RB20 Adjustment to 2026 Regulations Indicates RBR’s Continued Leadership

RB20 Adjustment to 2026 Regulations Indicates RBR's Continued Leadership

As the 2023 Formula One season ended, there was a lot of talk about how teams would improve their cars for the next season. Mercedes decided to completely change their car design, moving away from their previous models, the W13/14, because they didn’t do well.

Toto Wolff from Mercedes said they’re changing everything – the car’s basic structure, how it balances weight, and how air flows around it. 

He explained that nearly every part of the car would be different because they believe that’s the only way they have a chance to do better.

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Lewis Hamilton’s feedback after the first two races this year suggests things didn’t go as planned. After finishing 9th in Jeddah, the seven-time world champion seemed to accept his situation, saying, “It was similar to previous years.”

Ferrari also mentioned they were changing their car design from what they used in 2022/23 to address their issues with tire wear. At their pre-Christmas party, Fred Vasseur told the Italian media, “We are changing 95% of the car’s parts. It’s like we’re starting a revolution,” the Ferrari boss said.

Compared to Ferrari, McLaren seemed to be taking a different approach. They planned to slowly improve their car, which had been doing better than Ferrari or Mercedes in the latter part of the season, especially after a major update at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Red Bull’s RB20: A Fresh Design Sparks Curiosity

Red Bull, known for their super successful RB19 car winning 21 out of 22 races, was expected to bring some cool updates this year. Ferrari and Carlos Sainz were the only ones to beat them in a race in Singapore. 

However, when Red Bull showed off their new car from Milton Keynes, it surprisingly had parts similar to Mercedes’ designs that didn’t do well before. Adrian Newey and his team decided they needed a fresh start with a new design this year.

There was a lot of curiosity about how this new RB20 car worked, and F1 experts started digging into what made this car special. 

Ted Kravitz, a well-known F1 reporter for Sky, mentioned it took him a while to get what Red Bull was trying to do with their new car. He talked about his findings on a podcast, saying it was hard to catch all the details of the new design at first.

F1 analyst thinks Red Bull’s design is smart

“I didn’t get to watch much on TV because I work in the pit lane,” he explained. “But I saw it during testing on TV screens. Even on a not-so-great TV, the design of the RB20 seems smarter to me now.”

Kravitz mentioned he first noticed the “vertical inlets and the F18 Concorde-style air vents under the crash structure,” but couldn’t figure out why Newey would use ideas that didn’t work for Mercedes.

“The more I look at it, the smarter it seems,” said the experienced British analyst. He thinks that seeing the design as a better take on Mercedes’ old ideas is misleading.

“Yes, they look cool. But the real magic is creating a huge airflow gap under the side pod and above the floor,” Kravitz added.

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Stability Surpassing 2023

The undercut helps push air under the car’s floor, which is super important for making the car stick to the track better. Since the big rule change in 2022, teams are really focusing on this area to get about 75% of their car’s sticking power.

Ted mentioned, “I’d really like to peek at the bottom of the car. Just hope Max and Checo don’t crash, so we don’t end up seeing it that way. It’s probably where they’ve worked really hard.”

Remember when Sergio Perez crashed his car in Monaco? The cranes lifted his car way up, and everyone got a good look at its design.

Kravitz looked into the design and found it makes the car more stable and doesn’t wear out the tires as quickly. Max even said it’s great for keeping the tires in good shape.

A vehicle suited for every track and condition

Kravitz said the car was perfect for any race, but things didn’t go as planned for Red Bull in Singapore. Their new car, the RB19, struggled during qualifying, with both Max and Checo failing to advance. It was a shock when rookie Liam Lawson, driving for Red Bull’s sister team, did better than Max by a tiny bit – just 0.007 seconds.

During the race, Max and Sergio had problems with their tires wearing out too fast and dropped to fifteenth and eighteenth place. However, Max managed to fight back and finish in fifth place, with Sergio not too far behind in eighth.

Kravitz praised the Red Bull design team for creating such an impressive car and is eager to learn from them how they did it.

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RB20’s Inside Info and Competitive Edge

The RB20 is doing better than the old model, which had trouble staying steady during races. This year, in two races, it already snagged a second place finish, even beating Max once and doing well in Jeddah despite a 5-second penalty. 

Liam Lawson, the backup driver, shared some inside info on why the RB20 is so good. He mentioned on the Sky F1 podcast that he knew the car would be strong because of all the improvements made during the off-season. 

While other teams are catching up, Red Bull keeps pushing forward, making their car even better.

RB20 already looks to 2026

Last year, Lewis Hamilton mentioned that Red Bull was so ahead of the game they could start working on their 2024 F1 car much earlier than anyone else. Lawson confirmed this, saying he had already seen the future improvements while working in the simulator. “The car was winning already, and we were making it even faster for next year,” he added.

With big changes coming to the car designs and engines next year, Red Bull is likely to keep improving the RB20 model throughout this season and into the next. The new rules for the 2026 cars will be out by June, but experts like Newey from Red Bull probably have a good idea of what’s coming, thanks to early discussions.

Red Bull’s head start last year might even mean the RB20 includes some features planned for 2026. For the first time in years, the new rules will include movable parts on the car’s body, not just the DRS (Drag Reduction System). While the RB20 doesn’t have these yet, its design underneath will stay, ready for the next big changes in F1.

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