Just a twenty minute drive from Red Bull Racing's Milton Keynes headquarters, the sun is shining brightly over a nice dry track at Silverstone Circuit. However, we chose to drive to the southern tip of Europe to launch our 2008 challenger, the RB4, at the Jerez track, where grey skies and rain are the order of the day. Despite the wet track, David Coulthard completed an installation lap early this morning. 'It's great to see a new car come together,' he commented. 'Inevitably, a lot of parts were still arriving last night, so when I left for my bed it looked a bit bare, but this morning, there it was in all its glory! It looks super with lots of nice detail on it and given that it did its installation lap and came back to the garage, so far we have achieved all our targets! Now we have to build from there'.
Anxiously watching from the pit wall was team principal, Christian Horner: 'It's always a key moment to see a new car run for the first time,' he §äid. 'And particularly in the case of RB4, that first lap represents a monumental amount of work from the entire workforce. Over the last few weeks, all the departments have made Herculean efforts to get the car ready for this shakedown today'.Source - Red Bull
In 2004 the Austrian based Red Bull company bought the beleaguered Jaguar Cosworth team. From 2002 through 2004 the Jaguar team was only able to amass 36 points. Clearly, Jaguar was mired down in the mud, unable to perform at a level to substantiate the costs associated with Formula One. But, when Red Bull took over in 2005 things immediately turned around and got off to an impressive start. Red Bull's marketing tagline reads, 'Gives You Wings'. Red Bull basically tweaked the Jaguar's Cosworth engine and mated it to a chassis that merged new designs with that of the former Jaguar team. And all of a sudden, the former languished Jaguar team was given new wings as Red Bull Racing. And in its first season Red Bull Racing took off, achieving almost as many points as Jaguar had its prior three seasons combined.
After Red Bull's impressive first year the team suffered from incredible lows with a few highs as though suffering from their sponsor's product. In 2006, the team suffered with their first all Red Bull designed chassis. The team was only able to achieve 16 points, less than half the amount the team achieved in its first year. However, despite all of the poor results throughout the season David Coulthard was able to finish third at Monaco, truly one of only a few highlights of the 2006 season.
Toward the end of the 2006 season, however, Red Bull took another step toward being a major player among the tops teams in Formula One when it was able to coax designer Adrian Newey to come over from McLaren-Mercedes. Right away Adrian went to work designing an all-new car to improve upon the disappointing RBR2 chassis. The result was the RBR3, a radical departure from its previous predecessors. In fact, the RBR3 appeared to descend more from a concept from a sci-fi movie than from any racing pedigree. Immediately, however, the design proved to be more successful than the RBR2 despite some teething problems. Many possible good results were hampered by the car's poor reliability, including some strange mechanical failures. At one race, David Coulthard had a possible high points scoring result aborted by a broken driveshaft while Mark Webber's suffered poor performance during another race due to the fuel door sticking up into the airflow when the hydraulics failed to close the door. The highlight of 2007, and proof Red Bull were sorting out their issues, came at the European GP. In a race marked with constantly changing climatic conditions Mark Webber was able to make his way through the heavy rain to a third place finish, while teammate David Coulthard was able to come home a solid fifth.
The improvement of the RBR3 chassis and the disqualification of McLaren-Mercedes helped propel Red Bull to a fifth place finish in the Constructor's title race; the best ever result for the team. Given the solid fifth place in the Constructor's race, and that it was only Adrian Newey's first year as head designer, Red Bull could be excited about the future. The RBR3 proved to be stable and powerful. Quite often the Red Bull chassis seemed up to the task of challenging the Renault team, who supply Red Bull its engines. Given its performance, it was obviously Red Bull had a promising chassis in which to build upon, and this would be very important for 2008 given the loss of driver aids, such as traction control (see BMW Sauber F1.08 article).
There is an old saying, 'Why reinvent the wheel' and it appropriately applies when it comes to Red Bull's new RBR4. It is not surprising that at the time of the RBR4's launch it bore much similarity with its predecessor with only a few disparities in design. At the time of the launch, the RBR4 was fitted with a front wing with a more minimal scoop than that of the RBR3, and yet, the leading edge on the 2008 chassis is much more contoured. The front wing still boasts the same tri-deck design as that on the RBR3. However, the new chassis has incorporated a full upper profile wing that spans over the nose from endplate-to-endplate. This was absent on the RBR3 at the time of its launch but was incorporated later on in the season. Speaking of the endplates, they are dramatically contoured to help the airflow going alongside the endplates to enter the scoop that collects the cooler flowing air and directs it to help cool the brakes.
