[Red Bull’s DRS edge will take a while to close, despite F1 rivals waking up to it
One of the standout characteristics of the dominant RB19 is the DRS advantage that has helped Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez often be unstoppable on the straights.
It has been key in producing some impressive qualifying performances and allowing both drivers to breeze past the opposition in races without much difficulty.
While the scale of the Red Bull DRS gain prompted theories earlier in the year about a trick system being in place to help unleash its speed boost, rivals have quickly come to understand the dynamics at play.
And rather than it being something that operates in a grey area of the rules, the reality is that the system is more to do with how Red Bull balances drag levels at the rear of the car.
Red Bull has deliberately chosen to have a bigger ratio of drag coming from its rear wing than its beam wing – so when the main wing opens it means there is a greater speed jump.
But rivals are unable to simply copy this approach because their cars are not producing the necessary performance from the diffuser that allows them to cut back on the beam wing – which produces high downforce and high drag and is a valuable tool in improving rear end stability.
McLaren has begun to push a bit harder in this region, and introduced a more efficient beam wing at the Belgian Grand Prix that it hoped would shift the drag ratios at the rear and start unlocking some more DRS gains.
Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60
Photo by: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images
But team principal Andrea Stella is clear that it will be a long-term process to develop the rear of the car in the way that Red Bull has done over the past two seasons.
“They seem to have pursued this concept for some time,” explained Stella, when asked by Motorsport.com if the beam wing approach was key to the DRS gain.
“So, I think they may be taking some advantage from having a lot of experience in developing this kind of configuration. I think this has now become apparent over time.
“We are, I think all teams now, trying to see what is possible to exploit by developing this kind of direction.”
Aston Martin, which had a notable DRS deficit to Red Bull in the early races when it was its closest challenger, says it too is working in this direction to try to unleash improvements.
Performance director Tom McCullough said: “I think the updates we brought to [Belgium] were actually sort of largely along those threads.
“It’s about the interaction of the whole back end of the car. If you look at the back of the car, everything’s working together, whether it is the rear brake furniture, whether it’s the diffuser, whether it’s the beam and the rear wing.
“They’re sucking everything out of the back of the car, and it’s obviously the ratios that you play between those.
“Obviously you want stable aerodynamics, but you want a big old switch when you open up DRS as well. It’s also dependent on rear wing level and so many other factors as well.
“That has definitely been something that we saw Red Bull were on top of at the start of last year, they were strong with that last year, and I think everybody has been trying to catch up on that to a certain degree.”