Red Bull engineers play down overtaking fears


As they look ahead to the new season, Red Bull's top engineers believe overtaking will be easier thanks to new rules.

Of course, we won't know until Melbourne, but in the meantime, as opinions differ as to whether the new rules will improve the racing, Red Bull's top boffins insist overtaking will be easier.

"The 2017 car will be clearly a more aggressive car in terms of looks," says Adrian Newey, "it will be wider, looks more muscle car, with bigger tyres for sure.

"One of the aspects of having a car wider, you could argue, is that it could be more difficult to overtake," he continues. "However, due to the aerodynamic effect and more drag effect it will have, the more time you will spend on the straights, you will have more opportunity than previous years to overtake in this kind of condition."

"The tyres themselves, if they are more durable, shall we say, than previous generations, then it will change the racing," adds Chief Engineer (Car Engineering) Paul Monaghan. "Not necessarily for the worse, I think for the better. We will have potentially more overtaking."

"The more downforce cars produce the more they can be affected by other cars in terms of their drag," says Head of Aerodynamics Dan Fallows, "so it could be that cars are able to run closer behind another car to use the slipstream down the straight, so overtaking in that sense could actually be easier."

As we await the launch of the team's 2017 contender, the guys talked about the challenge of the new regulations.

"Compared to 2016, when it more of an evolution, here (2017) you have to change everything, review all your procedures and try to optimise the car's performance based on something you don't know," said Chief Engineer, Pierre Wache. "It is very exciting as an engineer."

"It's probably the biggest set of changes we've had since 2009," adds Newey. "It's less of a challenge than 2009, certainly from an aerodynamic perspective, in as much as the flow structures are similar. But very different in the detail."

"There are many challenges, both as an aerodynamicist and as a structural engineer," admits Chief Engineering Officer, Rob Marshall, "it's been a long time since there was anything quite as different coming out of F1."

"It's extremely exciting," says Fallows, "because we get a lot more freedom in terms of areas of the car that can deliver quite a bit of performance and we always like to have the ability to play around with these areas."

"There's a feeling, which I agree with, that since we went from narrow track cars back in 1998, the cars have always looked out of proportion," says Newey. "Going back to a wide car with wider tyres, in proportion, they should look better."

Asked where the performance gains will come from, there is no doubt.

"Most of the gain will come from cornering speeds," says Marshall, "the increased downforce will mean the cars will be able to go around the corners quicker. Along with that downforce comes increased drag so the speed down the straight will be a bit diminished. That will play into the hands of those who have the most powerful power unit because they will have the benefit of being able to overcome some of the drag."

"Copse at Silverstone, Turn 9 at Barcelona, these are no longer corners," adds Newey. "These are bends in the straight in effect. It's a gradual march, we've already seen it at Eau Rouge at Spa, it used to be a big deep-breath corner and now it's simply a bend in the straight. This extra downforce, extra grip takes that direction further."

And performance gains from Renault (Tag-Heuer)?

"Renault has again done good work over the winter," says Newey, "Therefore we anticipate that this year they will have again closed the gap to our two main rivals.

"(Renault) made massive progress last year," adds Wache, "they promise us the same type of progress for 2017. This would give us the possibility to be closer to the leader and hope that the chassis differentiation will allow us to challenge them for the win."

Asked about the challenge of designing the car in terms of the new tyres, Marshall replies: "The presence of significantly wider tyres has a first order effect on the drag on the car, so much effort has gone into trying to minimise the effect these very wide tyres have in drag."

"On top of that the tyre will generate a lot more grip," adds Wache, "and will affect the suspension stiffness.

"In terms of the aerodynamics, because they are a lot bigger they've had a significant impact on the rest of the car," admits Fallows. "That's something we've had to deal with in the last few months."

Asked what aspects of the RB13 pleases most, Newey admits: "I hope the car is cohesive. I don't think there's any one particular piece to point out and say that bit's amazing, 'I did that bit Mum', it's how it all hangs together."

"It's a very neat package," adds Monaghan. "It's a nice looking car, the bodywork rules have improved the aesthetics of the sport and if you ever get the chance to look under the skin it's beautifully designed and beautifully made. So any bit of it between the front and rear wing, I think, is fantastic."

And doubts about designating the car the RB13?

"Superstition is not part of F1," says Wache. "It is an engineering, racing category, it should not be a question of luck. And I don't think it is, if you have the quickest car and a very quick driver normally you will win the race."

"RB13 doesn't worry me," grins Monaghan. "The aim is to have both world championships back in our possession at the end of the year."

"Number 13 is not luck, it's superstition," says Newey, "and I'm not superstitious. The first car I was responsible for at McLaren was the MP4-13 and it won both championships."

And this time next week testing will be underway.

"The first test is one of the most exciting aspects of the season," admits Wache. "First you see the other cars, your car, you try to assess the performance, try to understand what is going well or wrong with your car, try to anticipate that, try to sort out the problem."

"It's that typical feeling of... after the exhaustion at the end of the season you head into the winter, you do your work and suddenly it's time to think 'yeh, time to get going again now, time to get out on circuit and see where we are'," adds Newey.

Asked what excites them most about 2017, unsurprisingly self-interest plays a key role.

"It would be nice to see a change in the order," admits Newey. "Not just for Formula One, but speaking selfishly if we can be at the front of that changing order it would be fabulous. For Formula One it would be good to see some good inter-team racing."

"The new regulations have opened up aerodynamic development again," enthuses Marshall, "whereas in previous years it had plateaued. Hopefully this has given us a bit of a chance to close the gap to the leaders."

"We've moved into an era where aerodynamics are as important as they ever have been," says Fallows, "and I believe we have the best aerodynamics department on the grid. I believe we're able to challenge anybody and I'm really looking forward to the challenge."

"When you have regulation changes like this there are always more ideas than there is time available," says Newey. "You can't pursue every single avenue you can think of so you have to prioritise. Whether you've prioritised on the right things or not, time will tell."

"We proved last year that on the chassis side we are able to create something good," says Wache, "and with the change of regulation we have the hope that we will challenge more the leader of last year."

"Hopefully, we will be able to close the gap to the lead," adds Marshall. "We did that to a certain extent last year, we were more competitive last year than we were the year before, and during the year we closed the gap up so we hope that we can close it up further."

"Changing the rules doesn't change the fact that we want to be world champions," says Monaghan. "It's what we want to do. Whether we can do it, you'll have that answer round about November."

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Published: 20/02/2017
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