

Photo by: Uncredited

Understandably there have been various solutions employed up and down the grid when it comes to the design of the underfloor tunnels, the floor and the diffuser. And, again, Red Bull has brought a different design to the party here too.

The leading edge of the floor butts up to the side of the chassis, as many of the designs do, before arching back towards the edge of the floor wing (blue arrow).

This not only features a small notch towards the rear, it’s also being supplemented by an interior strake that’s in close proximity (red arrow), which has a similar height and is cut off ahead of the leading edge of the floor. It will likely induce a vortex that will combine with those coming off the edge wing beside it.

As we move down the floor’s edge, we can see that one of the strakes is peering out from under the floor, diverting some of the airflow outboard (black arrow), while there’s a discontinuation of the floor with an arc rollup around halfway (green arrow), which feeds into a scroll thereafter as the team look to improve flow conditions on the floor’s edge and set things up ahead of the rear tire.

Red Bull Racing RB18 rear detail

Red Bull Racing RB18 rear detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The team opted for a pushrod rear suspension layout, raising the elements in order that there’s more room for the enlarged diffuser section, which means that there needs to be more room above it in the coke bottle region.

The rear wing features a single swan neck-style mounting pillar, which lies above the mainplane and connects directly to the DRS actuator pod, clearing the way for cleaner flow to the underside of the mainplane. The beam wing is an interesting interpretation and something we’ve not seen elsewhere, as it has two two full chord elements stacked on top of one another.

The rear wing also features a quite substantial V-groove in the central section of the top flap as Red Bull looks to balance its downforce demands with drag reduction.

The rear wing on the car of Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

The rear wing on the car of Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

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