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F1 ANALYSIS: Red Bull's secret top speed weapon revealed

F1 ANALYSIS: Red Bull's secret top speed weapon revealed

F1 ANALYSIS: Red Bull's secret top speed weapon revealed

F1 ANALYSIS: Red Bull's secret top speed weapon revealed
Shubham Sangodkar

The Red Bull RB19 is promising to become one of the most dominant cars in the history of F1. The drivers have won all of the first five races in a dominant way and are comfortably 0.7-1 second faster than the rest of the grid. For reference, that's an entire season's worth of development!

What is it that makes the RB19 so dominant? Data analysis from the first five races shows that they are in a league of their own when it comes to high-speed corners. They can approximately carry 5-10 km/h more speed than Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin.

In low-speed corners, the advantage is smaller about 0.1 tenths, however on the straights the RedBull is a ‘Bullet’, completely unmatched having about 5-8 km/h speed advantage. This is what allows Sergio Perez or Max Verstappen to even have a problem , start from the back end of the grid and still potentially win the race.

Additionally, their DRS effectiveness i.e. the acceleration the car observes due to the drag reduction from the rear wing, is the most powerful. As in the words of Lewis Hamilton after Jeddah, “I don’t know why or how, but he came past me with serious speed”.

Let us dive into some trends that we have discovered about the RB19 based on the aero setup choice at different tracks and speculate why these trends would occur.

Lewis Hamilton (front) had no answer when Max Verstappen behind passed him through DRS at the Australian Grand Prix

Red Bull aero setup

Out of the five races we will analyse data from four races. Jeddah and Baku are the high-speed tracks wherein Red Bull went ahead with a single-element beam wing design whereas in Australia and Miami Red Bull choose the conventional dual-element beam wing design.

On all four tracks, Red Bull had a speed advantage over Ferrari and Mercedes between 5-8 km/ hr with DRS OFF. However, with DRS on a slipstream the speed delta which is normally 15-20 km/hr landed up being 20-30 km/hr. This prompted a lot of online speculation if Red Bull had been using some kind of aerodynamic trickery. We addressed this in our article ‘Triple DRS Reality or Rumor’. However, since then , a new data trend has emerged which might point us to something really interesting that is worth speculating.


What does the Data Indicate?

Australia and Miami

Australia and Miami are tracks where the speed sensitivity is not as high as Baku and Jeddha, i.e. downforce is important for lap time and teams have to play and choose the setup that suits their car. At both these tracks the RB19 with its top speed advantage decided to go with its medium downforce setup in which they use a dual-element beam wing.

As shown in the plot below, in Miami, Redbull still had more acceleration throughout the entire speed range compared to its rivals with DRS ON. In Australia, Red Bull went for a high downforce setup relative to Mercedes but was still able to clock higher speed traps.

What is important to notice here is the trend! For both of these races, the trends in the data look quite similar, i.e the lines between the DRS ON and OFF are either almost parallel or converging. This is what you would expect as drag increases to the second order of magnitude with velocity whether DRS is ON or OFF.

Jeddha and Baku

Jeddah and Baku are speed-sensitive tracks, i.e. top speeds make quite a difference on the overall lap time and thus teams tend to set up their car more towards reaching the maximum top speed possible while keeping other constraints in mind (EG rear overheating due to sliding due to lack of downforce). These are tracks where Red Bull used its single-element beam wing to maximize its speed sensitivity.

As can be seen in the plot below, In Jeddah, while Mercedes and Ferrari both had a converging line, i.e. their acceleration delta with DRS ON decreased with speed, Red Bull was able to keep that acceleration benefit throughout the entire speed range. The DRS ON line is almost slightly diverging, indicating that acceleration is increasing with speed which is very puzzling and against the usual relationship between speed and drag.

The same thing can be noticed in Baku wherein the trend is quite evident and opposite compared to the rest of the teams on the grid. A diverging DRS ON line i.e. their acceleration increases with speed.

So the single-element beam wing whenever put on does change the acceleration characteristics of the car with the DRS ON on the RedBull.

Why would this happen?

Speed sensitivity can be brought about by multiple factors, some of which are: Decreasing ride heights on the straights: In this method due to the increased downforce the ride height drops changing the effective area of the car which reduces drag with velocity. This was famously used by Mercedes in 2021.

However, with the RB19, this would not hold true as we would be able to detect the decrease in drag on both configurations of the beam wing. Running lower ride height in general compared to its rivals is one of RedBull's secret to aero efficiency.

Progressive Trailing Edge Induced Stall Aero Mechanism on the Beam Wing: Now I’m not a fan of this theory as you probably might know, but this data makes me think otherwise.

Maybe it's not a complete stall as has been suggested before, maybe it's a progressive trailing edge stall mechanism limited to a certain amount of wingspan by controlling the twist distribution on the beam wing which would further affect the flow from the diffuser providing a gradual drag reduction with speed. This limited stall mechanism could also possibly take care of the hysteresis problem that diffusers encounter which is the main limitation of this concept.

Shubham Sangodkar is a former F1 Aerodynamicist with a Master's in Racing Car Design specialising in F1 Aerodynamics and F1 Data Analysis. He also posts content on his YouTube channel, which can be found here.

READ MORE: F1 ANALYSIS: Have Azerbaijan GP upgrades made Red Bull and Mercedes faster?

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