How Red Bull struck an early tech blow against Mercedes

Matthew Somerfield

Ferrari’s 2019 power unit, Mercedes’ DAS and Racing Point’s ‘Pink Merc’ are all hot topics, but one unheralded key battle in the technical war has already been won, as a request by Red Bull has forced the FIA to clarify its position on a solution used by Mercedes in 2019 and which it intended to use again this season.

The rear brake duct and suspension upright seen on both the W10 and 2020’s W11 features what the team believed to be a clever interpretation of the regulations. It’s a design that leans on the suspension upright to create an additional inlet above the main brake duct (red arrow, below), which then feeds airflow into a void on the top of the brake drum. 

Mercedes AMG F1 W10, rear duct

Mercedes AMG F1 W10, rear duct Giorgio Piola

Giorgio Piola

This provides a cooling benefit that aids in tyre management, as it reduces heat transfer between the brakes and wheel rim, a trait that would ordinarily heat the tyre.

The issue that Red Bull raised relates to a section within article 5.1 of the technical regulations:

Air ducts around the rear brakes will be considered part of the braking system and shall not protrude beyond:

a) A plane parallel to the ground situated at a distance of 160mm above the horizontal centre line of the wheel.

The inlet formed by the uprights design clearly sits above this 160mm measurement and so the FIA has confirmed that teams using this solution will have to make adjustments.

Racing Point RP20 rear suspension brakes

Racing Point RP20 rear suspension brakes Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

While Mercedes has been the primary target of this ‘attack’, Racing Point may also find itself pegged back in Australia too, as it carried the design across to the RP20 (above).

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