Red Bull’s ingenious upgrade explained

Red Bull’s sidepod approach has received praise as teams battle to keep under the budget cap and avoid penalties.

In a strategic move to maximise their performance despite budget cap penalties, Red Bull Racing has introduced a significant upgrade to their car’s sidepods and inlets ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

F1TV’s tech expert, Sam Collins, referred to it as a “free upgrade” as the team optimises their aerodynamics within the constraints of their reduced testing time.

Due to their 2022 Constructors’ Championship victory, Red Bull faced the least amount of aerodynamic testing restriction time among all teams. 

However, they were still subjected to an additional 10 percent reduction due to the budget cap penalty imposed on them for overspending on their path to securing the 2021 Drivers’ Championship title. 

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Consequently, they now have access to only 63% of the standard allotment for aerodynamic testing.

Despite these challenges, Red Bull arrived at the Hungaroring with an upgraded package, primarily focused on their sidepods, which is estimated to provide a performance boost of “two-tenths of a second” per lap, as reported by Auto Motor und Sport. 

The new sidepods showcase flatter and thinner inlets, cleverly dubbed “letterboxes,” marking the team’s second significant upgrade of the season.

The upgrade arrives in the midst of Red Bull dealing with the ramifications of their budget cap penalty, making their progress all the more impressive. 

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Sam Collins from F1TV elaborated on the technical aspects of the upgrade, stating, “The sidepod is completely different to what we’ve seen previously. 

“They’ve gone for a very slit-type radiator duct and completely redesigned the cooling system.

“A lot of people are going, ‘What about the wind tunnel time?’ 

“I think they’ve been very clever because radiator redesigns don’t come out of the wind tunnel allocation, so they’ve actually got a bit of a free upgrade on that, I think.”

The true impact of the upgrade on Red Bull’s performance will be observed later in the weekend, but Collins believes it could be even more significant than the initially estimated two-tenths of a second per lap. 

He added, “That upgrade, I think, is going to be worth more than two-tenths of a second as the season goes on. 

“However, as we saw with Ferrari at the Spanish Grand Prix, when you do a drastic change to a Formula 1 car, it doesn’t always work right away. 

“So, perhaps, Red Bull have exposed themselves ever so slightly – at least at first.”

Meanwhile, the issue of budget cap penalties has sparked discussions in the paddock. 

Seven-time F1 World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, expressed his view on Red Bull’s 2021 breach penalty, describing it as a mere “slap on the wrist.” 

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Amidst rumours of other teams possibly breaching the cap in the 2022 season, Hamilton called for stricter penalties, stating, “It’s definitely a concern. 

“I mean, it wasn’t really a big punishment last time so there’s no real [deterrent]. 

“There’ll be people that will probably go for it again, and know they’re just gonna get slapped on the wrist.”