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How Red Bull surprised everyone with their bold Bahrain upgrade

Red Bull's RB18 rolled out into the pit lane with a raft of upgrades for the final day of pre-season testing in Bahrain. RacingNews365.com technical analyst Paolo Filisetti takes a closer look...

If on Thursday we were struck by the look of the updated Mercedes W13, with its sidepods reduced to a minimal size, one can't be indifferent to the revised sidepods and floor of the Red Bull RB18, which rolled out of the pits in Bahrain on Saturday morning. It is not as radical a revision of the concept as it was for the W13, but it is clear that the Milton Keynes-based team planned - well before heading to Bahrain - to introduce this development package on the very last day of testing. What is most striking is the increased depth of the undercut in the lower section of the sidepods. It is deeper and also extends back much more than previously towards the rear end of the car. It is interesting to note how the lower section of the sidepods perfectly nuances with the floor side section, and follows a precise idea in terms of flow management.

Hugely revised sidepods and floor design

The floor itself is brand new with a completely different side edge, now featuring two cuts and a curl in the middle section to reduce porpoising and also improve (in my opinion, dramatically) the seal of the floor to the ground. The upper profile of the sidepods is now sculpted, reducing the top section volume to generate outward airflow management towards the bottom of the sidepods – enhancing the Coanda effect to keep the airflow adherent to the bodywork towards the rear end. A new version of the front wing is part of this package, sporting a different spoon central section underneath the nose tip. The overall number of changes is huge even if, outwardly, it doesn't create a 'wow effect' for casual observers.

Has Newey pulled it out of the bag?

However, the changes suggest that Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey has only partially exploited the potential of the modular design of this car, keeping in mind that it is always dangerous to produce a total overhaul of concept in one single step. The car dynamics and aerodynamics have to work together, not to the detriment of the other. If you have a step-by-step approach, (even through big steps) the balance of the car will not be negatively affected. In my opinion, with this step seen on the RB18, Red Bull now have an efficient weapon capable of contrasting Mercedes for the start of the season. It looks like Newey, as he usually does, followed a humble approach, in an understated manner. That's completely different to the Mercedes approach. Now it is interesting to see which one will pay dividends soon. I have an idea on that…

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