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Red Bull’s Formula 1 team has been the only real challenge to Mercedes’ dominance over the last seven seasons. Now, the team has finally overtaken them both on the track and in the lab. The Milton-Keynes-based team is now on a four-race winning streak. It’s something most F1 fans would have thought impossible just a few years ago. Now, the team has made some massive technical improvements to catch Brackley-based Mercedes.

Red Bull’s shark tooth diffuser

The rear of Max Verstappen's Formula 1 car in Austria
Red Bull’s new wing design | Marco Canoniero via Getty Images

Formula 1 cars nowadays are all about downforce. The force of the air rushing over the various canards, splitters, diffusers, and wings is what allows the cars to take corners at such insane speeds. Evidently, most teams know this and go to great lengths to make their aerodynamics package as effective and competitive as they can. However, Red Bull seem to be the ones getting a leg up with the aero package for 2021.

The Formula 1 media has coined it the “shark tooth” wing, after its appearance. At its core the wing functions off the rake of the car, or how much angle there is between the front and rear ride height. Red Bull run a car with a great degree of rake, as seen below. This rake allows the rear diffuser to suck the car into the ground. These shark teeth on the back of the wing help feed air over the top of the diffuser, compensating for the lack of downforce lost in a high-rake setup.

Totally new Aero helps Max stay ahead

Max Verstappen's F1 car racing on-track during qualifying at the Austrian Grand Prix
Red Bull uses far more rake than rival Mercedes | Marco Canoniero via Getty Images

While this may seem like a marginal gain, it’s a massive one for the Formula 1 team. In Formula 1, every millisecond must be accounted for. Any gain, marginal or major, is a gain. This is why Red Bull is so viciously pursuing their aero package. For example, the high rake of their car helps move more air over the downforce-creating parts of the car. It is also in stark contrast to the Mercedes car.

That’s because the Merc is used to being at the front of the pack. Running out front means the car needs to be more slippery and cut through the air in the pursuit of higher speeds. Because of their aerodynamics, Red Bull is now able to get the best of both worlds: a slippery car for the straights that still provides enough downforce to help the drivers get around the corners quickly.

Can the Brackley Boys fight back?

Max Verstappen stands, hands raised, on the top of his F1 car after winning the Austrian Grand Prix
Race winner Verstappen | Christian Bruna via Getty Images

Frankly, Mercedes is in a tough spot. They’re stuck with a car built to dominate the front row, yet both their drivers have fought hard to stay out in front to no avail. So, what can the Brackley Boys do? Of course, they can always completely alter their aero, like Red Bull. But, with a massive 2022 regulation change coming up, is it worth it? Upfront, no. One season does not a dynasty make, and it seems the team is more focused on coming out on top for 2022 than developing the current car. For now, Max Verstappen and Red Bull are going to stay on top.


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