[Why Red Bull thinks its dominant RB19 F1 car is just “average good”
In fact, providing Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez aren’t derailed by a dose of bad luck over the second half of the season, it could become the first F1 challenger ever to deliver a season clean-sweep.
But while the RB19 is leaving others in its wake, Red Bull’s own perception of the car is markedly different.
For it does not see the RB19 as being a particular stand-out contender that has delivered anything super spectacular. It is simply a car that is decent in all areas.
As Red Bull’s technical director Pierre Wache tells Motorsport.com: “It is average good for everything, which is creating a good car.
“It’s not very good in one aspect. Why we think it is good because we are quicker than others, but fundamentally I would say we didn’t do a fantastic job. We did a good job.
“I was more surprised by others, who didn’t do as good a job I would say. That is why our expectations were different from the beginning of the year.
“I don’t want to be modest or whatever, but when you see some teams are able in three races to gain one second per lap, it means if you put the stuff together, it will be decent. It doesn’t require two years of development.”
The 2023 prediction
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing
Photo by: Erik Junius
Although Red Bull finished the 2022 campaign in strong form, winning 10 of the last 11 races of the season, the squad feared that this year it would be pulled back into the pack.
It believed a combination of a change in floor regulations, Mercedes getting its act together on the zeropod concept and Ferrari switching early focus to its 2023 car, would leave it facing a three-way title fight.
Being unstoppable and winning all the races so far was certainly not something that it was thinking about.
“We didn’t anticipate that,” explained Wache. “We anticipated we might be in the midst of the fight for the win with two teams, Mercedes and Ferrari.
“We thought our advantage at the end of last year was not strong enough. And the change of regulation on the floor, rising the floor edge and the kick line, would bring back those teams.
“Then the loss of performance we thought we had during the winter, especially after October with the reduction of wind tunnel time we had, it would be tricky to achieve success. So yeah, it was a surprise at the beginning of the season.”
A better compromise
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19
Photo by: Erik Junius
The level of Red Bull’s dominance this year has prompted both rivals and onlookers to chase answers about just what the team has got so right with the RB19.
And, as time goes on, there seems to be more and more consensus that there is no single super element that stands out. Indeed, the RB19 is just, as Wache said earlier, ‘average good’ in every single area.
It seems to be more about how the entire package of the car works holistically – across aerodynamics (both downforce and drag), ride, handling, suspension, and set-up.
Some have pointed to Red Bull’s historic advantage in vehicle dynamics as being a help right now, but Wache is not totally convinced about that.
Instead, he thinks that the reality is that the RB19 stands out because the compromises needed to make the current ground effect cars quick are less on its challenger than others face.
“I don’t think we understand more than others, I think it’s more we have a compromise maybe better than others,” he said.
“I think everybody understands more or less the influence of the mechanical grip starts to be higher than in the past, and the stiffness has a big role in that.
“Then the link between the aero characteristic and how you have to run the car is bigger even than before. Plus, the regulations removed some dampers [inerters] that were very useful, and would be even more useful with this type of car, but we don’t have any more.
“I think it is how we developed the car that gave us a better compromise. But it’s not because we better understand.”
Wind tunnel penalty
Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19
Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images
What has been especially impressive about Red Bull’s advantage this year is that it has been maintained despite the squad facing the disadvantage of being at the bottom of the aerodynamic testing allowance restrictions.
A combination of topping the constructors’ championship, plus a 10% extra reduction in light of its 2021 cost cap breach, means Red Bull has had to work on developments for the RB19 in a far more limited way than it would like.
It currently gets 63% of the current baseline figures, compared to Mercedes on 75%, and Aston Martin on 80%. McLaren, because it did not score many points before the June 30 switchover, gets 95%.
While there are clear disadvantages to not getting as many wind tunnel runs as the opposition, Wache also suggests something interesting – that being aware of the deficit has forced the team to be sharper and more tactical in its approach.
“In our situation, to be honest, it is a disadvantage for sure,” he explained. “But it is an advantage to push the team to make sure that you don’t explore useless stuff.
“The efficiency of what you look at has to be reviewed, whereas before it was not as reviewed as much.
“It helps us also to be hungry, because in the team and especially in the technical team, we don’t understand getting this kind of penalty, because we have done a good job.
“They take it as a personal attack, so they will do even a better job, and the motivation is even higher. I think there is some advantage for that.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Although the RB19 has won every race so far this season, things have not been easy everywhere – and it is clear the challenge from the opposition is still strong.
Red Bull is certainly not sitting back and expecting the good times to keep rolling, as it says there are weaknesses that need addressing if the success is to keep on coming.
Asked if there were car issues that kept him awake at night, Wache said: “Everything is waking me up at night! I think the team is good because we are still realistic. Nothing is taken for granted with the other teams.
“I think in the high downforce case, and especially very high downforce like Budapest and Monaco, I think it’s where our weaknesses appear. Also, in quali, and in low speed.
“I think some teams have a better compromise than us there, and that is something we have to improve more on.”
And is this feet-on-the-ground attitude that leaves Wache sceptical about hailing the RB19 as one of the greatest F1 cars of all time, even if it becomes statistically the most successful.
“I don’t think so,” he said about it being one of the best ever F1 designs. “Maybe we realise that next year, because I hope next year’s car will be better than this one in absolute terms.
“The success of the car is great, but I think it is a combination of car and driver. Also, it’s all the hard work done since 2014, in rebuilding the team, the new people coming, the new organisation and everything together created what we have now. It has not come in an instant, nor by chance.”