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Forget DRS, Red Bull’s true F1 brilliance lies elsewhere

Red Bull’s domination of Formula 1 this year has prompted plenty of intrigue about just where its sizeable advantage comes from. 

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, battles with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, for the lead of the race

Much of the focus around the RB19 has revolved around its top speed – and especially the way that its DRS delivers a straight-line advantage that rivals are nowhere near matching. 

There are numerous theories floating around about why the team’s DRS appears to be so effective – from it simply being a consequence of impressive aero efficiency on a low-drag wing package, to it coming from the result of complex stalling of the diffuser and rear wing elements. 

But while Red Bull’s DRS continues to provoke intrigue, rival teams are far from obsessing over what has been done in this specific area. 

Instead, there is a growing acceptance that Red Bull’s DRS gains are a consequence of brilliance in other aspects of its car design rather than being the trigger for its pace-setting performance. 

As Alpine technical director Matt Harman said when asked about there being anything particularly special standing out with the Red Bull DRS: “There's a lot of talk about that visually, but I think if you actually dig through the data, I'm not so sure about that.  

“I think they're very quick in a straight line just generally. So, from what we see, it is not something that we are looking to try and understand in great detail.” 

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

What Red Bull’s rivals are homing in on, though, is the way that the RB19 is able to maintain its aero platform around a lap – which appears to be delivering gains in allowing the car to deliver consistent downforce for the drivers. 

Its anti-roll, anti-squat and anti-dive features are something that the opposition are looking to adopt themselves – once they can work out exactly how Red Bull is achieving it. 

“We have some ideas,” added Harman about where he felt the Red Bull was so good.  

“There's some things we probably have no clue on, because there's some things that we do [that] they won't have either. But their ability to run their car the way they do is quite impressive.  

“I think that's certainly an inspiration to us all. So that's where we're moving towards.” 

Haas’s principal aerodynamicist Juan Molina said that having a perfectly consistent platform, as Red Bull appears able to deliver, can bring the kind of advantage that teams enjoyed in the active suspension days. 

“If you think about active suspension, and I'm not saying anybody has it, but if you had active suspension, then you probably win the championship, because you can get the car and you can develop it in a specific position,” he said. 

“So that's why we think if you understand what your car is doing, or where you want to put your car, and you can put your car there, you can get performance. 

“You will probably see teams going in that direction and trying to understand how do we get the car as low as possible, how do we cure the bouncing, and then [perfecting] your high speed to low speed performance which is obviously important for the driver.” 

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Mercedes will begin the first stage of its move to improve its own ride platform at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix as it brings its much talked about update. 

While the new sidepods and floor will offer the biggest visual difference on the W14, it is the new anti-dive characteristics of its new front suspension that could actually be more critical to improving the fortunes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell

As team boss Toto Wolff said about the potential gains from the suspension: “I don't believe in miracles, but I think that the stability of the car and the predictability for the drivers is just subpar.  

“If we believe we can sort that out and help it by the front suspension redesign, then that's definitely a good avenue. And this could be more of an answer too on lap time than what the aerodynamic package brings, by simply unlocking much more driveability and pace.”  

If DRS alone was key to Red Bull’s success, then Haas would in theory have emerged as potentially its closest challenger – as its own performance in this area is almost a match for its Milton Keynes rival. 

Instead, as Haas’s Molina explains, what is important to understand about the performance of all the F1 cars on the grid is that it is the sum of multiple elements.

Sure, bodywork and rear wing designs may stand out the most to the naked eye as being key to differences in performance, but the reality is that lap time is driven much more by the entire package. 

“It's not only the bodywork, but how that works with your floor and your rear wing and how you have the different parts of the car,” he said. 

“As the regulations evolve, we are converging towards a platform of performance on low speed versus high speed. So, as you go towards there, the question is, where do you find the performance? 

Adrian Newey, Chief Technology Officer, Red Bull Racing, on the grid

Adrian Newey, Chief Technology Officer, Red Bull Racing, on the grid

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz / Motorsport Images

“That's where your platform, the link between your aerodynamics and where the car is on the ground, is important.  

“So, if you look at Red Bull, you can see they know where that car is and where they want to put the car exactly all the time. And that's something that is becoming more important as the regulation evolves.” 

Asked how difficult it was to achieve the perfect mechanical platform like Red Bull, Molina said: “Yeah, difficult. Last year, our departments were still evolving, learning to talk to each other. This year we're much better.  

“You can see it's not only about the aerodynamics, but how we link those departments together: what we develop in the tunnel, how it translates to what you see on track, how you set up the car.  

“But yes, it's not easy, otherwise everybody would be where Red Bull is.” 

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The fact that rivals are far more interested in the Red Bull mechanical platform than its DRS, says all you need to know about why the RB19’s rear wing is not the key to its success. 

And that also explains why even Verstappen himself has seen nothing out of the ordinary in terms of his DRS advantage. 

“To be honest with you. I'm not really surprised,” he said recently. “I think for us, it's been pretty similar to also last year.  

“I think our car, it's quite efficient on the straights. I see people talking about us doing magical things or tricks, but we're not.” 

Now the race is on to work out not what Red Bull is doing, but how it is doing it. 

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