(L to R): Max Verstappen, Red Bull; George Russell, Mercedes; Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, 2022

Verstappen’s DRS fault shows weight reduction may have been “too ambitious”

2022 Spanish Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner admitted the team may have gone too far in its bid to reduce its car’s weight after Max Verstappen encountered problems with his Drag Reduction System during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend.

Verstappen’s DRS malfunctioned during qualifying, spoiling his final run and costing him a chance to beat Charles Leclerc to pole position. The team made repairs to it overnight, but the problem recurred intermittently during the race.

Horner said the team had worked to reduce the weight of its car but said the reliability problem they had experienced indicated they may have gone too far.

“Obviously it needs further analysis,” he said. “Of course we’re chasing every ounce of performance and weight is a factor as well. Maybe we’ve been too ambitious there.

“But I think we need to understand exactly what the issue is. We thought we had a fix but, unfortunately, it didn’t prove to be a reliable fix for the whole of the race.”

Red Bull made several attempts to solve the problem during the race. At one stage they advised Verstappen on his radio to press his DRS button when he was no longer on the exit kerb at the final corner.

Verstappen said he tried many different approaches but could not make his DRS work consistently.

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“There is nothing you can do because, I mean, I’m not stupid, once you get the light and the activation beep, then you press the paddle. If it doesn’t open, there’s clearly an issue.

(L to R): Max Verstappen, Red Bull; George Russell, Mercedes; Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Spanish Grand Prix in pictures
“I spammed it like 50 times at one point on the straight and it’s just not opening, so there was clearly an issue. I tried all different kinds of things: Stay off the kerb, on the kerb, open it a tiny bit later but it was just broken, or like malfunctioning. So we clearly have an issue there on this wing.”

Reliability has been a cause for concern at Red Bull this year. The team has had three race-ending failures relating to the power unit during the 2022 season, with further problems on both cars during the Miami Grand Prix. After Leclerc retired from the lead of the Spanish Grand Prix with a problem on his Ferrari, Verstappen said Red Bull must minimise further losses due to technical faults.

“It’s just things we can improve, right? That issue with the DRS, of course, was quite costly but at the end, we still won the race, so as a team we are quite flexible. We adapt quickly if we have issues and we try to work around it, even during the race, so that’s good.

“Of course we’ll try to make sure that doesn’t happen again. But we didn’t retire, which other teams did. So that’s already a good improvement and you can see, it completely swings the championship around again.

“So from our side, we just have to try and be really consistent and try not to make too many mistakes. I mean, you’re not a robot, mistakes will happen, but we’ll try to minimise it.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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14 comments on “Verstappen’s DRS fault shows weight reduction may have been “too ambitious””

  1. I can only assume it was wind direction that was closing it once the actuator opened it (the time it flipped open and then closed instantly), I can’t really think of any other variables, but a ‘breeze’ is nothing compared to the air passing over the car at speed, so Red Bull would be playing with incredibly fine margins.

    Hydraulics? I don’t really know how they work on an F1 car, but I would assume the pressure they generate is consistent lap after lap. So why did it work sometimes and not others? Strange problem.

    I like that Verstappen uses gaming terminology like ‘spamming’, we’ve all been there, I was half decent at Street Fighter back in the day using such a technique.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      23rd May 2022, 11:17

      Yeah I laughed at the use of the word “spamming” as well. I can imagine him sat in the car beating the crap out of the button shouting “JUST F’N WORK!” At least he didn’t throw the steering wheel at the wall…

      1. @petebaldwin half the plastic in the ocean is probably the fault of gamers and controllers. And Chun-Li, Ryu etc (any protagonist really) not doing what you’re telling them to do.

        Max’s controller might be more expensive, but just as likely to get chucked into the sea.

    2. @bernasaurus I can’t be sure but if the DRS uses the same button to open and close, then it’s possible the times it opened and then closed immediately were when Verstappen was “spamming” the button to try to get it to work. There was one radio call at least where his engineer said he thought Max had closed it himself.

      I don’t know what the issue was, but since Horner is implying it might be weight reduction related then I would guess it’s something mechanical and not electronic. Maybe the tolerance was low enough that different levels of vibration in the car affected whether it would open or not – hence the suggestion to wait until he was off the kerb to try and activate it.

    3. I think what happened with the closing early there might well be due to the default safety thinking with DRS – if it fails it is build so as to close automatically @bernasaurus, @keithedin, @petebaldwin.

      But I can imagine that hitting the button several times might at times mean that when one of those finally registers another push then closes it again yeah, especially if there is some delay in the system. Can air pockets in the tubing cause that delay and malfunction?

      Regardless, I actually like seeing the teams struggling with reliability and issues with finding enough spare parts this year. It makes it feel more like the earlier days and introduces another bit of randomness, or maybe rather a factor to take into account. The teams are clearly having to push the limits.

    4. @bernasaurus there is also the question of why it was only a problem on Verstappen’s car, given there were no issues with Perez’s car throughout that weekend.

  2. Have they tried “turned off and on again”?

  3. Horner: Adrian, the DRS is bad, we changed it after qualifying and same thing happened. Newey: it’s really light.
    Horner: it don’t work
    Newey: it’s lighter.
    So on.

    Eventually Horner brings up the mp4-19 and Newey storms off.

  4. Well, it does show that DRS is needed, despite awesome speed, Red Bull would not make many passes without DRS.

    1. Russell was one of the fastest cars through the trap and he had great traction from the last corner. But I watched people pass without drs in Spain in the 90s on YT. How did they do it?

  5. That wing was the race we needed to find out Red Bull’s true intentions and management of Sergio. They will sacrifice Sergio every time to Max’s advantage. Red Bull are clearly wasting resources on the paper champion. It’s a real shame when they have a talent like Checo.

  6. Evidently the #2 car isn’t as light as the #1 car. Who needs a functioning rear wing when you have a very competent wingman.

    1. @jimfromus:
      If you come to that conclusion from this ‘evidence’ then I hope you don’t spend too much time on the internet. That kind of mental gymnastics will get you sucked into all kinds of ‘interesting’ theories…

      Consider the following propositions:
      1) RBR have 2 drivers who need to perform at their best. They give 1 driver better equipment because they like him more, even if it makes it more likely they’ll lose points to other teams by disadvantaging the other driver.
      2) RBR has 2 identical cars for 2 drivers, but 1 driver is considerably faster with the same material than the other and therefore operates the car closer to it’s breaking limit.

      Now read an article on something interesting like Occam’s razor and tell me which of the 2 propositions needs the least amount of logic bending assumptions

  7. This makes Max sound like the kind of person who hits the elevator button repeatedly, to “make it go faster”.

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