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Technical: Red Bull’s skinny wing, explained

There’s been lots of talk about Red Bull’s ‘skinny wing’ for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix – so why are they running it?

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Max Verstappen's Red Bull climbs the hill to Radillion, making his skinny rear wing rather noticeable.

Red Bull has attracted plenty of attention for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix because of their low-downforce ‘skinny wing’ setup approach.

The unique option, which differs from solutions put forward by Mercedes and Ferrari, allows the team to keep pace on Spa’s significant straights.

Unfortunately for Red Bull, the approach worked against them when the rain started falling during Q3 on Saturday afternoon, leaving Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo to start Sunday’s race from 7th and 8th, respectively.

Former Formula 1 driver Martin Brundle described the wing during qualifying as “Monza-like” – a track where even less downforce is required.

The extremity of the rear wing’s angle is more obvious when compared to what Red Bull ran in July’s Hungarian Grand Prix, a high-downforce track.

This image shows the difference between the rear wing used by Red Bull in the Hungarian and Belgian Grands Prix.

This weekend’s low-angle wing sacrifices downforce and drag for the RB14, allowing for a quicker car on straights, but a slower car through the high and medium speed corners that dominate the middle sector.

Red Bull have done this in an effort to stay competitive with rivals Mercedes and Ferrari, who are both boasting upgraded power units for Spa.

Red Bull, on the other hand, continue to run the underpowered Renault PU.

Max Verstappen acknowledged on Friday in Belgium that this weekend would be tough for Red Bull.

“We have to be realistic, fifth and sixth is about where we expect to be around here due to our power deficit,” he said.

Mercedes and Ferrari can afford to run more angled rear wings this weekend because what they lose in drag is made up for by their superior power units.

From top-to-bottom: Mercedes, Red Bull, and Ferrari’s respective rear-wing configurations. Note how Mercedes can afford to employ a curved rear wing whilst Ferrari are clearly running more angle.

This allows them to be as quick as Red Bull on the straights, but even quicker through the crucial middle sector.

Verstappen noted the team is “trying to optimise everything on the car to be as close as we can.”

“We have really low downforce on the car so we should be able to overtake some cars ahead of us that usually would not be there,” he said.

Midfield runners, including both Force India’s and Romain Grosjean’s Haas will start ahead of Red Bull.

“We will try and charge through,” Daniel Ricciardo said.

Steven Walton is an 18-year-old Journalism Student at the Ara Institute of Canterbury. He previously attended St Andrew's College in Christchurch, where he excelled at History and Classical Studies. Steven is the Editor-in-Chief at Green Flag F1 and spends most of his days living, breathing, and immersing in the Formula 1 world.

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