Has Red Bull’s front wing trick cured its aero anomalies?

In a bid to get on top of its problems, the Milton Keynes-based outfit has not only been bringing regular scheduled updates but also making direct comparisons on both cars to weed out where it might have gone wrong.

As a result, the front wing, an aspect of the car that has always seemed to be one of Red Bull’s strengths, has gone through a transformation several times already this season.

But what was spotted at the Nurburgring last weekend was a step above what many people expected.

The Red Bull mechanics, who are usually very careful about how they show the wing at the front of the car, inadvertently exposed its inner-design momentarily, giving us sight of a furrow that’s been ploughed in the underside of the footplate region.

Red Bull Racing RB16 front wing footplate detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This is a particularly sensitive section of the wing. Primarily this is because teams are battling constant changes in pressure due to the ever-changing ride height of the car, and the proximity of the wing to the ground.

Beyond that, they are also looking to set up flow structures that deal with the wake turbulence created by the front tyre, which can be damaging to the performance of the floor downstream.

Teams deal with this very differently and you’ll often see changes made by teams to the footplate region in order to alter the shape and strength of the vortex that’s shed, subsequently altering the turbulence created by the front wheel.

The discovery of this furrow beneath the RB16’s front wing does have some interesting connotations though, as the team has clearly looked at the rules in a different way and this negative space will have an impact on the distribution of pressure.

It does also raise the question as to whether this is part of a larger system, which would likely be used to improve the performance of other aspects of the front wing too.

As such it’s interesting to note that as part of its ongoing development work, Red Bull introduced an endplate design several races ago with what appear to be blowholes located in the upper rear corner.

Red Bull Racing RB16 front wing endplate detail

Red Bull Racing RB16 front wing endplate detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

If the wing is indeed hollow and airflow is being fed from the underside of the wing to this upper corner, the resultant effect would be to manipulate the vortex shed at the wing tip.

This is something that has been a priority for the teams since the regulations were changed, and we have seen teams alter the shape of the endplate to accommodate.

Front wing endplate of the Red Bull Racing RB15

Front wing endplate of the Red Bull Racing RB15

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Red Bull, like some of the other teams, had a notch cut out of the upper rear corner of the endplate last season in order to alter the effects of this vortex. The blow holes appear in this area.

Pinpointing the exact time that this design of front wing came into use is a thankless task, as getting a shot of the underside of the front wing comes down to being extremely lucky.

A photographer needs to be in the pitlane when a wing is lifted by the mechanics or be trackside when an accident occurs that requires the car to be craned off the circuit.

Alexander Albon, Red Bull Racing RB16 being recovered after crashing

Alexander Albon, Red Bull Racing RB16 being recovered after crashing

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

An example of this would be Albon’s accident during free practice at the British GP, which as you’ll note shows the front wing devoid of the crevice on the underside of the footplate.

How other teams are dealing with their front wings

Ferrari SF1000 front wing comparison

Ferrari SF1000 front wing comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari currently has two different configurations in use, depending on the characteristics of the circuit it is visiting. The resultant vortex has a different dispersion rate, whilst also having a different effect on the surrounding flow structures.

Racing Point RP19, front wing comparsion

Racing Point RP19, front wing comparsion

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Racing Point tried various solutions throughout 2019 as it looked to regain performance, with the team largely focusing its efforts on the length of the footplate.

McLaren MCL35 front wing detail

McLaren MCL35 front wing detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren has been busy trying to adopt a revised aerodynamic philosophy during 2020, with the outboard section of the front wing changed pretty early-on in the development path in order to deal with the front tyre wake differently.

Alfa Romeo C38 endplate design, German Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo C38 endplate design, German Grand Prix

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Alfa Romeo has also been working diligently on its footplate design, incorporating an arched profile that has its own strake on the underside and optimised on several occasions.

As we can see from the various solutions being deployed, the changes that were made to the regulations in 2019 have made it much more difficult for teams to utilise the outer portion of the front wing as a flow conditioning device.

It is why the cascades, canards and fins that were once mounted on the upper surface of the wing have been largely eradicated.

Mercedes-AMG F1 W10 front wing detail
Alfa Romeo Racing C38 front wing detail

This is why we initially saw differing design camps crop up, with Mercedes and Red Bull opting for a loaded design, whilst the likes of Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Alpha Tauri all favoured an unloaded design.

Both solutions hoped to create outwash, albeit in a different way to help deal with the wake turbulence created by the front tyre and improve performance downstream.

Meanwhile, beneath the wing, the aerodynamic furniture that can be deployed has also been significantly limited too, with just two control strakes available, meaning that the footplate region, which is a little more free in terms of what can be done, has become a focal point for development.

Red Bull Racing RB16 new front wing with holes detail

Red Bull Racing RB16 new front wing with holes detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

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