Red Bull’s chief designer has revealed how the team made a huge step forward in the performance of the RB8 in 2012.
Craig Skinner, speaking on the team’s Talking Bull podcast, explained that one small tweak to the exhaust system in the car led Sebastian Vettel to put the car on pole position at the Valencia Grand Prix by half a second that year.
Vettel went on to win the championship with Red Bull.
Asked to bring in a special item to the podcast, Skinner chose to present the exhaust system from the RB8, explaining its significance in terms of performance.
Holding up the system, he said: “This is the exhaust system from the RB8 back in 2012. So this was a project that I worked on, it was actually a really interesting project at the time.
“Making big performance improvements in Formula One is quite rare but this was one of them where we actually made sort of a giant step overnight.”
The tweak that changed everything
Skinner explained how the team created downforce in the RB7 by blowing exhaust down to the car’s diffuser, but the FIA changed the regulations in 2012 to specify that the exhaust tailpipe must be above a certain height and must point upwards.
In response, Red Bull attempted to create a flow of exhaust down the bodywork from the tailpipe, but ran into issues.
Skinner explained: “So what we did was we put our body work out the back of the exhaust and the idea was you'd get the exhaust flow to stick to the bodywork and then run down into the diffuser.
“But when the car was launched on track, we weren't getting the performance we were expecting and what we actually eventually found out was when every time a cylinder fires on in the engine, you get a pressure pulse that runs up (the pipe).
“So at the exhaust pipe you’ve basically got all these pulses firing as the exhaust is flowing, and what it was doing was it was picking the exhaust flow up off the bodywork and sort of just sending out (into mid-air), so it wasn't going where we wanted to.”
He added: “So what we ended up doing was we added (a new pipe) to the exhaust which is called a resonator. So what happens is the pressure pulses come up the exhaust, they run up this tube, bounce back and then cancel out the next pressure pulses coming out of the exhaust.
“So what you actually end up with rather this pulsing floor you end up with a steady state floor and instead sort of more constant, less transient, and it then it stuck to the bodywork and the exhaust ran down to the diffuser.”
Skinner said that the results were immediate, with Vettel pulling out one second a lap at the beginning of the Spanish race.
He continued: “So we introduced this at Valencia 2012 and it was one of those just moments where I was like, ‘Wow, we've got a lot of downforce.’
“And Sebastian Vettel put the card on pole by half a second and then during the race he was pulling out one second a lap at the beginning of the race until unfortunately the car retired with...a completely separate issue.
“But this was one of those moments when we've actually unlocked a huge amount of potential.”
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