The fast corners of the Lusail track and the presence of a single straight have led teams to make similar aerodynamic choices. All the leading teams are going for the maximum downforce configuration, even though this decision was not a given in the lead-up to the race. In the 2021 edition, teams had evaluated both medium and high downforce options, maintaining some differentiation even during the race. It’s a different story in 2023, where the challenging track conditions encourage teams to give their drivers maximum downforce and confidence in the car.
Red Bull and Mercedes
Just as in 2021, Red Bull and Mercedes find themselves leading the pack in 2023. The reigning world champions are once again using the maximum downforce rear wing after using the intermediate version in Suzuka. As for the beam wing, the Milton Keynes-based team in Lusail is adopting the higher downforce version. The RB19 is a car that has previously not performed at its best in the maximum downforce configuration. However, at least in Verstappen’s hands, the Red Bull in Qatar appears unbeatable.
Mercedes also increases the downforce on the car compared to Suzuka. The W14 is a car with high drag, which is why a lighter specification was used on Japan’s straights. In Qatar, though, the Brackley team is using the maximum downforce rear wing characterized by the straighter main profile. This wing does not feature the external bulge on the endplate, which was the latest update introduced in Japan and is currently limited to the medium downforce wing.
McLaren, Ferrari, and Aston Martin
McLaren in Qatar is also using the maximum downforce rear wing. This is the new specification introduced in Singapore, based on the wing introduced at Zandvoort, which is higher downforce compared to the version used in Suzuka. Also, in Japan, the Woking cars had raced with the beam wing that was newly introduced for the occasion. In Qatar, however, McLaren prefers to revert to the previous specification with the gull-wing profile arrangement.
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Aston Martin in Lusail has a configuration very similar to that seen in the Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit. The Silverstone-based team is using the high downforce rear wing characterized by the spoon profile, setting aside their worries about straight-line speed for once. Finally, Ferrari returns to the maximum downforce package after having to give it up at Zandvoort. The Maranello team talks about progress with the higher downforce configuration, but the SF-23 still appears to be twitchy in Qatar.