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Why are Red Bull so strong at Silverstone?
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Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Jun 2013   |  7:36 pm GMT  |  55 comments

Reigning world champions Red Bull have claimed victory at Silverstone in three of the last four years and arrive at this weekend’s British Grand Prix as favourites to add to that tally.

According to JA on F1 technical adviser and former Williams chief engineer Mark Gillan, the secret behind their success at the Northamptonshire venue is that their car is the best out there in terms of aerodynamic efficiency – something which is crucial on the sweeping terms of Silverstone.

“Silverstone is certainly a circuit where better drivers seem to thrive,” said Gillan. “It’s technically quite difficult and very demanding on the aerodynamic platform as it has the highest average corner speed of any circuit. It’s definitely a circuit which highlights the inadequacies in the aerodynamic platform. Red Bull are probably the best team aerodynamically out there.”

Silverstone is built on an airfield which was used during World War II so the track is prone to windy conditions, something the Red Bull is best equipped to deal with because of its superior aerodynamic stability.

“It can be a bit tricky as it’s a pretty windswept area,” added Gillan. “When you’re going in at such a high speed corner speed, in high crosswind conditions, the aerodynamics are close to being unstable so if you get a side gust, you will lose stability. The cars with better aerodynamics always tend to do better.”

The weather usually plays a part at Silverstone. Last year, Friday and Saturday were hit by wet conditions but on Sunday, the sun came out for the first dry conditions of the weekend – something which makes it very challenging for the aerodynamicists.

“At Silverstone, there is a lot of pressure on all teams to bring upgrades as it is a home race for the majority of teams,” added Gillan. “Because the weather is unfortunately usually bad, teams have very little time to check the correlation between track data and the windtunnel or information from any aero track testing they may have done.

“Red Bull will be very well placed for these conditions. They have got a very tightknit aerodynamic team who have been together for a long time and have confidence in their tools. If the weather is atrocious, one would expect the Red Bulls to have an advantage over everyone, because their correlation between the data is likely to be the best as is their aerodynamic platform.”

And it seems Red Bull are benefitting from a design philosophy which they integrated to their car many years ago.

Gillan said: “Red Bull were probably one of first teams to really concentrate on aerodynamic stability, not just efficiency, but what we call stability metrics – how the car performs with angle change and ride height motion.

“They have developed the car around that area – and most teams have followed suit. But Red Bull are probably the most advanced in that type of development so their car is likely to be the most stable platform.”

Gillan adds that Pirelli’s decision to take the two hardest tyres in the compound range  - hard and medium – will help the reigning world champions.

“Red Bull are struggling a little bit on the tyre situation, but Pirelli have gone for the two hardest tyre choices which will probably go in Red Bull’s favour,” he said.

Red Bull currently lead the constructors’ championship by 56 points from Ferrari with Sebastian Vettel, who is the only driver so far this season to win three races, on the top in the drivers’ standings, 36 clear of Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari.

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55 Comments
  1. Random 79 says:

    Nevermind Red Bull, Ferrari, etc.

    Hopefully Silverstone ends up being more of a success this year for all the British fans, regardless who wins the race :)

    1. Sebee says:

      SO LONG MARK!

      This guys has BALLS! Offer on the table, fastest car, and he’s leaving RBR. It just goes to prove, F1 thirst quenched!

      1. Troy says:

        He’s been outspoken against the cheese-wheel-Pirellis for some time, saying that real racing doesn’t happen with them.

        http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/106731

        I wish him all the best with Porsche.

  2. goferet says:

    From what I have seen this season, it appears Red Bull (Vettel in particular) is having the sort of season he had in 2011.

    Yes, just like 2011, the tracks where Red Bull were meant to do well such as Silverstone, Suzuka, Germany etc… they ended up struggling a little bit.

    On the other hand tracks Red Bull were expected to struggle on such as Canada 2011, Spa 2011 and Monza 2012, they went on to do rather well.

    So yeah, on paper it appears like Red Bull’s car gadgets may see them pull clear but, I think we may get a surprise this time in the form of Lotus.

    Yes, if Kimi wins this weekend, it will be 2007 all over again.

    As for the tyres, this can work both ways for conservative tyres may mean the gentle teams may have one less stop to do or at least pit much later.

  3. Get Well Soon Murray says:

    It doesn’t matter how aerodynamically proficient the Red Bulls are. The other teams /drivers need to step up to the challenge. And they are falling somewhat short at the moment.

    I’m not a betting man but is it odds on for Vettel already?

  4. Sven says:

    So far there’s a clear tendency: if Vettel doesn’t win the British GP, he becomes the champion. The only year he did win it was 2009, and we all know that he didn’t win the title that year.
    So for those hoping that Vettel doesn’t become the champion again: start hoping that he wins the GP this year. :P

    1. Random 79 says:

      That’s so crazy it just might work…

    2. Richard says:

      Alonso won in 2011 (which was quite a fun race despite the inclement weather and my girlfriend complaining about Silverstone’s simple infrastructure for most of the race!).

