Is Red Bull’s ‘Cold War relic’ F1 wind tunnel claim valid?

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner believes his aerodynamic test penalty for breaching Formula 1’s cost cap is “extremely drastic” because his “Cold War relic” wind tunnel has inefficiencies.

As the constructors’ world champion in 2022, Red Bull was already on course to have the lowest wind tunnel and CFD time allocation in 2023.

But her punishment for breaching F1’s cost cap in 2021 includes a 10% reduction from the limit she is entitled to next year, which includes a reduction in the number of hours and races in wind tunnel.

Although Red Bull rivals and critics believe the team got away with this punishment, Horner believes it will have a significant impact and claimed it could be worth up to half a second a lap .

When Red Bull was in talks with the FIA ​​about reaching the accepted breach agreement that enabled the sanction announced on Friday, Red Bull technical chief Adrian Newey was brought in to plead its case.

“Adrian is better placed than any of us to describe the draconian nature of this [an aerodynamic testing penalty]“, said Horner.

Red Bull F1 wind tunnel

“And you have to remember that we operate out of a wind tunnel which is actually a listed building, it’s a Cold War relic. It’s not a state-of-the-art wind tunnel that our competitors appreciate.

“It was built in the 1950s and it has its own limitations when it gets too cold or too hot to bring the conditions and operating temperature in that tunnel up to the right temperature.

“So a penalty like this is extremely draconian.

“And Adrian, I wanted to make sure, had the ability to explain to make sure our side of the penalty in this discussion through the ABA process was presented accurately.”

Red Bull’s wind tunnel is based in a former RAE Bedford research facility, away from its Milton Keynes campus.

It underwent extensive refurbishment at the start of the 21st century after being initially used by Arrows and then Jaguar, the team Red Bull bought.

The tunnel is of good quality and is certainly fit for purpose. It’s not like Red Bull is working with largely outdated technology.

But one of the known issues with the tunnel is that it isn’t as efficient as newer designs at reaching the maximum wind speed that allows for the most reliable measurements.

Some of the time needed to reach this speed is calculated within the limits of the tests, which means that Red Bull can waste some of its time not obtaining useful data.

The upshot is Horner claiming his penalty “gives our competitors an edge, which is why they were pushing so hard for a draconian penalty”.

Motor Racing Formula 1 World Championship Mexican Grand Prix Practice Day Mexico City, Mexico

“And we’re going to have to work incredibly hard with the time we have,” he said.

“We’re going to have to be efficient with our time, we’re going to have to be efficient with the runs we choose to do in our wind tunnel.

“I have full confidence in our team and their abilities, I think they have demonstrated that time and time again.

“There were other sporting penalties that were available to the FIA.

“This one obviously came under intense pressure from our competitors, as they felt it had hit us the hardest.”

However, the rivals are unlikely to have any sympathy for Red Bull. An inefficient blower might just mean she feels that kind of penalty harder than others.

But ultimately, the quality of a team’s kit has no bearing on what a sporting penalty should be.

GARY ANDERSON

Factory

I’m not sure the Red Bull wind tunnel in Bedford is as bad as Christian Horner suggests.

And with the situation Red Bull have found themselves in, I wouldn’t expect anything more from them than to cry wolf (no pun intended) based on the team kit and how It is difficult.

I looked at it during my time with Jaguar and thought if it was updated in terms of rolling road and data acquisition it would be a decent tunnel.

Yes, it’s a big beast, but because of that, it’s very stable and the temperature doesn’t soar on its own over long periods of data acquisition like it does in some tunnels modern.

When I looked at it, my main issue was that the working section was a bit small in width.

When we had huge wash car features, which makes the car look wider, the walls were a bit too close.

So I think with these new aero rules reducing that overshoot, it actually played into Red Bull’s hands.

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