Abu Dhabi: Red Bull tests DRD system

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A Red Bull was at the Young Drivers Test in Abu Dhabi for a day and a half especially with conspicuous measuring devices on the go to collect aerodynamic data. On Wednesday afternoon, the engineers finally had new parts installed on the RB8. Junior driver Felix Antonio da Costa's car was equipped with a so-called DRD system (Drag Reduction Device).

Red Bull is copying DRD system

The technology is not new. Lotus made the start at the end of July in free practice for the German GP in Hockenheim. Mercedes has already tried the trick. At the Young Driver Test in Magny Cours, the Silver Arrows team gained their first experience with it in mid-September. Since then it has been refined regularly in the free practice sessions. Sauber followed suit as the third team in the test drives in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday (November 6th).

The fact that Red Bull is now also trying the trick should cause concern for the competition. If star designer Adrian Newey was not sure that the DRD system could make the car faster, he would probably save the development costs. The question is, how effectively the technology works?

Pioneer Lotus almost despaired of it during the tests in the free practice sessions. The principle sounds relatively simple in theory. Air is blown into the rear wing from below through a duct system. A periscope-like snorkel ensures that the flow on the tail unit is specifically disturbed. This reduces downforce and air resistance, which leads to a higher top speed.

The pictures from the Abu Dhabi test are not entirely clear how the new Red Bull system works. It could also be an extended double DRS. If the rear wing flap is folded up, air could theoretically flow through the end plates and through the lower wing (beam wing) to the snorkel. That would only be allowed in the last two races.

DRD development with difficulties

From the coming season, such a system may no longer be actively triggered by the driver. Indirect actuation via the DRS wing is also prohibited in 2013 by regulations. The teams only have a passive system to regulate the air flow.

This is where the big problem lies: A special valve only allows the flow to pass at a certain dynamic pressure. The air only reaches the snorkel from a certain speedRear wing. The opening pressure has to be recalculated and adjusted by the engineers depending on the route.

Lotus has already got to know the pitfalls. Either the system activated too late, which did not result in any benefit. Or it triggered too early, which meant that downforce was also lost in places where the driver couldn't use it. Lotus had originally hoped to use the system in the race this season. In the meantime, the possible debut has been postponed to 2013. In the last free practice sessions they completely waived.

Use of the DRD system controversial

At Mercedes too, the difficulties were recognized early on. After the first tests, Ross Brawn even expressed doubts as to whether the DRD system could even be operated efficiently. The benefit is small, the disadvantages due to the weight and the increased air resistance are not insignificant.

Now, of course, everyone is curious to see whether Red Bull will be more successful with it. Adrian Newey's team is still considered the benchmark for Formula 1 when it comes to aerodynamics. Thanks to double DRS and the complicated air flow in the underbody, the RB8 is currently the fastest car in Formula 1. Will be the DRD system for the Vettel team in 2013 to the Joker?

In our picture gallery we have the first photos from the Red Bull DRD system from Abu Dhabi.


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