Building on the Adrian Newey designed RB5, introduced in 2009, Red Bull Racing claimed the driver's and constructor's titles the following two seasons with the subsequent RB6 and RB7. Despite subtle rule changes, the Austrian owned team will field another evolution of the successful design.
The most significant change to the regulations is a new maximum nose height of 55 cm ahead of the bulkhead. High noses had become the norm to feed as much air under the chassis to generate downforce. To keep the negative effect to a minimum a very narrow nose was crafted, resulting in a bump at the chassis bulkhead.
While most teams use a similar, not particularly aesthetically pleasing solution, Newey's design was subtly different. On the RB8, the bump is equipped with a letterbox shaped air-intake. Officially the purpose of the slot is driver cooling but it immediately led to speculation about other possible purposes.
A more profound but not quite as obvious change is the ban of the 'blown diffuser', used very effectively by the recent Red Bulls. This relatively simple design used the high-speed exhaust fumes to generate additional downforce. With the system banned, a more conventional exhaust design could be used.
As in the previous seasons, the RB8 is powered by a Renault supplied V8 engine that also serves as a fully stressed member of the chassis. It is coupled to an in-house developed Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS), which uses energy generating under braking to power a 60 kW electric motor for up to seven seconds per lap.
The new-for-2012 RB8 is the most significant change for the successful team as both drivers, reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, were retained. The latter kicked off testing at Jerez early in February ahead of the season start in Australia in March.