Most people think of Red Bull as the most popular energy drink in the world, but the company is more than just about delivering a flavorful beverage. Red Bull has been involved in the world of extreme sports for quite some time now, which includes a heavy involvement in the world of Formula 1 racing. Not only are they involved in the sport, they are considered to be among the leader and innovators in a sport that very much thrives on those two qualities. F1 is a fast-moving sport on a number of different levels, which includes the design of the cars that are raced.

While a ton of the credit goes to the drivers who pilot the race cars around the track, people that know the sport well know that what goes on behind the scenes is often the difference between a winner and second place. In the case of Red Bull, and their RB9 car, five months and a team of over 300 designers were required to research, design, and build the car that is now considered to be the envy of many on the Formula 1 circuit.

The average car begins life on the drawing board of the designers, with several different concept cars being created. Since speed is a major factor in racing, it is often the aerodynamics team that is heavily involved in the original designs. The sketches are then put through a 3D computer modelling process, with the best of the bunch earmarked for wind tunnel testing. It is only the cars that meet or exceed expectations that make it through to the production phase. The actual building of the cars usually begins in August or September, several months before the upcoming F1 season is due to begin.

In order to test all of the components of the new car, a model that is 60% scale is built and put through testing in the wind tunnel. All told, as many as 30,000 different design changes can be made to arrive at the final design. Each individual component of the car is put through a test rig that simulates what they would experience in a real race. This is done for safety and reliability purposes, with each piece put through triple or quadruple of what you might commonly expect in an average race.

Composite materials are used to create a lightweight chassis, with Red Bull opting to use carbon fiber in this process. Not only is carbon fiber lighter than steel, it is also ten times stronger. Surprisingly, the creation of the carbon fiber components is the most labor intensive part of the car build, as it has to go through several stages, from drawing board design to clean room shaping in order to complete it. As many as 100 layers of material are placed together, placed into a vacuum and blasted at high heat to create the finished article. Every visible piece, as well as many not seen, are created using the carbon fiber process. And that is how a Formula 1 car is designed and built.

Photo Credit: Red Bull