Former F1 designer and engineer Gary Anderson feels that Red Bull and Max Verstappen should take a leaf out of the books of Mercedes and Racing Point. Anderson said that Red Bull would benefit greatly if it made a switch to a low-rake design concept.
Red Bull impressed last season, ending behind Mercedes in the constructors’ championship. Verstappen was regularly left to battle it out single handedly against Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas from Mercedes. Anderson believes while Verstappen did a good job, the characteristics of his car put him at a disadvantage.
“I would say it [the Red Bull] has got a very peaky downforce level,” Anderson said.
“They use the rake of the car to get the front wing near the ground. So they’re working the front wing very, very hard. They’re definitely working items on that car that are designed to have airflow separation.
“That’s all great stuff as long as you’re in control of it all and you can manage it all and make it work for you. I think Verstappen is at that point where he understands all that feeling. He understands what it’s all about. But I see it as a detriment really to be honest. And I see it as a detriment probably for Verstappen.”
Red Bull is able to create more downforce as a result of the high-rake concept. As a result, the cars perform well at tracks like Monaco and hungary. However, it also makes the cars more temperamental and difficult to control.
Mercedes has been highly dominant in recent times. They have shown that a low-rake design can hugely benefit the team. In essence, this allows the drivers to have a stable aerodynamic platform and thereby allows them to make the most of their skills.
While Racing Point was criticised for this last year, the immediate benefits were glaring.
“The thing that stands out to me is Racing Point,” Anderson said.
“They’ve gone away from the high-rake cars and they’re better on tyres and it’s more consistent to drive. Nico Hulkenberg was able to come and jump into that car and do a very good job on both occasions with very little preparation. So it has to be a car that is driver friendly.”
Verstappen was able to make the jump, but recent history suggests that the driver program that sees Toro Rosso youngsters make their way to Red Bull is not working.
Anderson believes the team needs to employ a different approach if it wants to succeed and this will help Verstappen in the long run.
“You have to give drivers time to get into the car and really understand when that peakiness is usable, and when it’s going to bite you,” Anderson said.
“And when it bites you a couple of times, like Albon or Gasly, that’s it, you’re not going to push to that level anymore. So you’re slow, then you get abused and rubbished in the media, and then you have to go out and try to lift your game again.
“It’s just a spiral to nowhere, really, so if I was Red Bull, I would be trying to make sure you build a car that hasn’t got that peaky downforce and give the driver some more confidence. It might detract from Verstappen’s performance a little bit initially, but I’m sure in the long term, it would be better for him.”