McLaren have made a conscious effort to replicate Red Bull’s DRS effect with the latest upgrades brought to the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
McLaren recovered from a slow start to 2023 to emerge as Red Bull’s most consistent challengers in the second half of the season, but straight-line performance remains a clear weakness of the MCL60 car.
Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri both fell in Q1 at the high-speed Vegas street circuit, where both McLarens were among the five slowest cars through the speed trap in qualifying.
McLaren aiming to replicate Red Bull DRS trick
The team also endured a challenging weekend at Monza in September, where Piastri and Norris could only qualify seventh and ninth respectively.
Red Bull’s gains when DRS is deployed has been one of the key strengths of the title-winning RB19 car, with McLaren taking their first steps to reduce the deficit last weekend.
McLaren were one of just three teams – along with Aston Martin and Alpine – to take upgrades to the penultimate round of the season, with a revised rear wing and new beam wing introduced.
Red Bull’s single beam wing arrangement is seen as the key component behind their straight-line performance, with the extreme amount of downforce generated by the RB19 allowing the team to get away with running it at high-downforce circuits.
Other teams, meanwhile, are forced to switch to a double beam wing at such venues to create sufficient downforce and stability at the rear of the car.
Having previously been among the rest, McLaren are now aiming to join the best by replicating Red Bull’s single beam wing setup with the improved aero efficiency set to enhance the car’s DRS effect.
While the effect of the upgrade was not apparent in Las Vegas, McLaren are expected to continue to finetune the new design at this weekend’s season-ending Abu Dhabi GP and into next season in their attempts to chase down Red Bull.
Although Red Bull’s DRS advantage over the opposition is usually at its most extreme at high-downforce circuits, an analysis published by German publication Auto Motor und Sport after July’s Belgian GP revealed the extent of the RB19’s gains when the rear wing is opened.
Whereas McLaren gained only 9.5mph with DRS activated at Spa, Red Bull found 12.7mph between the entry to Eau Rouge and the end of the Kemmel straight.
“It’s incredible how much lap time Red Bull gains as soon as the rear wing is open. When we put the speed curves on top of each other, we can hardly believe it ourselves,” Mercedes’ then-technical director Mike Elliott was quoted as saying after his team were have found to have gained the least among F1’s frontrunners.