Red Bull's RB7 is an evolution of last year’s championship-winning RB6, with a number of the changes on the RB7 required by new regulations in effect for the 2011 season. The ban on double deck diffusers mandated a much simpler version of the diffuser, allowing the technical team to exploit their pull rod rear suspension which they introduced in 2009. The use of kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) also saw a return, with the the Red Bull being equipped with a system provided by Renault in addition to their new RS27 engine. Newey said at the launch: "The big challenge for us this year was the reintroduction of the KERS system. It’s always a challenge to find solutions, which don’t compromise the aerodynamics of the car. This season, with McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes all having KERS, we need to get it to work, simply for performance off the line."
The blown diffuser was not a new concept when Adrian Newey revived it in 2010, they just did a better job than anyone else had done before or after. Renault had one in the early 1980s, Frank Dernie put one on the Williams of Nigel Mansell in the mid 1980s and they were common from 1985 onwards. The early ones were crude in that the rear of the car often became less stable when the driver lifted off the throttle. They went out of the sport in the mid 1990s due to a change of wording in the rules, but Newey felt that the current rules would make it worth trying again. Hot gas from the engines exhaust was directed over the diffuser, the aerodynamic structure in the rear of the car which creates downforce. In the 2010 season that they became crucial to aerodynamic development with Red Bull’s RB6, the car which gave the team their first championship. Designer Adrian Newey kept the design for 2011’s RB7, a much more dominant evolution of the RB6, whose exhaust-blown diffuser was tied to the engine mapping where the engine was programmed to feed hot air even while the drivers were off the throttle. This practice is what gave cars like the RB7 their peculiar off-throttle sound.
On 2 November 2009, Bridgestone announced their withdrawal from Formula One at the end of the 2010 season. Michelin, Cooper Avon and Pirelli showed interest in taking over the role of tyre supplier. In June 2010, it was announced that Pirelli would be the 2011 sole tyre supplier and would receive a 3-year contract. 2011 also saw the introduction of a drag reduction system (DRS) a form of driver-adjustable bodywork aimed at reducing aerodynamic drag in order to increase top speed and promote overtaking in motor racing. It is an adjustable rear wing of the car, which moves in response to driver commands. DRS often comes with conditions, such as the pursuing car must be within a second (when both cars cross the detection point or DRS zone) for DRS to be activated.
Some additional conditions included:
- The system may not be activated on the first two laps of a race.
- The system cannot be used until two laps have passed after a restart or safety car appearance
- The system cannot be used by the defending driver, unless the defending driver is also within one second of a car in front
- The system may not be enabled if racing conditions are deemed dangerous by the race director, such as rain as was the case at the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix
Vettel won the first race of the season at Melbourne though the team decided to drop KERS from the RB7 while Webber finished fifth. Renault KERS system contined to prove unreliable in the early races of the season. In the nineteen races of the 2011 season, the RB7 only failed to finish in the top five twice, when Mark Webber crashed out of the 2011 Italian Grand Prix and when Sebastian Vettel retired from the 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Vettel used the RB7 to claim the 2011 World Drivers' Championship in Japan and Red Bull won the World Constructors' Championship the following weekend in South Korea. The car achieved three 1-2 finishes during the season. It is one of the most dominant Formula One cars ever built, winning 12 of the 19 races and claiming all but one pole position in the 2011 season.
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