February, 22nd, 2013 (F1plus/James Parker).- The Red Bull team then, during the winter months there was a lot of anticipation over the new RB9 and how yet again, it may push the goalposts even further away from the rest of the field. Whilst Adrian Newey and Christian Horner expressed an inclination that the new car might not be the all-conquering car that some may expect, you would be extremely foolish to write them off.
Now the reason that the boys from Milton Keynes were not so confident was that, inevitably, the massive title push they experienced in 2012 did take its toll towards the end of the year. Throughout the Asian leg of the season Red Bull were bringing more upgrades than you can shake a stick at to each Grand Prix.
The main focus of Newey was the rear of the car and numerous floor and exhaust upgrades were brought to India and Korea especially – these included improvements to the under tunnel device being innovated by Red Bull around that time. This development push really limited their time to focus on creating the new RB9 for this season so it was generally accepted that Red Bull would simply not scarper off into the distance come Albert Park in March.
But if we fast forward to the present day and the current second pre season test at the Barcelona circuit, it would be fair to say Red Bull are being very secretive indeed. Even at the relatively low key launch of the RB9 at the Milton Keynes base, cameras were pretty much banned from taking any pictures of the new car, leading to many people completely perplexed about exactly what kind of car Red Bull have for the new season.
Of course testing has begun, and although engineers do their best to cover up the RB9 with the boards in the Pitlane, it has given the opportunity for many to witness what the new Red Bull car boasts in terms of innovation. Although unspectacular in Jerez and what you would call solid during the first few days in Barcelona, it does seem Red Bull are keeping their cards very close to their chest indeed.
Red Bull's RB9 front section (Octane Photographic).
Testing has always been one big game of chess essentially, where teams will not look to give too much away in terms of pace or development, in order to stop rivals second guessing out right speed and development paths in order to copy certain elements of different cars.
Red Bull have become the masters of this strategy, as they not only look to do it in testing, but also race weekends as well during practice sessions. Throughout 2011 and 2012, both Mark and especially Sebastian would quite happily sit mid pack during practice sessions to muddy the waters in terms of outright pace. Of course come Qualifying more often than not, Sebastian would turn the wick straight up to 10 to reveal the true speed the car possessed and go on to capture pole position.
But then again, does it really come as such a surprise that Red Bull want to keep the RB9 hidden from as many eyes as possible? After all they do have a lot to hide. Newey over the winter months has definitely been a busy man and we can see many notable improvements over the RB8 in terms of design. Up front, and the nosecone sports a very interesting slot about half way up before the “step”. It has been highly speculated this slot but it mostly looks like a duct (similar to that which Sauber used in 2012) which pulls air from underneath the car and then transfers it through the hole and spits it over the top of the nosecone, creating more downforce in the process.
Of course the rear of the car is always going to be of big interest to most teams as Red Bull have been the masters of the exhaust and floor area over the past 3 seasons. For 2013, the RB9 sports yet again the under tunnel exhaust configuration that ran on the RB8 but it has been improved. The gap in which airflow enters has been split into two parts, whilst we are unable to fully understand why (unless we have Newey’s notebook) it could be down to airflow efficiency advantages, allowing a smoother passage for the air through the tunnel. The airflow could then be released (Potentially) in two separate areas near the diffuser area to maximise the effect this has on rear downforce.
Red Bull's RB9 back section (Octane Photographic).
Then of course we have the incredible ramp configuration which blends the exhaust tunnel together with the rear of the sidepod creating a “ski slope” esque type angle. The very deep and acute exhaust tunnel on top of the ramp directly leads the airflow out of the exhaust and onto the floor in which it is met with the shrouded half shaft, therefore utilising it as an aerodynamic aid in itself as it minimises the airflow disruption over the rear suspension. It is here that most likely the airflow that travels through the shrouded suspension components meets together with the air exiting the under tunnels and travel together through the diffuser.
The overall package of the RB9 is, as you would expect an evolution of the RB8, with optimisations over the entire car. The true performance of the Red bull in my view has not been revealed and I think they look very ominous indeed.
Newey is a very sly old devil and I predict that he will have a few more ideas in the pipeline for Melbourne. Performance can be gained from the sidepod area (airflow around the RB9) as well as further improvements to the floor and beam wing section of the rear of the car. What makes the Newey philosophy so interesting is that he has gone for an incredibly high bulkhead utilising the full step aspect of the nose with a fairly modest Vanity panel.
This in effect means the main focus of the RB9 is to drive that airflow underneath the front nose and directing it towards the side pod area. The Red Bull cars famously run with a huge rake with the front of the car much lower than the rear. It creates a snow plow type effect with the airflow with the front scooping it up and then directing it towards the rear of the car where it is needed.
Throughout the rest of the Barcelona test I expect Red Bull to really hide the true pace of the RB9 and continue to keep their cards close to their chest to a much greater degree than almost any other team out there. When you are expected to be THE team to beat, you want to minimise the chance for your rivals to see what kind of package you essentially have, and with all the secrecy going on in the paddock and the car launch, it appears Red Bull are doing best to enforce that policy.