Red Bull RB20, Bahrain, 2024

Pictures: Red Bull’s slim sidepod inlets and novel air ducts revealed at test

Formula 1

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The successor to the most dominant Formula 1 car of all time has hit the track in testing at the Bahrain International Circuit today.

Max Verstappen, the reigning world champion who is seeking to win a fourth consecutive title this year, took the RB20 out as the three-day began.

Red Bull shook their car down at a wet Silverstone on Tuesday last week, two days before holding its official launch at their headquarters. However Verstappen said it was too soon to form any useful impressions of the car at that point.

“It was slippery, wet and cold,” Verstappen told media including RaceFans at the car’s launch. “Everything was fine.

“The car started up well. It’s about just making sure that once they’ve put the car together, that everything is running because basically from there the car gets sent to Bahrain. And that’s where it really starts, you really start to learn more about the car. You put a proper programme together and you do a lot of different kinds of running.

Red Bull RB20, Bahrain, 2024
The RB20’s sidepods have thin vertical and horizontal intakes
Verstappen said he was waiting for his first proper run in the car to get an impression of the full scope of the changes made by Red Bull. He had tested a selection of different changes in the simulator.

“I haven’t really done a lot of the total car, like everything together, because constantly you work on development bits, so I still need to do that a bit more,” he explained. “But I prefer to always drive the car in real life first a little bit more to then have more accurate feedback for the sim. But so far I’ve been happy with the sim driving as well.”

Although the team described the car as an evolution of the RB19, which won 21 of last year’s 22 grands prix, it also has several eye-catching differences. Team principal Christian Horner said the world champions had aimed for “marginal gains in all areas” with their latest design.

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“You’re constantly looking to try and evolve. If you look at the attention to detail on the car, there’s some really exquisite detail. At the team, there’s been no complacency. They’ve continued to evolve, to push the boundaries.”

Red Bull RB20, Bahrain, 2024
Further air intakes are situated behind the cockpit
The RB20’s distinctive sidepod inlets and tall engine cover have invited comparisons with Mercedes’ W14, a design that team moved away from following its introduction. After the car began running in Bahrain it became clear that the narrow horizontal and vertical cooling inlets on its sidepods are augmented by a further novel cooling arrangement behind the cockpit. Two inlets either side of the roll hoop, behind the driver’s head, gives room for further cooling.

“There’s some great innovation on the car as well that will no doubt get scrutinised over the coming weeks,” Horner continued. “Creativity has been strong in the team. You can see that in some of the solutions that they’ve come up with. It’s not a conservative evolution, there’s some great innovation on the car.”

The similarities to Mercedes’ previous design were “not tactical” said Horner, “it’s based on performance through our simulation tools.

“Obviously the car looks quite visibly different in certain areas to last year. Only the stopwatch will tell, but in the virtual world, we wouldn’t have committed it to design if we didn’t feel it was better.”

Pictures: 2024 Red Bull RB20 on track

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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28 comments on “Pictures: Red Bull’s slim sidepod inlets and novel air ducts revealed at test”

  1. it’s hard not to be getting that feeling we might’ve been Adrianed again! It’ll be especially annoying if we have, and they’ve done it with some Mercedes ideas

    1. Coventry Climax
      21st February 2024, 9:41

      Not annoying to me at all.
      If -yes if, we’ll have to wait and see first- they prove to be fastest again by a considerable margin, then again, they’ve done their homework better than anyone else, and show a better and deeper understanding of how everything actually works.

      Personally, I can see the humor of Mercedes being beaten by a car featuring ideas that where Mercedes in origin, but which they didn’t manage to fully grasp the potential of.

      I love it, when despite all F1 is doing to ‘equalise the playing field’, which is the euphemism of the century for heading towards spec cars, that there’s engineers that still manage to outsmart it all.
      To me, that’s what F1 has always been about. I hate seeing all these deliberate restrictions and can only admire there’s engineers still finding options.
      Mind you, that, e.g., applied to Mercedes’ DAS as well, it’s not about any specific team at all.

      I have no doubts there will be additional rules or even in season ‘Technical Directives’ (talking about euphemisms), should Red Bull prove to be ‘excessively’ dominant again.

      1. well technical directives didn’t help much last year did they? Whether it’s annoying depends what you’re watching for, I suppose. If you know who’s the fastest at the start of the competition, then the racing itself is less interesting isn’t it. The engineering contest is awesome, yes, just not really visible and most of it over already if there’s one big winner.

        Ant going on about how brilliant the suspension looks, almost like active ride.

