Red Bull’s advantage in a straight-line shrinks as rivals improve

Jaden Diaz
17 Jul, 2023

Red Bull’s dominance continues in the 2023 F1 world championship, with Max Verstappen and his RB19 on fine form in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez now seems like a shadow of himself in qualifying, forcing him to settle for recovery drivers Sunday.

The Dutchman is 99 points ahead of his teammate, meaning he could finish second in all the remaining rounds and (even if Perez were to win all of them) still claim the Championship. The question is not if but when.

Silverstone is not a selective track with this type of car 

However, a notable development from Silverstone was the relatively small gap inflicted by Max Verstappen on his direct competitors, such as Ferrari and Mercedes, but above all, Mclaren, who were clearly second fastest on English soil. 

Once he took the lead of the race, and after the first few laps in control of the new Pirelli tires in the fast corners to avoid tearing them off, the World Champions’ pace was far from untouchable.

According to Christian Horner, Verstappen showed the maximum potential of his RB19. Have the new reinforced Pirellis penalised Red Bull? Or is there something else that slowed down the RB19 on a track that had many positive characteristics for the Austrians squad>

According to a Mercedes engineer, the layout and the cold ambient temperatures had a big impact on containing the gaps, much more important on a short, one-minute track like Spielberg’s.

In fact, for the former world champion team, “in our opinion, Silverstone was the best opportunity to beat Verstappen.” However, the W14 underperformed compared to expectations, losing ground to Red Bull and Mclaren in the fast and even within striking range of Ferrari – had the Maranello squad put together a clean weekend.

However, with this new generation of cars, the English track has become much less selective. Not just Silverstone, in general, all those tracks where there are many very high-speed corners, because, in those areas for the new cars, it’s just a question of aerodynamic efficiency, given that they are done in full force.

The time gain or loss thus remains contained while the gap widens in the slow corners, which, however, are very few at Silverstone.

If we associate this with the fact that the degradation has been very limited, for a high-energy track like the English one, partly due to the new tires introduced by Pirelli but also and above all due to the low ambient temperatures, we can understand why it was a more ‘complicated’ race for Red Bull and Verstappen than the usual, in short, less dominated but still won.

DRS effect: Red Bull has a smaller lead than at the start of the season

The efficiency of the DRS is part of the many technical solutions that are making the RB19 dominate this world championship, to the point of winning ten races out of ten rounds held this season. A solution linked to a particular conception of the rear wing developed to the limit of stall already in the closed DRS configuration, which then stalls completely when the mobile wing opens.

But there’s more to this, since, according to some teams, it’s the entire rear that works in symbiosis to minimize drag. The beam wing presents a very particular and loaded solution in the main element, as well as the diffuser and also the rear suspension, with the latter allowing the RB19 to remain very low once the DRS is opened, therefore after removing many kilograms of vertical load. This significantly decreases the drag.

“risky solution,” according to a competing team, and “which requires a lot of Research and Development to be able to make it work without major stability problems.”

Many teams, including Ferrari, have carefully analyzed the rear of the Anglo-Austrian car, concentrating a lot of effort in this direction in order to understand its secrets.

An important work that has brought direct competitors closer to the RB19 both in terms of top speed and DRS efficiency, with the most important steps taken by Aston Martin, a car that at the beginning of the world championship paid enormously on the straight and with the DRS open, while now it is certainly more efficient.

Closing the gap to Red Bull in the straight was and remains one of Aston Martin’s priorities, according to Performance Director Tom McCullough. Responding to a question about the focus of the major Montreal (Canada) update, Aston Martin’s Tom McCullough admitted that it was indeed an important area of ​​focus.

“The efficiency of the DRS has been an area of ​​interest for us, with the aim of increasing its efficiency when we open it up,” confirmed the engineer. However, the updates have given a boost to improve the efficiency of the AMR23 but have made it lose the excellent balance admired above all in the first races of the season.

Red Bull’s 2023 game changer, to quote Vasseur, was precisely that of having designed a tremendously complete car, i.e. one with high aerodynamic efficiency but easily adaptable to all tracks, which therefore has the right level of downforce, an almost perfect balance and an important operating window.

As the races went by, Red Bull concentrated a lot of efforts on evolving its front wing, presenting as many as three evolutions, compared to the minor ones, except in Baku, relating to the car bottom. With these changes, the way the team is using their car has also changed.

The RB19 takes to the track now with more loaded setups than at the beginning of the season.“ Red Bull raced with a lot of downforce at Silverstone, but you could see some pretty easy overtaking for Perez and Verstappen, especially when compared to George’s struggles to try and overtake Leclerc,” a Mercedes technician told us.

“This shows us that they still have an edge in terms of top speeds, with and without DRS, especially over us,” he concluded. Ten appointments, of which only in Miami, the FIA ​​has indicated zero technical innovations for Red Bull. In Baku, the most important package. The second will arrive next weekend in Hungary.

Author: Piergiuseppe Donadoni

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang