You might have noticed a number of articles here and there trying to rationalize Vettel's crushing advantage in Singapore. The guy is quick but 2 seconds a lap quicker the everyone else, based on talent alone, nobody's buying that one. The secret is in the car, or rather the car and driver package.
One theory revolves around engine mapping. As you know, F1 cars used to get huge downforce by "blowing" the diffuser on the off throttle, having fuel mix combust in the headers rather than on top of the pistons and thus keeping the exhaust flow energized. This was banned after 2011.
In 2012 it became clear that where you come up with a rule, designers will figure a way around it. So Coanda effect exhausts and even more work on engine mapping made engines honk much like when they were "blowing" , which of course, they cannot anymore.
That first car by in the clip, published by Autosprint, is Vettel in Singapore. One thing is certain, his RB9 is the only car making that distinctive sound. Webber's RB9, the fourth car in the clip, sounds "normal".
But is that really the secret, it's still pushing exhaust pressure on the off throttle? I'd say no way Red Bull would try to get away with something that blatant. What you are hearing are cylinders being shut off, something Mr Whiting gave a pass to Renault last year as long as it's no more than 4 at a time (Renault pleaded reliability). Red Bull's software has been checked and re-checked by the FIA because other teams have raised the issue so, if they are "blowing", they are doing it by "cheating" legally, so to speak.
The biggest advantage for the RB9 is slow corner traction, Singapore is the most extreme example of a point and squirt track. Montreal is also a point and squirt track and, if you remember, there was more than a few questions about traction control there as well, along with the same honky engine sounds being heard at times.
Of course if the "buzz" were traction control, it would not happen mid corner but on corner exit,
so, how might a form of traction control, or perhaps, Torque Control work? All manner of theories have been bouncing around online, one has been given a big boost in credibility by an article in Racecar Engineering: the use of KERS charging to modulate power.
KERS has a defined amount of power it can store and discharge but there is no obligation on when to charge it so, the theory goes that Red Bull has figured out a way to use the charging phase to modulate output torque on corner exit. If this were controlled in response to wheelspin, it would be traction control and illegal. What Racecar Engineering is speculating is that it is controlled by sensors in the shocks: shock is compressed means more grip then you have full power, shock is extended then you might get less torque (because it's charging KERS) and less potential wheelspin. In effect a form of traction control which seems to be legal by the letter of the rules. Remember Webber's tire marks in Montreal?
You might imagine a system like this would require extra sensors and controllers While the KERS system is separate from the auxiliary electrical system, it is also known that the RB9 places especially high demands on its alternators which led to failures in the past (as constructed, materials were not up to demands). A connection?
There are of course a bunch of other theories out there about what Newey might have come up with, these are more in the "there was no moon landing" category but, for fun...
- there are electrical heating elements placed behind the diffuser "intake" holes which, using battery power, superheat the airflow providing the same effect as exhaust blowing.
-Red Bull is able to "package" the rear of the car so tightly because they are using a "Peltier effect" heat pump to cool the exhaust.
As I said, sci-fi, but fun.
What is going on is Red Bull have come up with something that works, but works perfectly because Vettel knows how to take full advantage of it. The car is build around him, what he's good at and what he knows how to fully exploit. Webber may very well have precisely the same car but he, for whatever reason, is not able to extract that same advantage consistently.
Optimizing the package and pushing the rules, that's what F1 is all about, love it or hate it.