        1. Coventry Climax
          21st February 2024, 10:25

          It certainly all depends on your perspective:

          well technical directives didn’t help much last year did they?

          Help what? The competition? And competition meaning? Other teams, with lesser engineers? Or atempting to keep the championship undecided untill the last race -or even last five minutes, like we’ve seen in the recent past?

          If you know who’s the fastest at the start of the competition, then the racing itself is less interesting isn’t it.

          To people that feel that way, and who I feel have no real interest in what F1 actually has alway been about, you’re probably right. For me, the interesting part always was to see what the others came up with to overcome the deficit, and attempt to gain an advantage. Actually, that’s what any fight or sports is about. Unfortunately, thank you FiA, that part of the competition is shut off more and more.
          I have no idea what your ‘perspective’ is; we’re talking two extremes here, and something a bit more in the middle might work for both of us?

          1. Unfortunately, thank you FiA, that part of the competition is shut off more and more.

            If you are going to keep blaming the FIA for everything that you don’t like about modern F1, do yourself a favour and at least make sure that the FIA is actually responsible for it.
            Most of the things you seem to hate about modern F1 have not been instigated by the FIA at all – but instead by the teams, the manufacturers and, most of all, by the Commercial Rights Holder.

          2. my perspective is watching a sport. More than, for example, trying to make out I’m a superior kind of spectator who’s so old he’s watched every race since 500 bc :)

            So I want to watch people doing awesome performances, and atm it is still interesting because I’m only getting that feeling we might’ve been Adrianed again! .

            Performances are always relative and so the point is to see who’s the most awesome and how they do it. Once we know who’s the most awesome and roughly how, that’s the question answered isn’t it. This is a key thing about any drama – the tension and when it’s released. I don’t want it released on Day1 of testing, so obviously after the morning I’m busy casting evil spells on the drinks company

            Ah, Lando!

    2. Reminds me of the time he took Brawn’s double diffuser idea to a whole new level

  2. It’s probably fast, but those two huge cooling channels coming off the DRS like on the Mercedes last year are absolutely hideous to look at.

  3. Coventry Climax
    21st February 2024, 9:24

    Pictures, but no new text.

    Except maybe for:

    the reigning world champion who is seeking to win a fourth consecutive title this year

    Consecutive means back to back, right?. Following one another?
    So consecutive could be a minimum of two, up to whatever, as long as there’s no interruption.
    Say the minimum, two, that would mean fourth consecutive is eight titles already. With three, that would be twelve etc. Sensational. And news indeed.

    I guess it should have been the other way round: ‘seeking a consecutive fourth title’?

    1. Is this how Masi exposed that any isn’t the same as all?

      Fourth consecutive = the fourth in a row, as in all four are achieved consecutively; unbroken
      There is no multiplier – fourth is the counter and consecutive is the descriptor.

      Who says “consecutive fourth, anyway?”
      Unless you are referring to a quarter (1/4) of something, or perhaps making a musical reference.

    2. Haha, you are treating consecutive as if it meant a pair. It makes no sense.
      And you’re totally wrong as well :)

      WDCs won:
      2021 = 1st title
      2022 = 2nd consecutive title
      2023 = 3rd consecutive title
      2024 = 4th consecutive title

      And your reversed word order would be used in such a scenario:
      2021 = 1st title
      2022 = 2nd consecutive title
      2023 = no title
      2024 = 3rd title
      2024 = consecutive 4th title (but not a 4th consecutive title)

      1. Correction: The last one should obviously be 2025:

        2021 = 1st title
        2022 = 2nd consecutive title
        2023 = no title
        2024 = 3rd title
        2025 = consecutive 4th title (but not a 4th consecutive title)

        1. Coventry Climax
          21st February 2024, 11:03

          Thanks for your explanation and time.
          I’m not an english native speaker, but it still strikes me as odd, and confusing, that -in your example- you’d use the word consecutive at all, for the driver’s ’25 title, when there’s a gap in ’23.

          I didn’t treat it as ‘a pair‘ only; I specifically said it could be 2, or 3, or more, in a row, back to back, following one another, no interruption.

          This is what the online dictionary says about the word consecutive:

          – following one another in uninterrupted succession or order; successive: six consecutive numbers, such as 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
          – marked by logical sequence

          Maybe the difference/issue is with using 4 or 4th? In the example above, the sixth consecutive number would be ’10’. (And no gaps in the range back to ‘5’.)

          But hey, it just struck me as odd, it’s not worth the hassle and I shouldn’t maybe have even mentioned it at all in the first place.

          1. It’s ultimately not as complicated as all that; in a row & consecutive are essentially exactly the same thing and can (more or less) be used interchangeably. You could also say back-to-back.

