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The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

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Stem in the World: How Did It Go Wrong for Red Bull Racing?

VIA Creative Commons

In this column, I will discuss recent events or discoveries that connect our world and activities to technical details within STEM fields. This may range from why a Formula One team performed so poorly over a weekend, to a new medical discovery that has revolutionary implications on everyday society. I hope that in writing these columns, I introduce people to interesting and comprehensible information about said STEM fields.

Red Bull Racing’s historic 14 consecutive race wins in a season came to an end in Singapore last race weekend. Many believed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and car, the RB19, would be unbeatable in the 2023 season. Up until the Singapore GP (Grand Prix), the duo dominated nearly every race weekend, even winning by a margin of over 33 seconds, nearly half a lap, at the Hungarian GP. Yet in Singapore, Verstappen finished 5th, and Sergio Perez, Reb Bull’s other driver, finished 8th. Some believe Red Bull’s poor weekend with the car was because of new regulations.

According to, Red Bull’s team principal, Christian Horner, insists that the new technical directive (TD), regulations on how the cars can be constructed by a team, had no effect on the car’s performance, but what do these technical directives even do?

TD18, introduced just before the Singapore GP, “was implemented to remind all teams of their responsibilities to not deliberately design and employ bodywork – namely front and rear wing assemblies and floor edges – that somehow twist and flex excessively while the cars are in motion,” according to The Race.

Flexible aerodynamic elements, things like the front and rear wing, are against the spirit of the sport according to the FIA, Formula One’s governing body. The battle against flexible aero is not new in Formula One either. Dating all the way back to the 1990s, some teams introduced a flexible structure to their rear wings that would bend backwards and down at higher speeds, reducing the drag, while staying rigid and upright at lower speeds, creating more downforce. Downforce is like an upside down airplane wing, instead of lifting up, it pushes the vehicle down.

As for the rear wing, think of it as a flexible square of plastic upright in your hand. If your main goal is to move your hand as fast as possible, the plastic will bend with the direction of motion, reducing drag and making it easier to go faster. But say you also wanted this plastic to slow you down when you start reducing your speed. While you slow down, the plastic will become upright again, creating more drag and slowing you down. In the case of Formula One cars, when they turn, the cars still need downforce and therefore still need these aero elements in the first place. This bendable surface helps create higher top speeds while also maintaining downforce at lower speeds.

Horner insists that TD18 had no effect on the RB19, claiming instead that in the three practice sessions the teams get before the race, Red Bull simply set up their cars wrong. Still, flexible aero seems to be an elusive technicality that the FIA will always have to revise and scrutinize as a regulation. Only time will tell if teams try to continue to push the limits on legal vs. illegal aerodynamic elements.

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About the Contributor
TJ Iannelli, Managing Editor
TJ Iannelli is one of the Managing Editors for the Polygon. A member of the Polygon for three years now, TJ has been a staff writer and Opinions Editor in the past. His favorite articles to write vary, but mainly focus on major school changes or STEM. Outside of the Polygon, TJ is a two sport athlete and a member of Green Key. Some of his hobbies include surfing, snowboarding, and F1.

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