The first world title in the hybrid era was a nail-biter. Red Bull made the second clear with Max Verstappen in the fifth last race of the season. The Milton Keynes team developed the RB18 into the greatest all-rounder in the field. One development tool stands out in particular.
Two world titles with Max Verstappen in 2021 and 2022. The Constructors' World Cup this season as the icing on the cake. 28 wins in 44 races. The last two seasons have been tailor-made for Red Bull. The Milton Keynes side have broken the supremacy of nemesis Mercedes in Formula 1 and are in the process of building a bulwark of dominance of their own.
The technical team around star designer Adrian Newey is well established and consolidated. The burden is spread over several shoulders. Red Bull has set up its departments in such a way that you can also cope with departures. Like that of Dan Fallows who went to Aston Martin but was appropriately replaced.
The Milton Keynes campus is being upgraded. The new engine factory is standing. Red Bull Powertrains already employs around 300 people to take care of the Power Unit for 2026. With its own engine project, Red Bull is building the last piece of the puzzle for complete independence. Manufacturers and suppliers are interested in working together - and are welcome, as long as they don't paralyze Red Bull in the direction it takes. The bosses do not want to be interfered with. Ford is said to be interested.
Red Bull the CFD champion
Also upgraded for aerodynamic development. Red Bull has set itself the goal of building a new wind tunnel in Milton Keynes. And then move out of the Bedford facility. With that, Red Bull would create something that only Ferrari otherwise has. Car and motor would be created entirely in one place. Mercedes has two locations separated by 28 miles (45 kilometers): Brackley for the chassis and Brixworth for the engines.
The wind tunnel in Bedford, which Alpha Tauri also uses, is considered outdated. That's why Red Bull wants to upgrade itself. Such a modern wind tunnel at Formula 1 level costs over 50 million euros. Actually, one would have gladly saved the investment. Adrian Newey was an advocate of discarding the wind tunnel in the development of a Formula 1 car and only allowing it using CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics).
His primary argument was sustainability and lower development costs. But it was probably also about strengthening Red Bull and weakening the competition. At Mercedes they say: "Red Bull is the measure of all things in Formula 1 in CFD." And not at the stand of Mercedes and Ferrari in the wind tunnel. A ban would have been welcome, but that will not happen in the near future. Even if the flow simulation on the PC is becoming more and more important, the wind tunnel is needed. Namely for regular comparison of the data.
Without it, you risk going down the wrong path in the digital world at some point. The wind tunnel is still the place where you get the most accurate insight into how certain parts affect the aerodynamic airflow around the car.
The rolling Red Bull laboratory
The wind tunnel in Bedford is currently not a major disadvantage for Red Bull. It does take too long for it to warm up and accelerate to the desired wind speed. But the quality is right. The engineers are very familiar with it. You can do the best preparatory work with the CFD tools and filter out the most accurate upgrades from hundreds of options. "The quality of the results also depends on how you know how to use the wind tunnel."
The engineers operate the old wind tunnel extremely effectively. Processes have been put in place to make the best possible use of existing resources. Nevertheless, a new one is needed because Formula 1 will not be able to get away from the wind tunnel for the foreseeable future, some even say for the next ten years. Even if one had once set the goal of not allowing any more in 2030.
Red Bull's great strength is not just virtual development and testing on the computer. Mercedes has spotted a second that sets Milton Keynes apart from everyone else in the field. No team manages such a precise data transfer from the racetrack to the home factory. Red Bull's racing cars are rolling laboratories thanks to special sensors and devices - even better than the competition's products. No team can determine so well in driving operation where their own car is particularly good and where weaknesses need to be eliminated. Red Bull recognizes them quickly and can take countermeasures accordingly.
RB19 an evolution
That's why the team quickly taught the RB18 to walk during the test drives. Therefore - and through Newey's experience with the old ground effect cars of the 1980s - Red Bull solved the aerodynamic hopping (bouncing) the fastest. That's why the engineers trimmed their car with numerous updates to the underbody to create a wide working window with constant contact pressure through the curves. The car of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez became the greatest all-rounder in the field over the course of the season.
The RB18 will go down in Formula 1 history as one of the best cars ever. Therefore, there is no need for a revolution. The RB19 for 2023 will be an evolution. Under difficult conditions. The reduced time in the wind tunnel and CFD limits Red Bull. The question is by how much. Opinions differ widely on this.