The rear wing was one of the themes to hold the spot on Saturday of the Qatar Grand Prix. Red Bull has in fact brought the rear wing of the Mercedes to the attention of the commissioners, who at the end of qualifying carried out a pull-down test to verify that there was no anomalous flexion of the main profile of the wing, as instead insinuated by the rivals. However, Red Bull itself was also struggling with its rear wing, suffering from problems of a completely different nature due to the malfunction of the DRS activation mechanism, which occurred repeatedly in the last three world championship events.
In Mexico, Brazil and in free practice in Qatar, Red Bull suffered a wobble of the aileron movable profile when the DRS was open which, in addition to not bringing any performance advantage, constituted a problem of reliability as well as safety. The repair of the system took away precious time from the team in the practice sessions in preparation for the Qatari round, even more delicate considering the debut of Formula 1 on the Losail track and therefore the absence of previous information. Red Bull started the weekend with a set-up far from being optimal, unlike the Mercedes rivals whose drivers expressed satisfaction with the starting set-up, which required few corrections. The Milton Keynes team therefore needed even more to take advantage of the test sessions to improve the balance of the RB16B, but the work was hampered by the time spent in the pits trying to correct the problem at the DRS.
As reported by Motorsport-Magazin.com, the Red Bull mechanics failed to remedy the problem, so the only solution left was to change the spec of the rear wing between FP3 and qualifying, with the intent of mount an aileron on which the activation of the DRS does not trigger the dangerous oscillation of the profile. The episode also saw divergent opinions on the wing to be fitted, with Verstappen preferring a more discharged version, while the technical department, based on the available data, believed that the more loaded specification would have guaranteed better lap times. At the end, the RB16B took to the track for qualifying equipped with the maximum load rear wing, characterized by the main straight profile with a rise in the center, contrary to the specific medium load spoon curved downwards.
The high-load rear wing of the Red Bull is a particularly extreme version, so much so that it was previously used exclusively in Monte Carlo, in free practice in Hungary and Mexico, but after the rarefaction of the air due to the 2200 meters of altitude involved a drastic reduction in the load released. The same specification was also evaluated in Qatar during FP1, with Verstappen turning with the high load wing, while Perez used the medium load spoiler, which was then used by both pilots in subsequent practice sessions. Red Bull had therefore opted for a non-maximum load aerodynamic guise, demonstrating the extreme nature of the high-downforce wing, unlike the rest of the grid. Mercedes has in fact used the double support for the rear wing combined with the t-wing, the latter also present on Ferrari coupled to the maximum load wing with a straight profile.
Red Bull’s need to change wing shortly before qualifying, effectively increasing the aerodynamic load, is also in contrast with the set-up strategy highlighted by Federico Albano during FP3. The data showed that Red Bull was particularly weak in the third practice session, trying to improve its performance on the straight at the cost of greater tire wear, effectively favoring qualifying over the race. The wing with greater load mounted subsequently could therefore constitute an advantage in terms of race pace, helping to contain the sliding of the car to protect the tires.
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