          2. “you’d use the word consecutive at all, for the driver’s ’25 title, when there’s a gap in ’23.”
            – Exactly, there’s a gap in ’23 therefore in 2025 it’s not a 4th consecutive title. It’s the 4th title and it’s consecutive but only in relation to the ’24 title.

            4th (what?) consecutive title = 4th among consecutive titles, 4th in a series of 4
            consecutive (what?) 4th title = 4th title, but only consecutive once (for all we know)

            In English noun phrases, the last word constitutes a noun (here: ‘title’). All the other words of the noun phrase are the so called modifiers (effectively adjectives) that modify the meaning of the noun. And they do it in order of proximity. So, a noun phrase: “4th consecutive title” is:
            1. The noun – “title”
            2. That noun is then being described by “consecutive”, making it “consecutive title”.
            3. The above noun phrase is expanded into “4th ‘consecutive title’ “.

            So, just like in mathematics, it’s a matter of the order of performing operations, and this here is:
            4th * (consecutive * (title))

            And then, the noun phrase: “consecutive 4th title” is:
            1. The noun – “title”
            2. That noun is then being described by “4th”, making it “4th title”. So it is said there’s been 4 titles, but nothing was said about there being any series to them.
            3. The above noun phrase is expanded into “consecutive ‘4th title’ “. So now it said that the ‘4th title’ is consecutive in relation to some other title, BUT without stating any number of titles making that series.

            consecutive * (4th * (title))

            Being a linguist, considerations of this kind are my daily bread. I wouldn’t, however, bet my life on the above being how this is actually used, because language usage is not always logical ;)

            Anyway, very cool of you to be sensitive to such nuances! Thanks!

      2. *2022 is the first title.

  4. This was how I expected Mercedes to implement their sidepods.
    The efficient air inlet and the rest of the bulk for airflow control.

  5. Coventry Climax
    21st February 2024, 11:21

    It’ll be important for the drivers to keep their sidepods in one piece when -I assume- it’s being such an important part of the car’s performance. Plus, the penultimate picture shows there’s quite a bit of electronics in there as well.

    I might have installed razorblades on the outside, signalling ‘Don’t try to run into me or face the consequences yourself’, but maybe such James Bond like gadgets would be more suitable on the Astons. ;-)

  6. Trolling masterclass by RB

  7. I think the Red Bull is a fine example of function over form, cos dang I think it looks fugly! Those big shoulders must presumably be housing some cooling elements of some sort, with the inlets by the roll hoop and the vent louvres on the side. I wonder how much weight is in there and what it does to the CofG, something that Mr Newey has always been very keen to keep as low as possible. Presumably the performance benefit of the huge undercut on the sidepods is worth raising the CofG a little bit.

    1. Worth noting also the the RB has quite pronounced shoulders on the engine cover, although not as big as the Red Bull and obviously the RB doesn’t have the extra inlets.

  8. Newey has dropped the ball before trying to push the envelope too much, Not many of his cars have been called ugly maybe that gives us hope. We are constantly told these are the best drivers in the world but how do we know the real pecking order when one team continues to dominate? I feel sorry for Max really because if he does start to win everything I think people will switch off in their droves. But entertaining sport involves close competition, and I think people are getting tired of F1 being an engineering showcase.

    1. Well it is happening for 10 years in a row now.(except 1) people already should have left by now.

    2. This is a mild evolution. They moved the lip even more to the top to get a bigger undercut and more air to the rear. Seemingly this became an overbite and they have designed a nice opening. It’s unclear if the vertical tiny inlets are an S duct at this point. The other openings are clever. The tube like structure is the only thing inspired from Mercedes looking at this car. The front wing seems bland. Rear wing, a standard evolution of a novelty Alpine and Aston brought last year. They’ve moved their suspensions a bit here and there. The floor edge wing is a more pronounced version of last year.

      This is no zero pod car. Looking forward to Suzuka since that’s where they’re rumored to be coming up with a more evolved sidepod.

      Red Bull have brought 4 sidepods so far these regulations with 4 sidepod inlets. That’s very minimal.

  9. They are viewing figures have dropped 17 million in two years.

    1. Yeah, but if the average viewing figures are around the 400 to 500 million mark, then 17 mill is a drop in the bucket. Not even a blip on the radar.

  10. Good god that thing is hideous. I didn’t very much like the haunches on the Mercedes last year, but Red Bull have certainly taken it to the next level on that front.

  11. I’m wondering if they just slapped these together to poke fun at a certain other team.
    Let’s see if the sidepods stay the same right throughout the test.

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