Red Bull rear wing, Shanghai International Circuit, 2019

How Red Bull’s tech tweaks halved the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari in Shanghai

F1 technology

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Red Bull made a clear step forward with its RB15 in China.

The team corrected a fundamental set-up error with its car after Bahrain. This was believed to be related to the incorrect installation of a sensor, which meant Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly’s cars were not running the configuration the team believed they were.

The post-race test in Bahrain helped the team solve the error. “The chassis’s getting into a much happier place now,” Christian Horner told media including RaceFans following yesterday’s race.

“It’s been a positive weekend. We had a very good test after Bahrain where we understood some of our issues and we’ve gone some way to addressing them. There’s still some progress to be made but we’re on the right path.”

“We were definitely more competitive this weekend,” he added. “You look on the overlays, particularly sector one, sector two we were in good shape. Sector three we’ve got some work to do but I think we’ve got some upgrades and so on coming soon that will help with that.”

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Verstappen qualified just over half a second slower than the quickest car, a considerable improvement on the team’s performance in the first two races (see graph above). As Horner notes he lost most of that time in the final sector, which includes the 1.4-kilometre blast towards turn 14.

Front wing endplate

Red Bull front wing endplate, Shanghai International Circuit, 2019
Red Bull front wing endplate, Shanghai International Circuit, 2019

As well as fixing the sensor problem, Red Bull had to make the same tweak to their front wing for legality reasons as Mercedes. Unlike their silver rivals, Red Bull were able to do this before arriving at the track.

The team reverted to a pre-season design for its front wing endplate. In Melbourne Red Bull brought a revised endplate with a cut out in the top rear corner (1). As with Mercedes this exposes the wing tip (2) for a greater outwash effect.

In China the endplate was closed and the wing tip joins the top edge of the endplate. This creates a stronger tip vortex, as the pressure building up on the wing is retained by the enclosed endplate, then it will still create an outwash effect as the tip vortex spills over the endplate, but the path of the vortex will pass higher and closer around the front tyre.

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Rear wing

Red Bull rear wing, Shanghai International Circuit, 2019
Red Bull rear wing, Shanghai International Circuit, 2019

Two rear wing specifications were available, being of higher downforce or lower drag specification. The difference in lift/drag ratio being achieved with the angle of attack being either from deeper or shallower wing profiles.

The different wing profiles required different mounting pylons. The deeper higher downforce/higher drag wing had a new DRS pod, albeit having been tested pre-season. Red Bull continue to use a single pylon (1) over the exhaust and supporting the middle of the wing, while many other teams adopt a double pylon arrangement.

Both have advantages and disadvantages, Red Bull’s single pylon is lighter, with less obstruction to the airflow, but a greater negative effect as it joins the rear wing which can upset the smooth airflow under the wing.

What’s interesting about this support pylon is the DRS follows a Toro Rosso trick where it has an extension (2) to support and pivot the rear wing flap for when DRS is activated. With larger more powerful wings and a greater DRS opening this season, there is greater air pressure on the flap and pivoting in three places reduces the structural load on the wing and makes it less likely to bend and bind on its pivots when DRS opens it. With the better support the flap can also be made lighter as it needs to be less stiff.

While the long straights of Baku may not flatter the RB15 when the team arrives for the Azerbaijani Grand Prix, their performance in China will give the team confidence they can now compete with Mercedes and Ferrari on more typical tracks.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Author information

Craig Scarborough
Craig Scarborough is RaceFans' new technical contributor for 2019....

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12 comments on “How Red Bull’s tech tweaks halved the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari in Shanghai”

  1. Very insightfull these contributions.
    Keep them coming

  2. Gasley did set fastest lap during the race. Therefor the graphics is wrong. ( i know iT was set with special new set of tyres but still)

    1. The graph states that it is the fastest time for the race weekend, not the race itself. I’d expect that to be the best times in qualifying, and the graph does represent that qualifying order.

    2. As @phylyp notes it’s the fastest times from the entire weekend, not just the race.

  3. Hi Craig,
    What exactly was the sensor that had been installed incorrectly and what part of the car’s performance was affected as a result?
    Cheers Mikey

  4. Always loved your analysis, thanks Scarbs!

  5. @scarbs
    Thanks Craig. Very insightful.

    I have a question out of curiosity and also because it happened this weekend, how does an increase in tyre pressure compromise the set up of a car ?

    1. Most of a race cars suspension is actually in the tyres. So when you increase the pressure it is similar to hardening the suspension setup. Also, as a tyre inflates, it’s contact patch with the tarmac decreases, thus you lose grip. Finally, changing the air pressure in a tyre will alter how long it takes the tyre to heat up and reach it’s performance window.

      1. @Nige:
        Thanks a lot mate. Thats very helpful.

  6. Verstappen missed the final q3 lap by their mistake, which probably would have been even faster

  7. Got a feeling Ferrari this year is going to fall behind in development very early. Maybe as early as the spanish gp.

  8. These articles are great, good images, good insights and a good length

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