While the tricky track conditions at the Turkish F1 Grand Prix have been pivotal to the unpredictable form so far, early indications point to Red Bull having made a step forward.
Both Max Verstappen and Alex Albon appear to be more comfortable with the handling of their RB16 than recent weekends – even though there was zero grip on offer from the Istanbul track surface – and that could be down to some detail changes made at the front of the car.
Red Bull’s performance push has certainly helped it close the gap to Mercedes over the course of the season, and a focus of its development effort as been on its front wing.
There have been three changes made to its front wing this weekend, including a revised shape for the footplate arc, the blister in the curved section between the footplate and endplate and the Gurney tab mounted on the trailing edge of the footplate.
These might seem like very small alterations in isolation, but as a collective they will have much more of an effect.
Think of it as a daisy chain, with one link able to cause issues for the whole chain. This means that more often than not a change in one area will result in the designers having to go back and optimise the others, which turns into a constant game of push and pull to find the best arrangement.
The shape of the footplate is something that is in a constant state of flux, with teams trying various shapes and sizes for the footplate over the years.
A more arched solution had become en vogue for a number of years but we now seemingly find ourselves at a point where a flatter, boxier shape is preferred, much like the one we see Red Bull using here.
However, it’s the central portion of the wing that had actually been changed the most in the last few races, with Red Bull having introduced a crevice beneath the wing that required the designers to effectively steal real estate from the footplate and endplate, resulting in a blister appearing on the upper surface.
It’s still unclear if the crevice is part of a larger system that could be blowing the trailing edge of the endplate, or it simply has an effect on the pressure gradient.
But what is clear is that its size and shape will be affected by these revisions, as the blister created on the upper surface of the joint between the footplate and endplate has been altered.
Meanwhile, the Gurney tab that has previously been square with the trailing edge of the footplate is now angled. This creates a joint with the outermost rear corner, as the team clearly likes to play around with how the vortices that are formed in this region operate.
Red Bull has also arrived in Turkey with a new cape to try out, which features a letterbox-style inlet on either side of the section where it is drawn away from the main body of the nose.
The shape of the inlet suggests that airflow will be drawn from the upper surface to the underside to boost performance. It could be that the long cape it has run hasn’t been working as anticipated or providing the kind of aerodynamic consistency it would like.
Red Bull evaluated the different configurations during Friday’s free practice sessions, whilst the car was also fitted with kiel probe rakes to gather data on the performance of the parts.
This is crucial in the development cycle as it allows the team to assess whether the parts are performing as the team’s simulation work had anticipated.
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