      Since Vettel won that season too maybe even your rock-solid championship forecast needs a rethink!

      1. Richard says:

        Actually just realised what this makes more sense than I did – tally ho!

  5. Sven says:

    I obviously mean only his Red Bull years.

  6. Tealeaf says:

    Actually I think this one is down to Webber being a Silverstone specialist, he even qualified onthe front row in 2008 when the car wasn’t up to speed, Vettel’s form at silverstone is patchy to say the least and compared to the likes of Valencia, Suzuka and Bahrain Seb looks distinctly average at Silverstone, Webber is making the car look stronger here than it is.

    1. Glennb says:

      Now that Webber has made the decision to retire from F1 I hope we get to see the best of him in the remaining races this season. I tip him for victory here ;)

    2. Spinodontosaurus says:

      I think this is just as relevant as any perceived aero advantage Red Bull has. Even in 2009, Vettel only qualified ahead of Webber because the latter was blocked by Raikkonen on his hotlap.

      And from an outside perspective I’m not even sure Red Bull have even had the strongest aero for a long time. The last time there were notably strong at aero-dependant tracks was way back in Spain 2011, and even then only in qualifying, in fact if anything they tend to struggle at Hungary and Catalunya (yet are always strong at so-called ‘driver circuits’).

  7. Rob Newman says:

    I doubt if Red Bull will have that edge in Silverstone this year. They have not fully sorted their tyre issues yet. They were superior in Canada but I am sure that was a one off. My gut feeling is, Ferrari will be stronger here.

    1. KGBVD says:

      My gut tells me that your gut had something funny for breakfast.

      RB is close to dominant this year, and Ferrari, as ever, can do nothing but shrug. Silverstone will mark the point when the competition switches their focus to 2014.

      1. hero_was_senna says:

        This may be of interest to you.

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/22844748

  8. BreezyRacer says:

    It doesn’t hurt that Webber is exceptional at Silverstone either.

  9. Craig Baker says:

    If “Red Bull have claimed victory at Silverstone in three of the last four years” and if “Silverstone is certainly a circuit where better drivers seem to thrive” that would mean that since Webber has defeated Vettel two times out of those three wins that Mark is the better Red Bull driver.
    ‘Flame alert’

    1. drama queen says:

      You are correct Mark is superior than Vettel on this circuit so far.
      What flame alert, it’s the truth.

      1. Craig Baker says:

        Sad News all but this will be Mark Webbers last year at Silverstone as next year he will be pilot for Porsche AG as they return to Le Mans and the World Endurance Championships.
        http://www.markwebber.com/on-the-track-news/2013-season/formula-1-pilot-mark-webber-to-contest-le-mans-for-porsche/

    2. **Paul** says:

      One of those was in 2010 though wasn’t it where Vettel out qualified Webber (with that marginally newer wing) but Hamiltons front wing gave Vettel a puncture on lap 1 resulting in him having no chance of winning the race.

      To suggest one driver is better than the other with that hanging over one victory is pretty tenious.

    3. Glennb says:

      Who could argue with logic like that Craig :)
      I’m a huge Webber fan but I dont think he’s better than Seb. Just an opinion ;)
      Considering Seb has about 3 fans here and Webber a few more, I can see this argument fizzing out soon. If you want an argument, you need to attack Lewis, Kimi or Fernando. Too easy :)

  10. Steve says:

    That jinxed them! Now I expect we’ll see no RB on the podium.

  11. aveli says:

    aerodynamics is a much stronger factor at silverstone than other circuits. a super fast track with no big stops gifts silverstone to the bulls.

  12. SamH123 says:

    I’m not convinced RB are that strong at Silverstone. 2011 they dominated everywhere, 2012 and 2010 they only just won. I expect to see Alonso with the upper hand this weekend.

    1. **Paul** says:

      I agree, I think Lotus and Ferrari will come back to the fore this weekend. I’m prediciting an Alonso win. The margin of victory by RBR in 2012 on many tracks was very very small and I think people just assume they dominated as they did in 2011 even though it wasn’t the case. McLaren really had the best car last year and should have taken the title.

  13. Drew says:

    Webber to make it 3!!

    1. Joshua says:

      His last chance to do so on in F1. Fingers crossed mark leaves on a high this year.

    2. aveli says:

      webber will not drive for red bull in the 2014 championships. he will drive for porsche instead.
      that said, he is in it with a last chance to win the british grand prix again.

    3. Robert says:

      +1. Would like to see McLaren come back with strong upgrades and do something unexpected (maybe a podium?!?), but for the win, Webber all the way.