The nose design remains rather unchanged from the RBR3 to the RBR4. The same platypus-style nose remains, though perhaps more pronounced. The same goes for the twin-keel design. This concept allows for the clear flow of air under the nose as the suspension wishbone arms attach, not under the nose, but to bargeboard-style attachments that also help with controlling airflow flowing between the front wheels and the nose. One of other changes on the 2008 chassis is the addition of wheel shields to the front tires. This is meant to help extract heat from the brakes. This feature was missing last season and was the focus of some controversy when Ferrari introduced them. The argument was that they perhaps helped with aerodynamics, but they have become widely accepted, and thus adopted by many of the teams.
Working back from the nose, much remains the same, or only slightly altered. The sidepods are pulled tightly in at the bottom to help with the efficiency of airflow into the radiators and around the car. This design, in conjunction with the bargeboards, helps direct the greatest amount of air into the radiators without having to make the opening so large as to hinder aerodynamic efficiency by creating a large amount of drag.
It would seem the Red Bull designers just can't make up their minds as to where the mirrors should be positioned for the greatest efficiency. When the RBR3 was launched last year the mirrors were placed far out on the sidepods, similar to that Ferrari introduced in 2006. As the 2007 season went on, the outer location was abandoned for a more familiar location of being attached to the nose bulkhead. Then, at the time of the RBR4's launch the mirrors had been moved back out on the sidepods. But then, the team's designers decided to move the mirrors back and attach them to the nose. At the beginning of the season the RBR4 utilized sidepod shields similar in design as those on the previous year's chassis. Of course, the team is constantly testing looking for that edge, even 'barrowing' concepts other teams use, and Red Bull is no exception. Come Spain, the team utilized a shield design that attached to the sidepod and the bargeboard/deck arrangement. This design feature furthered to help control and direct airflow around the sidepods and side of the car. One of the causes of drag is when the flow of air is impacted by another flow of air from differing angles. So controlling airflow as it flows around the car is important so as to not strike the other flow of air further away to the side of the car. By the addition of these shields airflow passing between the suspension members, to the radiator and then around the car is then controlled and directed to a greater degree, helping to minimize destabilizing drag.
The area around the cockpit remains almost untouched with the exception of the protection devices that protect the driver's head from impact. The inlet of the airbox remains the same. The same small airfoil attached to either side of the air inlet box remains on the RBR4. This feature was added to the RBR3 after a few races into the 2007 season. This airfoil helps direct the flow of air to the rear of the car, especially the rear wing. The T-wing and the chimney have been redesigned and incorporated together, whereas they were separate pieces in the RBR3 chassis design.
At the time of the RBR4's launch there was a more dramatic dorsal-style fin designed into the spine of the cowling than what was incorporated into the cowling of the RBR3. Producing this dorsal-style fin is a cowling more tightly wrapped, pulled in tighter toward the engine. At the time of the pre-season test at Barcelona, the Red Bull design team unveiled a whole new cowling concept which had an impressively larger shark fin design. This larger dorsal fin helps to stabilize the air at the rear of the car, which is important to achieve the greatest performance. The mid-span wing, that also helps control the flow of air at the rear of the car and that attaches to the rearward tip of the engine cowling spine, remains practically the same.
The rear of the car has undergone some improvements. The shields that run inside the rear wheels, and that help to stabilize airflow going past the rear wheels, however, remain untouched. As with the RBR3, the rear wing mounting pylons attach to the chassis close to the engine and sweep back at a great angle where they join with the rear wing itself. This design means the stress on the rear-wing is transferred to the pylons, but being positioned as they are means the airflow at the rear of the car is disturbed to a lesser degree. However, the rear wing has undergone some major changes. The leading edge of the RBR3's rear wing was dramatically contoured. The RBR4's leading edge has been redesigned with an angle that is much more in a straight line. Over the length of the wing there is a variation in the amount of camber, or arc, the wing takes. This provides an optimum level of either downforce or speed along the horizontal plane at the rear of the car. This helps the RBR4 to remain a stable, and yet, fast platform. And the ability to be stable, and yet, fast is of paramount concern in this 2008 season with some of the driver aids being banned.
Given the team's obvious commitment for the future and their ability to rebound from what was a rather disappointing 2006 season, Red Bull looks poised to not only improve year-after-year but to become a serious contender. The fact Red Bull, who buys their engines from Renault, has been leading the Renault team in the Constructor's championship through the first part of the season is evidence of the team's commitment. The RBR4 is the fruit of that commitment and a true sign Red Bull has truly come into its own.By Jeremy McMullen