With the 2015 season now in its final phase with only four races to go, including this Sunday’s United States Grand Prix, we speak to Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Chief Engineer, Car Engineering, Paul Monaghan to find out how work is coming along on our 2016 challenger.
At what stage is the development of next year's RB12 right now?
PM: Aerodynamically, work is ongoing in both CFD and the wind tunnel. Large sections of the car are pretty much set now. Obviously, the bodywork development as a whole can continue and will continue and it won't just stop at the first race or first test, it will carry on through next year. We can obviously do a fair bit of work on the front end of the car and we can pretty much set the rear suspension. Really, it's the bit in the middle plus the radiators that we're waiting to free up.
How much carry over will there be from the RB11?
PM: As is normal for us, there won't be much in the way of carry-over. It's probably best to say the RB12 will be an evolution of the RB11. Therefore, a lot of the design concept will carry over but if we choose to realise the pieces slightly differently, then that's our choice and we've done it for the usual reasons, which means elements like weight and stiffness, if we're talking about internal elements and obviously the external part is aerodynamically-driven.
Looking back over this year, what have been the strengths of the RB11 and what are the weak points?
PM: That's a difficult question to answer without giving away a lot of the car's secrets. I think it would be fair to say that the steps we made around the time of the British Grand Prix and in Hungary were good stepping stones to continue to evolve the RB11, as well as carrying them over to the RB12. The strengths of the car have been that it's responded to what was developed for it around British Grand Prix time. Naturally, the plan is to take these strengths and include them in the RB12.
Infiniti Red Bull Racing has had a habit of pushing the development of a new car right to the very limit of getting a car built only just in time for the first of the pre-season tests: what are the strengths of the team that allow it to do this successfully?
PM: I think it's the amazing collection of people that are within the factory, the design, manufacturing, sub-assembly – all these departments are brilliantly skilled and it enables us to be relatively late with car design. That's down to the skill and dedication of the people, which enables us to do it all in a relatively short period of time and put a car on track with the latest developments we've got at that point and then have more developments for race one, two, three and so on.
So it's a case of continual development?
PM: It is, because we are working in a prototype business. And if it's a prototype, there's never a fixed specification so what goes to the first test as a whole doesn't go to the first race as a whole, doesn't go to the second race and so on and so on. What a new car enables you to do is the longer-term pieces, you can change those to your benefit and then it's the ancillaries around it that are feasible to change during the year that you tend to play with thereafter. You can do the bigger pieces if you need during the season but at the moment, we've not encountered such difficulties so we carry on as we are.
What makes the design and manufacturing side of the company so flexible?
PM: The company's greatest asset is its skill set - the people that are there. It's the mental attitude and approach and determination to succeed in the face of, in this instance, perhaps some adversity that will see us on the right path into 2016.
Are the cooling and packaging requirements of the various PUs on offer pretty similar?
PM: Yes, largely they are and the methods of achieving that cooling are well defined. If the power units differ slightly in their cooler configurations, so be it, you just deal with it. It's a challenge and you meet it head-on.
And our guys are more than capable of doing that?
PM: We've got amazing people and an amazing factory. So, as far as this particular challenge is concerned, I say bring it on!