Red Bull and Mercedes rear wings catch the eye in Qatar GP F1 garages

Uros Radovanovic
Red Bull and Mercedes F1 cars seen ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix weekend.

Red Bull and Mercedes F1 cars seen ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix weekend.

After a little break, F1 action is revving up again, and this time it’s in Qatar – the last stop before we head to the Americas. 

As always, teams are adjusting to the track conditions and configuration, and the Lusail International Circuit presents quite a unique challenge.

Let’s take a look at some of the key technical details for teams and the track itself that can give us insights into what to expect during the weekend.

Qatar GP – a tyre-eating weekend

Qatar is one of the hottest tracks on the calendar. Despite being a night race, high temperatures are present, which naturally affect the performance of the cars and the drivers. Therefore teams must pay special attention to engine cooling, brakes, and the all-important tyres.

Pirelli has prepared the hardest tyres for this race weekend – C1, C2, and C3.

Nevertheless, Qatar is a track that wears out tyres at an incredible rate, primarily due to its fast corners and high temperatures.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that Lusail has a fresh layer of asphalt, introducing an element of uncertainty as we will only see how it affects tyre wear during our one and only practice session before we dive straight into qualifying.

As mentioned, Qatar GP features a high number of fast corners and just one straight.

This means teams will focus more on adapting to high speeds, bringing high-downforce aerodynamic packages.

The team that can extract the most grip from the hard tyres will gain a significant advantage.

However, finding the right balance to provide equal downforce on the front and rear axles is crucial to navigating high-speed corners effectively.

Changes on the rear wings

The most striking changes can be observed in the rear wings, which can reveal the philosophy of teams in some cases. We can expect wings that generate high to medium levels of downforce, as seen in the image below.

Certainly, the Red Bull team has introduced the rear wing at the steepest angle. DRS activations will create substantial downforce but also drag. This might pose challenges on the main straight when not in the DRS zone but, considering the aerodynamic efficiency of the RB19, it may not even be a significant issue.

On tracks of this nature, teams focus primarily on the part of the circuit that is most prominent.

In Qatar, it’s the fast corners while, in Monza, it’s the straights. Red Bull will likely establish a significant advantage on other parts of the track, making potential losses on the straight less noticeable. As with most races this year, we can expect Red Bull to be the team with the highest percentage increase in their top speed with the rear wing open. 

On the other hand, Mercedes’ rear wing appears entirely different. The DRS plane is set at a much shallower angle, which will allow for higher top speeds. The W14 car inherently struggles with drag more than others, leading the team to opt for this design.

Another noticeable trend is the increased popularity of the “cut” endplate design. AlphaTauri was the first to introduce it, followed by other teams. Given that on this type of track downforce is more important than drag, it’s not surprising that more teams are choosing this approach.

Cooling – a major challenge in Qatar

Qatar is synonymous with high temperatures and demanding conditions for both drivers and cars. Teams must pay special attention to engine and brake cooling to prevent component overheating.

The most significant changes can be seen in the engine covers.

Despite potential aerodynamic disturbances that can arise, teams are compelled to cool their engines. Larger openings in the engine covers can disrupt airflow and create dirty air behind them, affecting the performance of the rear wing and beam wing.

As a result, engineers strive to position these elements in a way that minimises the impact on aerodynamics as much as possible. They are often designed to allow turbulence to pass between the rear wing and the beam wing, providing cleaner, high-energy airflow to these components.

The same philosophy can be observed on the Ferrari cars. In addition to the engine, cooling the brakes will also be necessary, even though Qatar is not a track that requires heavy braking.

Qatar Grand Prix – A hot, exciting race?

One thing is certain, an exciting weekend awaits us. Max has a chance to secure his third consecutive championship title – and as things stand, he could clinch it on Saturday.

With a sprint race on Saturday, we’re in for double the action and double the fun. We’ll see which teams can best prepare for this unusual combination of high temperatures, and fast corners, and there is the fact that it’s a night race. Expectations are that Red Bull will dominate, with McLaren close behind. However, Formula 1 is a sport where nothing can be known for sure.

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