      For those looking to explain his form here, he lives not too far away, sleeps in his own bed during the race weekend, and has a lot of support structure around him here. Given that plus a Newey car, and you have some really, really good form. And a shot at #3 this weekend….GO MARK!

  14. dean cassady says:

    Ah, very well put.
    Great analysis; just what I thought, but with better frames of reference.
    I’m musing about the finally debut of ‘the device’.
    I’d be interested in knowing the comparative analysis of aero stability amongst the other frontrunners.
    Great article!

    1. KRB says:

      Not a track for “the device”, owing to the high-speed corners. You need long straights and low to medium speed corners to really get the benefit of a passive drag-reduction system.

      1. dean cassady says:

        As it turns out, you got it wrong. But it doesn’t look like the device is really helping much, in qualifying anyways; maybe the race.

      2. KRB says:

        Yes, didn’t do too well in the predictions game this past weekend. Theory still holds though … need that gap between the highest straight speeds, and the highest cornering speed on the track, to really see benefits from it. The smaller the gap between those two, the less the benefit. I certainly didn’t notice it helping Lotus any this weekend. But perhaps they did it with a view to the Nurburgring, and specifically Spa coming up.

  15. JohnBt says:

    When Silverstone arrives I think Backetts, the most awesome ‘S’ configuration in F1.

    Hoping for a dry hot raceday.

  16. Elie says:

    Red bull track if ever there was one and anyone that thinks differently is absolutely dreaming. That’s said I hope the others find something and Lotus’s new partners -Infinity will be looking with keen interest Im sure- Go Kimi !!

    1. Yago says:

      So probably I am dreaming. But it may well be that, when the race is over, you will wake up and realize that the one who was actually dreaming were you, and a Ferrari is on the top spot of the podium (guess which of the two Ferraris?). I promise you can count on me to wake you up, the alarm clock will be a replay on James Allen website as follows:

      “Dear Elie:

      1. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
      2. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
      3. Felipe Massa (Ferrari)

      If the winner is not FA, then quali and/or the race where run in wet conditions, or a mechanical failure/accident hampered his race.

      Truly yours,

      Yago”

      P.D. : If I get the whole podium right, do not expect me to wake you up, as I won’t be sure if this is me who is actually dreaming! xD

      1. Elie says:

        I’said this because some stupid people were saying above that the high speed corners did not suit Red Bull which is just ridiculous. I don’t Ferrari will be competitive I certainly think it will be between Seb and Fernando . But I would say Seb first !

      2. Elie says:

        Sorry *i don’t doubt* Ferrari will be competitive

  17. gudien says:

    Will the Mercedes F-1 team drivers Rosberg and Hamilton wear black coloured helmets?

  18. FernanDino says:

    Well, this is well known. It’s due to Red Bull having the highest speed in most corners. Never mind if their top speed in straight line is among the lowest.

  19. Adam (Mr F1) Coe says:

    Webbers signed with porsche for 2014 le mans!!

  20. hulliby says:

    Webber to retire from F1 at the end of the season…and cue to the speculation around who gets his seat next year…

    I’m tipping Ricciardo.

    Congrats to Mark on a stellar career, and fingers crossed he can finish off in style! Aussie grit!

    James I hope there’ll be some sort of story covering his career highlights and contribution to the sport?

  21. Dazza says:

    Webber to Porsche 2014. It will be interesting to see how the relationship with Vettel changes for the remainder of the season now that it doesn’t matter anymore…

  22. drama queen says:

    Just heard MW is moving on next year. So sad for an MW fan. Probably my last post here. There’s only 1 guy to thank besides MW for a few years of excitement and that is JA.
    Thanks James and mostly for your accessibility from a fans perspective. For me if Dan Ricciardo gets the nod i’ll be back otherwise back to local V8′s for me for now.

  23. aveli says:

    webber will not drive for red bull in the 2014 championships. he will drive for porsche instead.

  24. Sean Thompson says:

    How many teams dedicate wind tunnel time to tangential winds versus head on? Detail, detail.

    Three week breaks suck.

  25. Steve Brisbane Oz says:

    Hi James

    Any chance yo can secure the bio deal with MW no that he’s leaving F1?
    Cheers
    S

    1. Poyta says:

      Now that would be a great read!

  26. Glennb says:

    I’m sticking with my Webber, Vettel, Alonso trifecta.

  27. Irish con says:

    Red Bull are usually very strong at silverstone yes but the days are gone where coming to silverstone, Barcelona, susuka and Budapest were they would qualify 1-2 on the grid and then disappear in the race. I still think if its a dry weekend fernando will beat red bull this weekend despite the tyres favouring red bull.

  28. Chris Ralph says:

    If one was to have a wee punt, put a couple of bob on Webber. Free from pressure after announcing his exit from F1 he will fly. Hope he sticks it right up the horrid little Finger Boy…

  29. Hiten says:

    And there goes Webber!

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