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DRS push wiped out Red Bull’s top-speed F1 advantage

Jonathan Noble

The two championship contenders started the 2022 F1 season with very different car characteristics, even if there was little in the lap time to separate them.

The Ferrari was better in slow and medium corners, while Red Bull had a clear advantage on the straights and flat corners.

But as the campaign has developed and the two teams have adapted their cars to counter their main rival, their performance dynamics have converged – with Ferrari as fast as Red Bull on the straights in Austria last weekend.

Ferrari believes a new low-drag wing, first used by Charles Leclerc at the Canadian Grand Prix, has taken a decisive step to wipe out Red Bull’s top speed advantage, especially when the DRS was open.

Asked by Motorsport.com whether the balance of performance between the two teams had now changed, Mattia Binotto said: “We were definitely at a disadvantage compared to the Red Bull in terms of straight-line speed, especially in DRS zones.

“As for the strength of their DRS, compared to ours, we’ve worked a lot on it. So the new rear wing that we first introduced in Canada with Charles has been on both cars since the UK.

“And with that new rear wing, I think we simply narrowed the gap we had in terms of speed. I think they still have a small advantage, but it’s very little or negligible.”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

Photo by: Ferrari

The shift to a lower drag wing, rather than just shedding downforce, has allowed Ferrari not to sacrifice the strength it has had many times this year with tire degradation.

Binotto thinks there is nothing that separates Ferrari and Red Bull in terms of traction. However, he thinks Leclerc and Sainz are better able to exploit the grip advantage their car appears to have.

“Limited in power [corners]”We’re very close,” he said. “Then it’s just about the low-grip corners where we can make the difference.

“I think [in Austria] we have been fast, not only because of the car, but because I think the two drivers had a fantastic weekend in terms of car balance, car set-up, tire knowledge, tire management and driving on the track.”

Ferrari’s new low-drag rear wing is intended to perform best on medium-downforce circuits, with the team realizing that Red Bull’s package had previously given it a significant advantage.

Claudio Albertini, Ferrari Race Operations Manager, recently said of the wing: “For the average level of downforce, similar to what we used in Miami or Australia for example, it’s that kind of track.

“So [we are] to maintain that level of downforce, and we will work on the efficiency to have a more efficient wing rear wing.”

Asked if reducing drag was something the team itself had focused on, or a response to Red Bull’s advantage, Albertini said: “With developments you sometimes realize [things] when you are racing. You can see how you compare to other teams and where you can improve.

“We could see that, in top speed for example, it was an area where there was still room for improvement and so we improved efficiency.”

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