Red Bull details reason for Verstappen’s private Imola test


It came to light in Barcelona that Red Bull had conducted a private test at Imola with Max Verstappen ahead of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix in a bid to solve a specific weakness of its RB20 car.

While teams often run older-spec cars for young drivers, drafting in Verstappen for a test in the reigning world champions’ 2022 car at Imola seemed highly unusual.

However, the track day aimed to understand the RB20's struggles with kerb riding, a characteristic that has hampered its performance in recent races.

The car’s lack of suspension compliance – a by-product of its aerodynamic efficiency – has been particularly detrimental at tracks like Imola, Monaco, and Montreal, where navigating kerbs is crucial for speed.

While Red Bull has experience with this weakness, its current impact is amplified due to the competitiveness of the field. Previously, sacrificing a tenth or two of a second wouldn't jeopardize their lead. Now, it can be the difference between winning and losing.

Verstappen's run this week in the 2022 car served as a reference point for Red Bull. Having recently driven the RB20 at Imola, returning to the track in a car with less kerb-related issues could provide valuable insight.

This comparison could help Red Bull understand the severity of the problem and identify areas needing improvement.

"We really tried to give Max a reference from a previous car,” explained Red Bull chief engineer Paul Monaghan in Barcelona.

"When you're trying to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a current car, his reference is the current car. And you might say, 'Oh, well, in previous years we've had this, we've had that.' But have we really? Because we haven't run them at the same time.

"So, in taking that car out, we tried to give Max a reference to judge it from, and he's been able to give us feedback from that. Now, it is up to us with what we do with it."

Monaghan explained that the test's main goal was to decipher the source of Verstappen's feedback about the car's handling while providing the Dutchman with a clearer benchmark to evaluate the car's current performance.

"His feedback won't change as such, we can just give him a different reference," added the British engineer. "The strengths and weaknesses of cars are how we perceive it.

"We can obviously judge relative to our opposition, but we blend that with his comments, Checo's comments, and we say 'Okay, are we good? Are we bad?'

"Let's look in the data, see if it's valid to say we're better or worse than other people. What's his perception? Why is he saying it? And then, what on earth do we do about it?"

Red Bull chief engineer Paul Monaghan.

Red Bull is expected to return to its front-running status at upcoming venues – including in Barcelona – that don’t heavily penalize kerb riding.

But while Monaghan acknowledges the bulls’ potential for competitiveness, he also emphasizes the need to fully optimize their performance to capitalize on these favorable tracks.

“We’ll find out on Sunday, won’t we?” he said. “But yeah, a normal track, so this place relatively high speed, aerodynamic sensitivity.

“Then we go a thousand metres above sea level [in Austria], three straights, three low speed, three high speed corners or quickish corners and then with Silverstone where large chunks of it are flat out.


“So, each track presents its own challenge and I think if we do our jobs diligently and well then, we can have a competitive car.

“What other people do, we can’t influence, we can’t control and we’re judged relative to them.

“So Hungary again, we’re back up on maximum downforce there won’t we, and a week later we’re in Spa.

“I mean the skinniest rear wing we’ll have run this year other than perhaps something like Jeddah.

“So normal races and we’re shuffling the downforce around, changing the cooling, going to Monza to the maximum.

“If they’re all similar tracks then maybe I’m naive, but we can have some fun.”

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