A traffic spike to the piece I wrote back after the Montreal GP reminded me of the a similar furore we had when fans pointed at the staggered lines that Webber's car produced as he exited the chicane at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
I think there are several things we must consider rather than just taking a blinkered look at the difference in pace from Sebastian to the rest of the field
- Singapore is a street circuit and thus high downforce, we know that Red Bull excel when they visit this type of circuit
- Vettel was only 0.091 quicker than Rosberg in qualifying, of course we have to factor in a small percentage of track evolution whilst Vettel bit his finger nails in the garage and not going for another run.
- By not doing two runs in Q3 Vettel saved a set of fresh Option tyres, this for me is the biggest reason we see the disparity in times at the end of the GP when the track was at it's best and he had a fresh set of tyres.
- Clear air running is a massive factor in any drivers victory, this is heightened at street circuits as not only is it more difficult to pass, which will inevitably lead to tyre graining and/or increased degredation. You also have the issue of heat/inefficient air, running in the wake of another car means that not only does the car ahead disturb the aerodynamics of the trailing car but it effects performance. The engine must breath in order to create power and should you be following another car not only is the engine and it's components receiving a reduced quantity of airflow it's also agitated and pre-heated.
- Post Safety Car Rosberg was struggling with Front Wing issues (Tyre marbles stuck in between the flaps) this causes understeer and although some of it can be dialed out by changing diff settings this of course compromises corner entry, apex speed and corner exit.
- In terms of upgrades for Singapore the team didn't have anything monumental that would suggest such a huge differential in pace but the team ran their Rear Wing DDRS for the first time at Marina Bay in 2012 that went un noticed until the following races.
Firstly I think we would do well to look at some of my past articles (and links to others) in which I and others have talked about Red Bull's dominance:
Cylinder Deactivation: Not a phenomenon that's unique to Red Bull or indeed Renault but it is something that is believed to be of greater potential to those using Renault power. Put simply it is the reduction in use of cylinders, this can be used to best effect in the braking and turning in phase as it will allow the engine to act as an air pump as the car reduces speed. It will of course also allow for the engine to recover quicker as the driver picks up the throttle again on corner exit. By allowing the engine to deactivate cylinders during the off throttle moments it means the exhaust is still feeding energy to the car and therefore the Floor and Diffuser.
Change of Pirelli's tyre construction back to 2012 specification: The change of tyre construction from Silverstone saw a return to the specification used by the Italian tyre manufacturer in 2012. The obvious area this has effected has been the midfield with both McLaren and Sauber able to make ground on Force India. The change came at a pivotal time in the season as decisions were being made up and down the paddock as to whether the teams start to shift focus to their 2014 challengers. These decisions were not exclusive to 2014 though with 11 races left the development programme for the rest of the season must also be set out. From Round 13 onwards we are in the 'fly away' zone and so the pre planning of upgrade/track specific upgrades are mapped out by the teams well in advance. (A team can only chase so many avenues of development otherswise they lose focus)
Red Bull were one of the teams chasing the FIA for the changes to the Pirelli tyres and for obvious reasons, I don't feel they wholeheartedly dropped the development aspect of the 2012 tyre model and with them possessing one of the quickest cars at the tail end of 2012 they clearly understood how to best extract performance from it. The RB8 and RB9 are incredibly similar vehicles whereas Ferrari, Lotus and moreover McLaren made changes in order to make large leaps in performance.
German GP 2012 Torque Map Clarification: The torque map used by Red Bull at the German GP was so drastically different to those used in the preceding GP's that it came to the attention of the FIA's race stewards. From then the teams had to decide on a map from the first 5 races they wanted to use as a baseline, +/- 2% of this map would be acceptable by the FIA for changes at each GP. At the start of the 2013 season Renault (and perhaps others) believed there would be a reset on the baseline map helping teams to make the necessary changes they required to increase performance for their car. The rule clarification made after Germany has in my opinion had an impact on the development of the 2012/13 cars. Although the the torque map is totally different to the engine map they are intrinsically linked, migrating too far from the bodywork a team ran in the opening 5 rounds of 2012 has to be done with compromise.
Exhausts and moreover the Red Bull Cross Under Tunnel: With all teams now utilising a Coanda styled exhaust, be it a ramped design or Semi-Coanda design it's clear that during this regulation set gaining performance from the Diffuser is pivotal in increasing the downforce yield. As I mention above it is a rob Peter to pay Paul scenario where you must give up something in one area in order to make further gains in others. If we take Red Bull's 3 closest protagonists Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus all three weren't using Coanda style exhaust systems in the first races of 2012 with Ferrari introducing their Semi-Coanda arrangement at Round 5 in Barcelona. Even Red Bull had tried various exhaust configurations throughout the early stages of the season as all the teams grappled with over heating the inner shoulders of the rear tyres.
Even though Red Bull struggled to correlate what was being seen in the Wind Tunnel/CFD with on track results with the cross-under tunnel their main stay however was the adoption of the downwash ramp. Now used by Lotus and Sauber too the cross-under acts much like the Semi-Coanda's counterpart but uses the surface of the bodywork to guide the exhaust plume. The tunnel allows for the airflow to migrate inbound and exit the car more centrally allowing for a cleaner distribution of the exhaust gases into the gap between the floor and the tyres edge. Furthermore it also allows for a much tidier flow into the svelt Coke Bottle region.
Moving back briefly to 2012 and we know that both Lotus and Mercedes ran most of their early campaign with the exhausts in more neutral positions maximising engine performance rather then aero performance. When they made the switch later in the season to Semi-Coanda exhausts they did so with a compromise, as their torque maps (and therefore their correlation to their engine maps) were most likely less efficient than that of Red Bull.
Ferrari's 2012 exhaust carried the nickname the 'Acer Duct' due to the sponsorship displayed in that region, although it utilised a layout akin to the Semi-Coanda configuration they now use it also provided the Sidepod's cooling outlet aft of the exhaust position.
Taking both the torque map and exhaust solutions being used in combination, I'd suggest that although the FIA and teams believed they were curtailing an advantage that Red Bull were creating (in Germany 2012) what they actually did was cut off their nose to spite their face.
Helmholtz / Resonator Chambers: Not an item exclusively used by Red Bull, Helmholtz chambers are used in Formula One in order to change the way in which the exhaust produces power and also aid in smoothing the exhaust plume transition.
Ride Height / Rake: We have seen for years now that Red Bull run with a more extreme rake than most of it's competitors. As explained in the links ride height and rake form an important role in the increase of downforce extracted from the Diffuser. Get it wrong and the Diffuser will lose performance and is predominantly why teams have progressively chased the use of interlinked suspensions over the last few seasons. The floor on the RB9 has seen significant revisions from it's predecessor with tyre squirt slots on the outer periphery and the use of 2 vertical floor strakes just off from the centre-line of the exhaust. These are being used in combination with the plume itself to strengthen the Vortex that curls up and under the outer portion of the Diffuser. Feeding airflow into the gap between the Diffusers edge and the tyres sidewall is what we call 'sealing the diffuser' this helps create a low pressure region at the diffusers edge and increases the downforce yield.
You cannot take what I have mentioned here in isolation and must look at the whole package of the RB9, all of the components create the perfect storm and even more so when allied to Sebastian Vettel's driving style. Mark Webber prefers a car that moves around allowing him to feel his way in and around corners, Vettel however is able to apply a counter-intuitive style that allows him to commit to the corner when most would back out. This is done by feeding the Diffuser with exhaust gases which in turn creates the downforce required to pull the car through the corner.
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