Red Bull front wing flaps, Bahrian International Circuit, 2019

Red Bull’s clever front wing flaps and more Bahrain tech updates

F1 technology

Posted on

| Written by

As the second round of the world championship, Bahrain has pros and cons for the teams.

On the plus side, the teams have had three days of running in Melbourne to learn and gather more data on their car. In contrast the Sakhir circuit is a very different venue with the extra pressure of higher temperatures stressing the power unit and tyres.

As a result, the cars have all had updates some of them in response to lessons learned in Australia or due to the nature of the Bahrain circuit, but most of the changes described below were pre-planned updates.

With the Bahrain heat, all of the cars have opened up their cooling outlets, with larger coke bottle exits and vent panels. Likewise, the brakes are worked quite hard in Bahrain and some of this heat goes into the wheels to heat the tyres, to counter this the inner brake drums are changed to shield the wheel from the brake disc heat. Lastly the long straights and the addition of a third DRS zone this weekend mean teams are playing with flatter rear wing levels to reduce drag.

Red Bull

No obvious updates have appeared on the Red Bull other than adaptations for the specifics of Bahrain. However, there one detail variation on the front wing, where the team have been very clever to meet the wording of the five-element front wing rules.

On the inner tips of the front wing, the rear most flap usually reaches right up the neutral centre section along with the other four wing elements. One variation of the wing has this rear most flap element stop short of the centre section. This meant that only four elements would have existed in this area, so Red Bull have slotted the end of the middle element. This split flap takes the element count back up to five.

Such a trick is totally legal and the sort of detail change we can expect to be applied to the wings as the season progresses.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


Mercedes W10 T-wing, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019
Mercedes W10 T-wing, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019

Mercedes’ focus has been on the rear of the W10. Updates have been added around the rear wing area for Bahrain.

The hanging vanes on the crease in the rear wing endplate have been modified, with three vanes formed in the opening rather than two. A double element T-wing has also been added, different to the testing versions with a pair of support struts reinforcing the T-wing along with the usual mounts to the rear of the engine cover.

Lastly – and most likely not new as this area of the car is hard to see – are a pair of fins mounted amongst the rear suspension. Mercedes has run this kind of fin the past. It serves as a pre-conditioner to create downwash for the airflow passing towards the diffuser.

The sum effect of these three changes would be to increase the efficiency of the rear wing, producing less drag for a given downforce level.

Mercedes W10 rear wing, Bahrain, 2019
Mercedes W10 rear wing, Bahrain, 2019


Despite the performance step in comparison to Melbourne, Ferrari haven’t brought any obvious updates to the SF90. There’s still debate regarding the drop in performance of the team from testing to the first the first, ranging from power unit reliability, cooling and tyre management. Naturally the team are remaining tight-lipped about what’s changed.

It’s clear Ferrari got things wrong for Albert Park, so much so they couldn’t recover the drop in performance from Friday through to the end of the race. From analysis of the Melbourne weekend, simulator work and the usual planning for the heat of Bahrain, Ferrari appears to have reversed the Melbourne problems, such that the performance gap between them and Mercedes has narrowed to the levels predicted through testing.

For the early season at least, the gap between the two teams is likely to be how well they adapt set up and strategy to each race track rather than the inherent pace in the car.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


Red Bull front wing flaps, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019
Red Bull front wing flaps, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019

Small changes have been made to the RS19. The revised front wing shape was retained from Melbourne, the exhaust now has a small ‘monkey seat’ flap mounted over it and the bargeboards have been revised. Like most changes at this early stage of the year, these aren’t all-new bargeboards, but simply a revised footplate has been fitted to the otherwise unchanged package.

Renault have made the bargeboard a bolt-together part to allow for just this sort of adaptation to be completed without resorting to making all-new assemblies. A similar approach has been taken on the front wing endplate, where the footplate can also be removed with series of screws.

The new bargeboard footplate extends the curled elements further forward. These both help with the outwash effect, but also with the pressure distribution under the floor, making the diffuser work more effectively.


