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Sebastian Vettel stormed to lead in World Drivers Championship with 4 consecutive wins in second half of the season. But how many races did he win in the first half? Only one. So how a driver who scored just one win in first 11 races score 4 wins in the next 9 races? The answer lies in the car RB8, designed by one and only Adrian Newey.
First half: Red Bull din't really had 'that car'
In the first half of the season, Red Bull failed to make a car which could dominate the season as they did in 2010 and 2011. Sebastian Vettel who dominated last season with 11 victories could only score one at Bahrain(though he could have won the European GP as well had he not had a alternator issue). He was outperformed by his teammate Mark Webber, both in terms of points and wins.
Red Bull simply didn't have the car that could dominate the season, but they were right up with McLarens. But McLaren weren't able to perfrom upto their potential thanks to some really poor pit stops. Meanwhile Mercedes thanks to their Double DRS was extremely strong in qualifying however they were never that strong on Sundays because of limits on DRS use. Moreover, they faced severe tyre wear issues.
In all this process, Alonso who only had the 3rd fastest car in race and 4th fastest car in qualifying used his talent and experience to take the lead in the drivers standings by a massive margin of 40 points.
But Red Bull didn't really lose it all. They were still 2nd and 3rd in the drivers championship and 1st in the constructors. Button had a poor streak of races and he along with Hamilton lost many points because of poor pit stops. Thus Red Bulls were able to beat McLaren in the constructors despite having a slower car.
All changes for the good in 2nd half
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Red Bull again weren't able to touch McLaren in second half of the season. The British team grabbed pole position and victories at first two races in Belgium and Italy. But at Singapore, pole sitter Lewis Hamilton retired from the lead due to a gearbox failure. This retirement gifted Vettel his second victory of the season. From then Vettel went on to win next three races. That means Vettel got 100 points in these 4 races and that was enough to recover from a 42 point deficit over Fernando Alonso(at the time of summer break). Also at the last race in Abu Dhabi, Vettel qualified in 3rd place but was forced to start from the pitlane because he didn't had the required amount of fuel in his car. On race day, he drove brilliantly from back of the grid to take the final spot on the podium.
Webber's performance also improved and the Australian scored two podiums at Korea and India. But how Red Bull's performance improved so much in second half of the season? The answer is there in the next section.
Changes to exhaust and DDRS does the job
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Not one but two major technical changes helped Red Bull in second half of the season - the new exhaust and DDRS(double Drag Reduction System).
The reason for Red Bull's supremacy in 2011 was the blown diffusers. Newey and his team exploited blown diffusers, a system in which the exhuast gases are blown towards the rear wing to generate more downforce. While many teams used this blown diffuser, no other team was able to use it as effectively as the Red Bulls.
Blown diffusers are now banned in Formula 1 but Red Bull have designed a system which works on the same principal. Instead of channelizing the exhaust gases into the rear wing, they instead channelize it between the rear wing and the wheel. This seals the gap between the rear tyres and the car resulting in more downforce.
The second thing is DDRS. Mercedes were the first team to try DDRS but the German manufacturer along with Lotus(who tried the same later) never got it right. The former also couldn't focus on improving general aerodynamics of the cars because of the same. Mercedes themselves admit that it is one of the reason for their poor form in last few races.
Coming back to Red Bull DDRS, the Austrian team tested in various practice sessions before finally using it at the Singapore Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel went on to win the race(but only after Hamilton retired from P1).
First of all their Double DRS is different from others. Their DDRS stalls the rear wing instead of the front. When DRS is opened, a duct is revealed and the air passing through the rear wings enters this duct. This air in duct is further used to stall other parts of the rear wing.
As we all know DRS can be used anywhere on the track in practice sessions and qualifying and the this duct helps them gain a few extra tenths which are crucial is qualifying. This is an important reason for Red Bull's superiority in qualifying in last few races(Abu Dhabi being a exception).
However, in the race DRS can be used only on a few straights which makes them vulnerable. They are heavily dependent on good starts.