It’s not often that an innovation on an F1 car slips through without being noticed at a Grand Prix, but the talk of the Japanese Grand Prix was the double DRS device on the rear wing of the Red Bull, which had actually been on the car in Singapore.
The idea is a simple variation on something tried by Lotus this year, to shed even more drag than a standard DRS wing.
Lotus have a passive system and are yet to be able to qualify and race with theirs as they have problems getting the aero rebalanced once the device is deactivated.
The Red Bull idea works more like the Mercedes F Duct front wing; when the DRS is activated it opens a hole (where the narrow, curved grey piece is on the inside of the endplate) to channel air through the rear wing endplate and out through the main beam of the wing (the lower part), shedding drag. It also exits onto the diffuser, helping with rear balance. It helps with top speed and speed through fast corners. In Suzuka Red Bull were in the top ten through the speed trap, only 1km/h slower than Button’s McLaren.
At Spa, in contrast, the Red Bulls were 21st and last in top speed at the end of the Kemmel Straight, 6km/h down on the McLaren.
Like Lotus, Red Bull needed help with qualifying; their chances in races were being harmed by not qualifying at the front of the grid. The DRS device can be used in qualifying, but not in the race (except for overtaking) and on a track like Suzuka, where there are many higher speed corners, there’s a good gain to be had.
So in Suzuka this device came into its own, helping to give Red Bull their first front row lock out of the season and setting Sebastian Vettel up for a momentous win, that blows the world championship wide open with only four points separating him from Fernando Alonso with five races remaining.
Red Bull also had a new front wing in Suzuka, which appeared to have been evolved to be sure to pass the more stringent FIA flexing tests, which were introduced to address rumoured rotation of the front wing.
Red Bull also had some updates to the rear suspension which helped to improve traction and rear tyre life. It was very noticeable from the audio on the on-board camera shots of Vettel’s pole lap that there was almost no wheelspin out of the lower speed corners.
The team has a tremendous momentum now and must be considered the favourites for the championship as the car is coming good at just the right moment, especially as Ferrari seems to be struggling to make updates work on its car.