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ground effect era of F1 by Adrian Newey

Newey Reveals His Secret: How Red Bull Tackled F1’s Porpoising Effect

10/01/2024

Red Bull’s mastery in the modern ground effect era of F1 racing, led by Adrian Newey’s unique insights, redefines team strategies and car design philosophies.

Undoubtedly, Red Bull has taken the lead in the modern era of ground effect in Formula 1 racing.

Despite challenges in 2022 and 2023, particularly from Ferrari’s differing approach, the Austrian team’s RB18 and RB19 consistently dominated on race days, when it matters most.

Presently, all teams, including Haas F1, closely tied to Ferrari, are gradually shifting towards the Red Bull concept.

Ground effect era of F1: why was Red Bull the first to master this approach?

Part of the answer lies in Adrian Newey’s genius. His unique experience, being among the few current F1 designers who worked during the last ground effect era in the early 1980s, undoubtedly played a role.

Newey acknowledges this experience partly explains Red Bull’s minimal struggle with porpoising in 2022. Achieving optimal downforce without encountering this issue is challenging, as seen with Mercedes F1 and Ferrari at the start of last year.

“We approached the car’s concept in this way for various reasons – trying to understand the fluid dynamics and what we believed was necessary,” says Newey.

“But yes, I already had the issue of bouncing in mind. To be honest, I was surprised that no one really saw it coming because it was certainly a problem in the ’80s.”

Newey’s Groundbreaking Aerodynamics

“My first job was as an aerodynamicist at Fittipaldi, a small F1 team led by Harvey Postlethwaite. With ground effect cars in 1981, we decided that because we had such a rigid front, we could save weight by forgoing springs and shock absorbers, replacing them with a rubber anti-shock.”

“On track for testing, my first time rather than just spectating, we brought this solution to Silverstone. Keke Rosberg was driving, and when he passed the pits, the car bounced so much that daylight was visible under the front tires!”

“It was a lesson on how easy it is to misjudge and create bouncing; and that bouncing isn’t just due to aerodynamic shape. It’s also about how it interacts with the suspension and the body’s rigidity.”

“So, during that first test in Barcelona in 2022, I had this flashback! It was very clear that many had not thought about it at all.”

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