After the challenges of Miami, Imola and Monaco where the clear weakness of the RB20 in dealing with bumps and kerbs were made evident, it is little wonder that the world champion has spent time in Red Bull’s simulator since the last race trying to work through things ahead of what could be another tough outing.

The key to a quick lap around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is to smash it across the kerbs – especially at the high-speed chicanes.

But, as Red Bull has found out to its cost recently, this is something that its 2024 F1 car does not especially like.

Red Bull has not yet offered a clear explanation for just why it is suffering so much on kerbs and bumps, but the best educated guess so far is that it is a consequence of the team having been so aggressive with its aero developments that it has perhaps cornered itself in with its set up window when it comes to needing mechanical compromises.

Few have any doubts that on a billiard smooth track that has high aero demands and requires a car to look after its rear tyres that the RB20 still has a clear edge over the opposition. It is hard to imagine anyone other than Red Bull dominating the Spanish Grand Prix later this month, for example.

But not all tracks are like that, and it appears that when Red Bull needs to lift the car up a little to compensate for bumps and kerbs, then it falls out of its ideal set up window.

Key now, going forward, is how Red Bull can address its performance relative to the opposition when that rear ride height needs to be lifted up – especially as both of its closest rivals McLaren and Ferrari have made notable gains in this area with recent upgrades. For if Red Bull’s compromises are locked in, then that offers hope to the opposition of making a fight of things. 
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Francois Tremblay

But how much opportunity is there in reality, based on the way the rest of the season shapes up?

How the calendar shakes out

If we look at the remaining races, it is possible to group the tracks into those venues that could be more difficult for Red Bull because they require good low-speed performance, either because of the nature of the corners or the presence of bumps/kerbs.

Equally, there are some venues where the RB20’s aerodynamic advantage will come into its own and leave McLaren and Ferrari with little hope of the win.

And interestingly, the split seems pretty equal.

Those venues where Red Bull’s weakness could be exposed because of bumps or kerb riding are Canada, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Azerbaijan, Singapore, Brazil, and Las Vegas.

On the flip side, the races that should pose little problem because they are at high-speed venues or smooth surfaces are Spain, Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United States, Mexico, Qatar and Abu Dhabi.

Finding answers

But there is a huge caveat to all the above, and it is that the list is only relevant if Red Bull does not quickly come to understand what has been causing its problem and moves to address it.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Imola and Monaco in particular came at the team so fast that there was no time to respond, but there has been some breathing space since to better comprehend things.

And there will be a host of opportunities for Red Bull to do things differently – just as it transformed its car from the Friday to the Saturday of Imola – and mask any problem area that has surfaced. And that’s ignoring the potential for upgrades that are already coming through the system.

As Red Bull chief engineer Paul Monaghan said: “Each circuit presents us with a set of challenges. We just have to turn up and address them better than everybody else.

“If we achieve our lap time a little bit differently to our nearest opposition, then fine, that is our choice, isn’t it?

“If you looked at Imola for example, McLaren had a different wing level from Ferrari and had a different wing level from Mercedes, as best I judge it. So, there are three different ways of doing the lap time aren’t there?

“If you put a bigger wing on, you accept being slightly slower on the straight, but you expect to be slightly better in the corners and you make your trade. That then sets your front wing demands, it will influence your ride heights.”

But equally, despite plotting a way out of the problems it has faced recently, Red Bull knows that the pressure from its rivals is not going to go away.

As Monaghan explained: “The others are on us. It’s going to be a tight fight all the way.”