What is Red Bull cooking with the RB20?

When Red Bull unveiled the RB20 last week, the successor to last season’s RB19, it raised a number of questions.

Mainly, what were they cooking with their sidepods?

After all, the RB20 is stepping into some pretty big tires. The RB19 went into the books as one of the most dominant cars in Formula 1 history, as the team won all but one grand prix a year ago, and the RB19 powered Red Bull to a dominant performance in the Constructors’ Championship as well as helping Max Verstappen win a third-straight Drivers’ title.

But when looking at the RB20 last week, there were more questions than answers. What were they doing with their sidepods and air intakes?

We now have our answers.

As the RB20 took to the track in Bahrain, it became clear that the design has split their inlets in two, featuring thin vertical and horizontal intakes along the sides of the RB20, as well as a pair of intakes behind the driver.

F1 technical analyst Albert Fabrega noted the designs on social media Wednesday:

Those are the inlets located behind the cockpit. Now for a look at the thin horizontal and vertical inlets located alongside the RB20:

Speaking at the launch of the RB20, Team Principal Christian Horner noted that their 2024 challenger was not “a conservative evolution.”

“There’s some great innovation on the car as well that will no doubt get scrutinised over the coming weeks,” Horner said last week. “Creativity has been strong in the team. You can see that in some of the solutions that they’ve come up with. It’s not a conservative evolution, there’s some great innovation on the car.”

As for how it handled, while the RB20 seemed to give Verstappen some trouble in the early portion of Wednesday’s morning session, the team switch to the medium tires, and the defending champion ended the session atop the timing sheets.

While lap times at pre-season testing are to be taken with a grain of salt, it seems the 2024 is starting the same way 2023 ended.

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