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Why is Red Bull’s 2023 F1 car so quick?

Why is the Red Bull 2023 Formula 1 car so quick? Adrian Newey, Pierre Wache, Craig Skinner and Enrico Bablo lead design of the RB19

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Red Bull have had a perfect start to the 2023 Formula 1 season after back-to-back 1-2 finishes at the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, plus a couple of pole positions.

One point separate Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in the championship with both drivers having dominant wins, leaving everyone else thinking, are Red Bull catchable.

Given the RB19 has been, on average, around 0.6 seconds quicker than any other car at the opening two events, a number which could be higher if Red Bull were not showing their full hand, it feels like game over already in the constructors’ championship.

Red Bull have scored 87 out of 88 points, missing out on points perfection, after Zhou Guanyu set the fastest lap at the Bahrain GP, and are 49 points ahead of Mercedes and Aston Martin.

Huge credit has to go to Red Bull‘s technical team because they have produced a monster, which Lewis Hamilton claims is more dominant than anything he has seen in his F1 career.

The Adrian Newey factor

You will have heard about Adrian Newey, who is Red Bull‘s chief technical officer and has been with the team since 2006.

Newey is seen as the mastermind for Red Bull‘s rise up the pecking order which culminated with four consecutive world titles with Sebastian Vettel between 2010 and 2013.

He also has huge success with Williams and McLaren, designing title-winning machines for Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill, Jacques Villenueve and Mika Hakkinen.

“In F1, every year we take a close look at the regulations of the next [season],” said Newey.

“Part of my job, perhaps even the part I like the most, involves figuring out what these regulations mean, what is their intention and if a subtle difference allows [us to explore] new horizons.

“Basically, I say to myself: ‘How can I take advantage of them to test something that has not been done?’

Adrian Newey looks on in the garage during practice for the Saudi Arabian GP | Mark Thompson/Getty Images

“The car comes from some ideas, it comes from the artistic part of the brain. Probably everyone could create something that would be beautiful, but this does not mean that it will go well.

“So, you have to weigh the ideas with the physical and mathematical side, and this requires high discipline.”

He continues to use a standard pencil rather than the computer-aided designs which have been used for over a decade in F1 by every team.

“What I appreciate about the drawing board is that you can have everything to scale in front of you, whereas in a CAD system you are limited by the size of the screen,” added Newey.

“I also like the fact that I can freely draw a drawing and change it with quickly. My consumption of erasers is only comparable to my consumption of pencil leads.

“It allows me to underline and take notes more easily, it gives me valuable extra time for reflection, as my thoughts are predetermined to think shape and form, problems and solutions. The goal is increasing the car’s performance.”

Christian Horner, Adrian Newey and Helmut Marko at the Saudi Arabain GP | Lars Baron/Getty Images

Red Bull’s technical team

It’s not all about Newey though as hundreds of people and incredibly clever minds go into building an F1 car.

Red Bull have had just one winless season since 2009, which came in 2015, so even during Mercedes‘ most dominant years, they still won races.

They may have had a big engine deficit, but the aerodynamics and mechanics of the car meant they were strong on the slow speed circuits and could match Mercedes in the corners.

Pierre Wache is the team’s technical director, joining the team in 2013, having previously worked for Michelin.

His knowledge of tyres will be an important factor in how the Red Bull is so light on its tyres, a trademark for the last decade.

Then there is chief designer Craig Skinner, who joined Red Bull in 2006 and has moved up the departments, specialising in aerodynamics.

Pierre Wache talks with Enrico Bablo during F1 pre-season testing | Mark Thompson/Getty Images

There is the head of aerodynamics himself, Enrico Bablo, who moved from Mercedes to Red Bull in 2018 and is one of the best aerodynamics in F1.

Ben Waterhouse is Red Bull‘s head of performance engineering, having been with the Milton Keynes-based team when it was created in 2005, before spells with BMW-Sauber, Toro Rosso and returning to Red Bull in 2017.

These are just some of the key people that make up the best technical team in F1 and they deserve huge credit for building a car in 2021 that ended Mercedes‘ dominance, a machine that comfortably outdeveloped Ferrari in 2022 under new regulations and what looks like another championship-winning car for 2023.

“I think the team is operating at an incredibly high level throughout the organisation because you don’t get a result like this by just one department doing it,” said team principal Christian Horner.

“It’s all aspects, whether it’s the aero team, whether it’s the design office, whether it’s vehicle dynamics, whether it’s the production side, business operation, the trackside is such a small percentage of who we are.

“This is testimony to that work that goes on behind the scenes.”

Why is Red Bull so quick?

Somehow, Red Bull have managed to bring the key basics of building an F1 car together to have the most powerful power unit, the least drag, the best traction out of the corners, the most downforce and best tyre wear.

The RB19 has such a high level of grip that the drivers can stand on the throttle, with confidence, early out of the corners, which also helps them down the next straight.

Every single aerodynamic surface will impact the drag and downforce levels and this is where Red Bull have nailed the new regulations.

From their sidepod package, which many teams have tried to replicate, and more importantly, the floor, the car is producing so much downforce in the corners, without creating too much drag on the straights when the speeds go above 120mph.

What’s more impressive is when the DRS opens, the Red Bull gains more speed than any other car, another big plus point to the aerodynamics at the rear of the car.

Max Verstappen of Red Bull leads Charles Leclerc of Ferrari during 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Nobody apart from Red Bull will know how they have done this and the theories of a flexible-floor, which creates downforce in the corners and doesn’t produce much drag, or a clever suspension trick may come to the fore over the next few months.

Massive credit must be given to Honda too, despite the Japanese manufacturer officially leaving at the end of 2021, because their turn around from the McLaren days to having the best power unit in F1 has been nothing short of remarkable.

We might only be two races in, but the RB19 could go down as a very special car with some of the brightest people in motorsport building a potential record-breaker if the opening races are anything to go by.

Nigel Chiu
Nigel Chiuhttps://total-motorsport.com/author/nigel-chiu/
Nigel Chiu is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who worked at Total-Motorsport for 18 months until May 2023. He has been following F1 since 2007 and hasn’t missed a Grand Prix weekend since. Nigel’s worked with several motorsport websites, plus Eurosport and subsequently went on to work with Sky Sports F1 where he travels to multiple F1 races each season.
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