As soon as the cover of the new Red Bull RB11 came off during the Jerez pre-season testing, everyone was shocked to discover the clever camouflage livery on the car. This was of course done with the intent to keep all the parts and innovations of the car inconspicuous. But the sharp eyes of the camera shutters eventually caught most of the details and elements for us to think about.
The evolution from the RB10
If you take a close look at all the pictures of the new car, you will clearly see that the new car is a straight evolution of the last year’s machine. Apart from the changes at the front, the car looks more or less like the RB10. But, as of course, few minor changes, as expected, are made to give favorable effects. The team has also stuck to its principal of having a tightly packed rear end around the Renault package. About the new car, Chief Technical Officer of Red Bull Racing, Adrian Newey said the following: “The design of the RB11 has been very much about understanding what we learned from last season, which was a big regulation change as far as the power unit is concerned and the packaging that goes with that and setting about optimizing the car from those lessons.”
The retaining of the S Duct:
One of the innovations, which the Red Bull and Newey have retained in this year’s car, is the famous S-Duct. The S Duct was first introduced by the Sauber in their in their C31 car during the 2012 season. Instantly, Red Bull also saw the benefit of introducing the duct and as quickly as 2013, the S-duct was also incorporated on their cars.
In fact, even last year, the duct was visible on their cars. This was also of course because of the fact that the team had to lower the lift tendency that the last year’s nose created. Since then, you can say, the feature has become a common present in Red Bull creations, and it is quite certain, because of its back-to-back reoccurrence, that the car yield’s benefits from it.
Understanding the S-Duct:
Basically, the duct is an open space on the car, which is strategically situated right at the foundation of the nose with an opening created before the face of the bulkhead. This in turn allows favorable transit of air (or blocked air) from underneath the nose and bottom section of the car.
The air ultimately makes its way out of area in the question with the help of another gap right at the top of the car. The strategy aims and aids to stop the immobile course (of air) from creating at the paramount of the chassis.
The reason to call it the S-Duct:
This is of course because of the shape of the pipe used for moving the air in the motion which is favorable for the team. The “S” form of the tube basically begins at the bottom of the nose and goes out from the top side of the chassis.
The benefit of using the S-Duct
As stated above it aids the car by helping the blocked air under the nose (or also known as the thick boundary layer) to negotiate a better and a linear/straighter guide out of the car. This is basically beneficial as it make the air flow much faster, and in turn convenient, inside the nose/car which results in creation of higher points of down-force. Also, even though marginal it may be, the spilt-gap in the nose section can also amount to a slight weight loss in the chassis.
Interestingly a year before Red Bull had placed the duct on the lower side of the nose, but this time it has expanded to the dual extremity of the bottom. And thus the intakes of the duct can now be seen right below the camera attachment pods.
Why all the teams are not using S-Duct
As you know F1 is all about teams innovating things on their own, but as seen with many other elements, they just do not mind peeping into other cars and simply copying stuff from them. Removing the thick boundary layer can be beneficial for the cars, but all the teams are yet to adapt this S-Duct. This maybe because they believe they have other (ingenious) ways to re-direct the air from the bottom, or they believe that the system is not beneficial for their packaging of the chassis.
Last year, Toro Rosso, during their ongoing 2014 season, did introduce the S-Duct on their cars. The system was just like the Red Bull one, but this year it does not (till now) feature on their new car. Sauber, the real inventors of the duct, also has still not introduced the duct on their new C-33 car.
Of course adding in a duct, or any innovation for that matter, is not a matter of an overnight job. Many parameters have to be looked into and maybe the teams feel their current design package is good enough for them to treat the issue of the boundary layer. But one thing is for sure, if this small piece of innovation makes all the difference for Red Bull this year (think hypothetically, because knowing this will be next to impossible), then be very certain it will feature in every car from next year onwards. That’s F1!