McLaren bargeboards, Bahrain, 2019
McLaren bargeboards, Bahrain, 2019

Another team which has modified its bargeboards, McLaren’s changes are more pronounced and easily visible. They affect the boomerang section and the vanes mounted within.

At its launch the MCL34 wore a square edged ‘boomerang’ vane wrapping around the front of the allowable volume for the bargeboards. This almost stylised element has been changed for a more curved version, that slopes down from the monocoque. As the trailing edge of the boomerang is now lower, the downwash created by it will also be lower, possible to direct higher pressure airflow over the diffuser.

Inside the rectangle formed by the boomerang there are a set of six new turning vanes. These sit above the toothed footplate and add more complexity to the bargeboard package, a sign that McLaren are happy with the car’s performance from testing and the first race.

Go ad-free for just £1 per month

>> Find out more and sign up

Racing Point

Still learning about the new aero package it introduced in Australia, Racing Point spent part of Friday running back-to back-tests with some of the old parts. This included running the old, simpler mirrors, before switching back to the new complex set up.

There’s nothing to suggest there were problems with the performance or legality of the new parts, this sort of work is quite normal, to validate the effect of the new parts and conducted along with other work during the three hours of Friday practice.

Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso bargeboards, Bahrain, 2019
Toro Rosso bargeboards, Bahrain, 2019

The third team to alter its bargeboards, Toro Rosso have gone much further and have what can genuinely be described an all-new bargeboard set up. The old set up had a single large bargeboard, split at the top to make eight top vanes and only a small vertical vane mounted below it.

Its new set-up is similar on overall outline, but far more complex in between. The single curve main vane is split up, requiring aluminium supports in between them. Then the footplate and top castellated edged are modified to suit the multi-part main vane.

Having more vanes and edges the new bargeboards should be more powerful at creating outwash along the flanks of the car.

Alfa Romeo

Further iterative work has been applied to the Alfa Romeo, but in contrast to its rivals, this work has been done to the floor edge and not the bargeboards.

As has become vitally important over the past year, the floor edge has to primary aero tasks to achieve, ‘outwash’ and ‘inwash’. The outwash effect is achieved by the long slots starting the front of the floor, that run back to just head of the rear tyre. Working in conjunction with the front wing and bargeboards, this pushes the front tyre wake away from the rear of the car.

Then the second task is inwash to direct a high pressure airflow in between the rear tyre and diffuser, to prevent the tyre wake upsetting the diffuser’s performance. This effect is achieved with the slots directly in front of the tyre.

Alfa’s new floor changes the vanes in the transition in between these two effects, the forward vane directs airflow outwards, then the rear most vanes help direct the inwash effect.


Williams’ drivers admitted the team is behind schedule producing current-specification parts for its car, let alone introducing the upgrades it badly needs to cut its one-second-plus deficit to the rest of the field.

F1 technology

Browse all F1 technology articles

Author information

Craig Scarborough
Craig Scarborough is RaceFans' technical contributor....

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

6 comments on “Red Bull’s clever front wing flaps and more Bahrain tech updates”

  1. I’m loving these GP technical updates’ pieces. Keep’em coming!

  2. Let’s hope the 2021 regs bring standard front and rear wings, because spending countless thousands on millimetres of improvements is of no interest to anyone except a tiny minority.

    1. It keeps photographers in business though!

    2. I understand your point @Didi, but where do you draw the line before you end up with a totally spec car? If they don’t spend it on the wings they’ve divert development money to other areas. Any spec parts have to be combined with a spending restriction, & that’s proving almost impossible to implement.

    3. “spending countless thousands on millimetres of improvements”

      That is F1. The pinnacle of engineering excellence within a formula rule set.

      2021 regs better not bring a closed category ~ totally against the ethos of F1.

  3. BlackJackFan
    3rd April 2019, 5:02

    Thanks, Scarbs, for the Before/After photos. Without them I’m completely lost. And I like to learn.
    [Mind you, even with them I’m only a bit clearer… ;-) ]

Comments are closed.